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.

RE: coming out

Since coming out to the world of social media the other day, I have observed a lot of people discussing what my theological and ethical stances are on sexual desire and expression. Some folks have asked me questions about this directly, and others have simply affirmed and honored me for stances they perceive I am holding. I generally welcome the feedback and conversation.

Nevertheless — as much as I think it is important to weigh our beliefs and practices against scriptural teaching, and to discern how to humbly follow Christ’s leadership in these areas — I want to be clear that I was intentional about avoiding the opportunity to define all my stances in one post. I have PLENTY of opinions related to all things at the intersection of LGBTQ issues & faith… There are a couple of those opinions I’m sure I won’t be quiet about forever. But all of that ultimately is not the hill I want to die on.

For one, I don’t want to always play into the silly culture war — if I can avoid it.  Secondly, I simply don’t need to tell the whole world what I think is right. I’ll more likely share about that with folks who share in common with me some fundamental assumptions about the very nature of truth. I can’t expect everyone to live the way I live when we don’t have the same core values or give allegiance to the same sources of authority.

Beyond that though, I could also just say this: It wasn’t an ethical or moral stance that made me fall in love with Jesus in the first place. And it wasn’t the tossing out of an ethical or moral stance that helped me figure out how to get more free from shame or how to grow more integrated as a person. I’ve long wanted far more clarity and resolution about all my “stances” than I’ve been able to find. But that has apparently never been a big priority to Jesus, in comparison to His own insistent pursuit of my simple trust. Our connection is thriving, and that doesn’t rise and fall on what an amazing job I do at managing my sexuality, coming to correct doctrinal conclusions, or identifying myself according to any expected criteria. Our relationship is covenantal, not contractual.

For the record, if you want to know if I’m “pure” or not, I can answer that in two ways: Continue reading RE: coming out

A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

Hesitations

I’ve gone back and forth a few times about whether or not I want to talk about my sexuality much in public. I planned on making a post about it back in November of 2019, and I even had a specific date picked to do so. It was going to be a Sunday. The night before, the pastor of my church randomly called me out of the crowd and prophesied over me that the trajectory of my life was going to be forever different because of that weekend. That seemed like exactly the kind of overly-dramatic boost of encouragement I thought I needed. So I wrote an article, posted it on my blog… and shortly thereafter removed it, without ever publishing it to social media.

My life went on as usual.

All that said, I’ve shared this with a number of you in person or in my home group already. Nevertheless, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I still need to be more open about it. Especially with some of you that I’ve only come to know in the last couple years. God’s Spirit has seemed to be haunting me lately, regularly impressing upon me to more thoroughly address this subject. So rather than continuing to resist His clear prompting, I’m going to course-correct a bit before entering into 2022.

Here is the long and short of it… Continue reading A Bit About My Faith & Sexuality

Essentialism vs. Existentialism

Do our choices ultimately form who we are becoming? Or do our choices tend to flow from the center of who we already are at a base level? Do we “make something of ourselves” — or simply learn to express who we’ve been made to be?

As I understand it, how we answer these questions determines whether our philosophical framework is more an “existentialist” one or an “essentialist” one. And in the Christian community, which stance we take in the philosophical debate is likely to correlate to the theology we develop about subjects like “sanctification,” “depravity” and “identity.”

I heard a local megachurch pastor recently assert that “every part of our being” is marred by sinfulness, and that we need to constantly try to make decisions to become more free of sin’s mastery over us. Five minutes later his message took a turn and he then stated that Jesus has already radically transformed us and liberated us from the power of sin “at the core of our being.” Such statements are flat out contradictory to one another, but I continuously hear similar contradictions coming from every corner of the Church world. With such contradictions also come all sorts of mental gymnastics used to try and explain and reconcile this mixture of ideas that (if we’re honest) simply do not fit together in a functional way.

As I see it, a lot of this confusion comes from the fact that we go back and forth between talking as if we’re existentialists trying to define and better ourselves to talking as if we’re essentialists who have a fixed, God-given sense of self. We speak about human nature without clarifying which framework we hold to most tightly or which we are operating in from one moment to the next.

What is the fruit of these countering philosophies (and their related theologies)? What aesthetics do these notions hold? What are their implications? Are we even holding to what we assume we believe consistently? Or do our assertions about these subjects lack clarity, definition and sensibleness?

