A Time to Heal…

I grew up as a pastors kid. I often say that I was raised in the church and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved my country church, I loved the people, the potlucks and feeling like I had special access to the place that no other kid had. I volunteered as soon as I was old enough and tried my hand at most of the ministry areas so I could confirm  my area of giftedness, like a good Christian leader in training does. As a teen I went to all the leadership camps, sat on the student leadership team in my youth group and highlighted every youth event in my school planner so I could count down the days until I’d be with my people again. Church was my safe place, I belonged there and so as I entered adulthood, of course I wanted to be in church ministry, it was what I knew and the place of safety. 

As an adult youth pastor, I was lucky to find a church that welcomed me and treated me so well. In that church I became ordained, I found friendship and got to know some of the most wonderful students. Again, it was my safe place. After 4 years there, I felt led to move into a new position that took me away from my family and all that I knew and loved.
I haven’t spoken often of this past year and unless you have asked me about it over a latte or in my living room, you wouldn’t have likely heard me talk much about it. 

It’s because over the year I lost my safe place. I don’t want to slander anyone because I did meet some wonderful people along the way, which my heart is very thankful for but I’ve always been a believer that there is power and healing when people are willing to be vulnerable with one another. 

In a short time, I saw another side of the church. It wasn’t the safe place I had come to know. I became afraid to enter through the doors, afraid of what others would say to me while I was there, I couldn’t sleep, I put on weight and ate my feelings and I didn’t want to leave my apartment. I lost myself. 

By the grace of God, I was rescued from that situation. But I can distinctly remember walking through the airport doors in Toronto after my flight home and seeing my parents and collapsing into a ball of tears. I left at the beginning of the year hopeful and I came home broken. 

I’ve never been broken like that before. The kind of broken where you have nothing left, where you don’t know what you think or believe anymore and where all you want to do is sleep because for the first time in a long time you feel safe. 

This year has been about healing for me. And since I broke my ankle in October and had to have surgery, this year has been about both physical healing as well as inner healing. And the biggest thing I’ve learned is that healing hurts. It’s not easy or painless, it isn’t quick and you can’t just get over it. It comes out of you slowly, over time and it is exhausting. 
I decided to take a break from church to give myself time to heal, to take a break from the hypocrisy I had witnessed, and because I was tired of the church culture. 

I needed time to rest and breathe. 

And here I sit, with more time to myself, more time to rest and ponder and reflect. I often wonder why I felt led to move across the country and I’m not sure I will ever know. But for those of you who feel like you are on the outskirts of faith, for those of you who have been wounded by the church, the place that was supposed to welcome you in and be your safe place, for those that don’t know where to fit on the spiritual scale anymore, I see you. And for those that think this is Jesus, it’s not. Jesus is for you. He is patient as you wander, as you try to hold onto hope, as you cling to healing. Don’t give up, you are not alone. Your questions and your hurts are real and it’s ok. I’ve become convinced amidst all of the crap, Jesus is still there with me, holding onto me even when I’ve let go. 

One of my favourite lines from the show Downton Abbey is when Carson says to Mrs. Hughes “life alters us”. Isn’t this the truth?

An Escape from Death or An Invitation to Life (and Why Easter Should be a Big Party)…

11638022-abstract-crossIt was a slow Saturday at work a few weeks ago when I overheard a rather disturbing conversation outside. There was a group of boys, one older man and a few young adult guys sitting around a table after having just played some type of sport for an hour or so. I figured it was some type of outreach group where you use sports to share Jesus. I think I was right.

After the sports were over was when they sat the boys down for the devotional. They gave them pizza too – a good way to get boys to sit still. I listened as one of the boys, probably around 11 or so shared his testimony. He talked about the time when he learned about the rapture and how when Jesus comes back, those who didn’t accept him will be left behind. He talked about how he didn’t want to be one of those people left behind so he accepted Jesus into his heart. As I listened to this boy, I couldn’t help but feel completely disturbed. The older man spoke after the boy and at this point I figured he would try and clear things up a bit about the rapture, but he didn’t. Instead he went on to talk about the rapture and how to not be left behind.

In that moment it took every bit of self-control not to march out into that hall and give that guy a piece of my mind and tell him that the rapture isn’t even biblical! To say that those left behind movies are nonsense!

But whether or not you believe in the rapture isn’t the point. The rapture itself is not why I felt so distressed that day…the real reason is that I couldn’t help but feeling like this is a shining example of how people miss the point. You have a group of young guys sitting around a table, some of them probably knew little about Jesus, and of all the things you choose to talk about, the rapture wins. You have this brief window to tell these kids about this Jesus guy and instead of inspiring them, you make Jesus out to be a bargaining chip – choose Jesus or get left behind.

And we wonder why we have kids growing up with an inaccurate picture of Jesus and wanting nothing to do with faith.

This weekend is Easter and tomorrow many of us in the Christian faith will celebrate Good Friday. It’s the day when Jesus was crucified; when he said “father forgive them, for they know not what they do”; when the veil was torn in two. It wasn’t a good day for Jesus but it was a good day for us. It was the day when God poured out everything to reach us, to give us a chance at real life. This isn’t a story of choose Jesus or go to hell, this is a story of love and sacrifice and making a way where the was no way. On Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is the ultimate party day of the Christian faith because it represents everything that Jesus offers us – hope, new life, and freedom from death!

The Easter story beckons me to remember that following Jesus shouldn’t be about avoiding the rapture or escaping hell – the story of Jesus is about how to live out the kingdom fully right here and right now. It is about being invited into something that we just don’t want to miss. Jesus said he came to bring life to the fullest – this is the truth of Easter.

This is the story I wish those boys could have heard. I wish they could have heard about this Jesus who wants to give them life, and not just save them from death.