From my vantage point, it seems that a lot of this is still pretty fuzzy in our collective thought. I propose it would do us all good to more seriously think about how we’re thinking about these matters.

Guest Post: “Beautiful”

Today, I had a friend casually tell me that they adored my soul.

And then suddenly I was crying awkwardly by myself in Starbucks. 

We live in a society where what you do and how you look is often seen as more important than who you are. In fact, think about it — what is typically the first thing you ask a new acquaintance?

“So, what do you do?”

You are what you do, what you supposedly contribute. I’ve witnessed this first hand. Since I can remember I’ve been introduced to people as “the dancer.” It was as though, aside from my career, I had no identity. 

But where are you left if that identity is taken away from you? 

A couple months ago, I was forced to contemplate that question. Suddenly, I found myself unable to do the one thing I’d always been known by. I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t even walk comfortably. Now let me tell you, I freaked out

Not only did no one else know who I was outside of being a dancer, but I hadn’t the slightest clue either.

If I couldn’t dance, what was I? Was I useless now?

I sank into depression, trying to push my recovering body too hard. I restricted my diet, often going all day on a single cup of coffee. My anxiety kept me up at night and during the day I was always a second away from tears. Mentally and physically exhausted, I found that I had nothing else to give. 

It was then, finally, that I started to notice things about myself. 

I could make people laugh. I gave excellent hugs and was a good listener, with friends often coming to me just to vent and be heard. I was capable of making people feel comfortable and a little less awkward. I had a proficiency for language and found peace in writing. I read books I’d somehow never found the time to read before. I found that I was brave, I was strong, and I was so, so LOVED. 

You are not what you do. 

Even if you had no elaborate career to offer, no incredible talents to show, you would still be valuable. 

Because you are you. 

Look around you. See the colors in a sunset. Feel the wind kiss your skin. Listen to the trees as they rustle their leaves. In all of this crazy, awe-inspiring beauty, you were somehow included. Deemed worthy and needed. A necessity, something given for the world to be more complete. That in itself is incredible. You, just existing. 

You are beautiful. 

I love you.  

— Ericka Goss

Follow @Erickadances66

Venerating Jesus

     I’ve touched on in the past how I believe there is a massive reformation movement taking place right now within the Body of Christ. By God’s grace we are correcting a ton of theological and practical errors we have been making for a very long time, learning to better and more consistently express the true heart of the Gospel. God’s House is being reconstructed and it is starting to look drastically different than it did just a few decades ago.

     As the reformers of our generation continue this work of reconstruction, we need to avoid developing our own set of structural errors to replace the previous ones. One such erroneous approach that I have found some leaders to be taking is to undermine the unique glory and honor that is due to Jesus Christ. The logic goes something like this;

     Jesus was a great prototype for what all people are called to be. He set a wonderful standard. He became a role model. Yet we must not venerate him too much — for in doing so we hold him to an unattainable position above us. We elevate him to a higher level than ourselves and lose our drive to actually emulate him and continue his work.

     Jesus meant to show us what it is like to be human though, and we all are filled with the Christ-nature that he embodied so well. We can all carry on his fight against the powers that be.

     There is a lot of truth to this line of thought, in that we are all empowered to carry on Christ’s legacy of impacting the world. We are filled with His Spirit and taught to follow in His ways. He is our Elder Brother. It is of utmost importance however to note that He is also the Second Person of the Triune Godhead. He is the complete expression of who God is in bodily form. He is not God’s only child, but He is the only begotten Son — the one in whom and from whom the rest of us get our identity in the first place. Further, He is the one who dreamed us up and loved us from eternity past.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. We are Jesus’ creation, Jesus’ brethren, and Jesus’ desired Bride. Also, we are redeemed by His blood… not just by His example.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. 

     There are two primary reasons that come to my mind as to why it is important to clarify all of this. First of all, if Jesus is merely our example of how to be humane, then we are all still basically under the Old Covenant Law. We are all still bound in the system of trying to perform and prove ourselves in order to feel like we are good enough people. We still live under the burden to try to improve or fix ourselves, to be the solution to our world’s systematic problems, to master following the right teachings — and to do it all in our own limited abilities. This is humanism, moralism and legalism. It does not give us the beautiful message of transformative Grace that Christ’s atoning work on the Cross did. It leaves us having to become our own saviors in some form or fashion.

     That is actually an unrealistic pressure that Jesus came to deliver us from.

     The second problem is that without venerating Jesus, we actually undermine our own ability to follow Him. If Jesus is just our template to follow, then we can always compare ourselves to Him and end up feeling like failures. If He is the object of our devotion however, He Himself actually becomes our fuel and our inspiration for carrying on His mission in our own lives.

     Paul wrote that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In other words, as we lovingly adore Jesus, as our hearts gaze upon His beauty and we esteem Him above all else, we are shaped by His Spirit to look increasingly like Him in our present state. Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

     Simply put, wherever you give your attention is where you end up heading. If we set our sights on all the problems we need to fix, the problems just get bigger in our eyes. We look for who is at fault and we get more introspective or more critical of others. We then become contributors to the problem ourselves.

     If like the Bible says though, we set our focus “on things above, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand,” it is inevitable that we will grow in His character, see from His perspective and be beautified. We will more naturally channel the authority being released in His Throne Room here to the earth and actually become His hands, feet and mouthpieces. We are utterly dependent upon the effectiveness of this process, of this relationship, of this communion that we have access to in the Presence of the King of Kings.

     Be reminded, if you really want to emulate Jesus, He “Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Then, when the opportunity presented itself, when the need arose, or when He was interrupted, He would rise to the occasion and glorify His Father.

     Likewise, if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of worship, contemplation, and fellowship with the exalted One who is “the way, the truth and the life,” we will more consistently ourselves walk as “little christs” multiplying across the earth to His credit. We will be more effective change agents and we will be anchored in the hope that only He provides.

     Best of all, Jesus will have the hearts of those whose love He died to win. Let us give Him that reward freely.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

Don’t Hold Back

     I am convinced that most people do not have a clue how much glory is packed inside of them. We are made in the image of God and redeemed in Christ, filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing we are lacking in the love of God. We know that we are all so unique too. Even with all of that being true, most of us fail to recognize what we are carrying.

     We have so much potential.

     We have so much to offer the world around us.

     Every where I look (when I am seeing with God’s eyes, at least) I see massive gifting waiting to be developed. I see sharp-looking and stylish people who should be modeling. I see funny and intelligent people who should be writing and speaking. I see imaginative and strategic-thinking visionaries who should be changing the world and bettering society. I see artists, prophets, influencers, community builders… waiting to make their contribution. They are waiting to lift their voices, to take their stage, to be the face of the move of God happening in our generation.

     Most of us are only scratching the surface of what we are actually able to be and to do. We are just “toying with the idea,” while the earth is groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God.

     I don’t want to miss my part in the drama of history. I don’t want false-humility, inferiority, or apathy to hold me back from fully investing myself in the dreams God has for me. I want to really go for it, and I want to be a friend who challenges my loved ones to do likewise.

     So let me just remind you,

You are sanctified.

You, in your own way, are a mover and shaker.

You’re heart has been made new in Christ and your deepest desires are in line with His.

Let what is inside of you out.

     Create your own content. Tell your own story. Reach your own crowd. Don’t hide your beauty — someone will really appreciate it. You are called to make your mark for the glory of God. He is your biggest cheerleader and loves to see you do brave things!

     You are the Father’s masterpiece of grace (Ephesians 2:10) and He likes to put His handiwork on display. So now and everyday, don’t hold back.

     Let your light shine.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

You Are Not Your Own Worst Enemy

     One of the most annoying things I hear on a regular basis is the idea that “you are your own worst enemy.” For the sons and daughters of God, this is simply not true. In fact, you are not your own enemy at all.

     Christians tend to articulate this idea by saying that you are still “in the flesh,” bound with some carnal, sinful nature. You need to repetitively “die to self.” Humanists say they same thing essentially when they always talk about how our “ego” controls us. Both seem to think this problem is inescapable and always in need of our attention.

     Whether in religious or secular terminology, the idea is that we all are inherently selfish and proud creatures, and that to do something selfless for the good of others is contrary to our most basic nature. This is ludicrous.

     The truth is, we are all made in the image of our Heavenly Father. His nature is selfless, self-sacrificing, and other-centered. He is Love and His Love is genuinely caring. For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus, the image of our Father is redeemed in us. As His children, filled with His Spirit — His very heart — we overflow with the same love (John 7:38). It is our JOY to serve others, not our task.

It is our JOY to serve others, not our task.

     Yes, there is effort expended in putting the needs of others before our own. Nevertheless it is energizing when we esteem the well-being of others above our own comforts. We are fueled by the passion we experience along the way. As Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work,” (John 4:34).

     This joy is ours is precisely because we were designed and reborn in such a way that service to a higher calling would bring us a sense of reward and fulfillment in life. It is not contrary to our deepest desires or truest nature when we care for others and make sacrifices to serve them. It is an EXPRESSION of our truest nature. 

 It is not contrary to our deepest desires or truest nature when we care for others and make sacrifices to serve them. It is an EXPRESSION of our truest nature. 

     As John Crowder says, “you look just like your Daddy.” Your first and primary nature is as eternally cruciform and kenotic as His. “We have the mind [the way of thinking] of Christ,” 1st Corinthians 2:16.

     Loving others is only insincere when we are doing it because we think some external voice is telling us we have to do it. When we know how unconditionally loved we are by the One who knows us best, service to the world around us becomes a privilege, a delight, and an adventure. It is not a burden or a requirement that we need to challenge ourselves to try to reach for. We do not have to be talked into it through pressure.

To Be Humane is To Be Godly

     Further, we should know that our humanity is not our problem. Our ability to appreciate our own humanity (as it has been sanctified through the Cross) is actually what makes us humane. It connects us to others and helps us to esteem them as the beloved children of God that they are as well.

     Ephesians 6:12 says, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There is a real enemy to resist, but that enemy is not within. Within us is the living Christ — the hope of Glory. Within us is the compassion and humility needed to see the value of others and fight for them to experience the same goodness and kindness that we have been given.

     So yes, do hard things for the glory of God. Live on mission, go low in humility and service, expend yourself fully on the fulfilling the vision. Do it BECAUSE it’s what you want though, not in spite of what you want. 

     You and God are on the same page in your desire to do good to others. He is with you and for you in this endeavor — and you should be for yourself in it too.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

The Incarnation

     I’m such a fan of the Incarnation.

     Philippians 2:5-11 says in The Message,

“Christ had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human…”

     This is such an incredible doctrine.

     The idea that God — the One we call Transcendent, the One we call the Ultimate Mystery, the One we say is Highest, Holiest, and altogether unlike us — joined Himself with human flesh, forever.

     Aside from dying for us on the Cross, how could this Being better display His radical humility?

     Because of the Incarnation, we see that divinity and humanity are not entirely separate realities. Our human experience — our bodies, our personalities, our full range of emotions… even our weaknesses and limitations — it is not offensive to God. He wears it as His own. He joins us in our suffering, our pain and our finite-ness. And He’s chosen to do this on purpose.

“Our human experience… is not offensive to God. He wears it as His own.”

     What once seemed like a distant, ethereal spiritual reality is now as tangible and relatable as any other mortal brother or sister.

     Further, we see that God is not an abstract force, a consciousness, or merely the ground of all being. God actually has a face. We can look at His iconic Image and say with so much clarity that He is indeed beautiful.

     All of this is because God is eternally personified in Jesus. And we did not come up with this idea… He did!

“God is eternally personified in Jesus.”

     In lowering Himself to our level, God destroyed our idolatrous concept of Him being a proud, distant, authoritarian leader sitting on a lofty throne. Instead, He is Immanuel, “God with us.” He has revealed Himself as the kind of Deity who walks and serves and shares in life through our eyes. His strength looks like meekness displayed at full force.

     No longer can our Lord be accused of being aloof and unmoved by our situation. He is present and involved. He is a co-participant in our often mundane and difficult existence. He bends to our level, held back by nothing from pursuing connection with our hearts.

     And in becoming one of us, Christ dignified and divinized our race. He showed that to be human is not to be lacking in glory. We look at this Man and see what it is like to be a beloved son of God. He displayed an identity we can all walk in, without first ascending through religious rituals into some higher state.

“He displayed an identity we can all walk in, without first ascending through religious rituals into some higher state.”

     We are fully accepted and fully understood, right down here where we are. This is a Message of Heaven’s reconciliatory peace, favor and good will to all on earth (Luke 2:14).

     This is why I love Christmas.

     Happy Advent everyone. The Lord has come!

Follow @dmichaelSTL