This is the story I hope you experience this weekend. I hope that it won’t be about death or escape for you, but I hope it will be about life and celebration and resurrection.

Don’t let yourself miss the point or you might just miss the party!

Engaged and Waiting to have Sex: Is There a Point?


I don’t know where it came from, or how it came into my possession, but I have this candle. It’s not a particularly nice looking candle. And the scent is entitled Mediterranean Breeze as if it were the happy hour special at a bar in Miami. Either way, this candle has been on my bedside table since early in high school. I remember thinking that I’m going to wait for a special occasion to light it, but I realized that young men don’t have many special occasions in which lighting a candle is necessary. So I decided that the inaugural flame would be saved for the much anticipated night that I lose my virginity. Initially the idea was a bit of a joke, but the candle has seemed to find its way onto many night side tables, through many moves, and bedrooms I’ve had over the years and it’s still waiting to be lit. This candle has become a symbol for chastity in my life and for the discipline I’ve somehow been able to practice. But it hasn’t been easy, and through the relationships I’ve had over the years, being chaste has been a huge challenge for myself and for my fiancée.

Growing up in the church I remember hearing the same messages that ‘True Love waits’ and that the church has a standard for all Christians to maintain their virginity until they are married. And for years I accepted this without any questions. Then some of my Christian friends began having sex with their girlfriends, and the questions quickly followed. I remember thinking “what does the Bible really say about this issue”, so I looked it up and I found what Paul says in Corinthians 6 about staying away from fornication. I then realized how confusing this issue is within the church. For so many people, fornicating might not mean having sex with one partner whom they have been with for many years. And many Christians will justify this by saying, “it’s not like I’m going out and having a one night stand!” And to a certain extent they are right. But why is there still such an emphasis on waiting within the church? And is it really necessary?

It wasn’t until I entered into a serious relationship that these ideas and principles became more and more serious for me, and I certainly had more questions than answers. And as I think about it, I still have so many questions. Darcy (my fiancée) and I will still frequently ask each other, and some of the couples who mentor us, “Do we really have to wait?” And from all of these couples, most of whom waited, but some who didn’t, the answer is always a resounding “YES”. I think the best perspectives that I have been given as to why sex can be dysfunctional in a non-marital relationship have come from my many friends who have had sex before marriage. They explain to me that even in long term relationships, there isn’t the level of trust and commitment that a marriage has. In a dating relationship, you don’t have to vow to the other that you will always be there for them. Whenever I think about this I realize that with Darcy and my current living situations, (with aunts and uncles and parents respectively) we would have to sneak out and commit this ‘act’ so to speak. Something about that just doesn’t sit right. Besides, I have to bring my candle!

The thing with chastity, as with all spiritual disciplines, is that it takes a great deal of faith and prayer to practice. Darcy and I really won’t see the ‘fruits of our labor’ until we are married. For us it really isn’t about what we brought into our relationship as only one of us is a virgin, but it’s about the foundation that we have built together, within this relationship. A foundation of patience and discipline among many other things. This awkward and incredibly difficult period of dating/engagement has allowed us to sharpen the many different aspects of our relationship. And it’s not like we’re both completely hard done by, as Darcy and I are able to moderately express our sexuality in other ways without having sex. And there is something really special about the anticipation that has steadily been increasing towards our wedding date in October. We are able to plan together what that special night will look like. In many ways I know that practicing this discipline has only brought us closer as a couple. For Darcy, she knows that I respect her for more than just being a sexual being and for me it allows me to fine tune patience, which I learn more and more truly is a virtue!

For so long the church has put the emphasis on the sinful act of ‘losing your virginity’. I think it’s time that we start placing the emphasis on the spiritual discipline of chastity with our partners. We need to take time in our relationship to get to know one another and to grow together, and I truly believe that a chaste relationship provides an environment best suited for that growth. We live in a society that wants things right away and wants those things in excess so we are definitely in an uphill battle. I don’t think it’s possible for any couple to go through this alone. This discipline provides a wonderful opportunity for you to welcome God into your relationship. But also for you to involve other people, not necessarily Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, but perhaps some other married couples around you. Darcy and I have been so blessed by the wealth of knowledge and discipline that God has provided us with through the numerous married couples in our lives.

So, as I said before, all of this won’t come full circle until October when the lights go off and the candle goes on. But I can tell you right now that as Jesus is worth waiting diligently for, so is Darcy. And so is the woman/man in your life. Whether you’ve been having sex or have been practicing chastity for years, I encourage you in this journey toward spiritual discipline. I understand that at this point in our relationship, Darcy and I have just been building the foundation, with that, we have been given an opportunity to practice all of the fruits of the spirit together, heading towards the culmination of our labor when we enter into the marriage vows and a new journey of marriage begins. And between you and me, I hope a candle is lit for a lot of it.

~ ~ ~ ~

1480575_10151728129751793_2070801544_nMatthew Hill is currently a student at Tyndale University in Toronto completing his degree in Biblical Studies and Theology. He’s engaged to the beautiful Darcy (seen in the picture) and they are planning on getting married this fall. Matt is also a huge sports fan, loves music, film, and coffee.

Why Christians Don’t Know How To Talk About Sex (and what we need to do differently)…


I like sex.

Quite a bit.  Am I allowed to say that?

I’m going to jump right into this thing.  I’m assuming that most who read this blog are interested in a Jesus perspective on all sorts of different issues, and are willing to ask and think about tough questions.  And since I know Darcie, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an intelligent person who is ok living with tensions and has a decent BS-o-meter.  So let’s talk about how we view sex.

We’ve got to start to reframe the sex conversation in a couple of ways.

Because as I was growing up, it was the mark of true Christian faith.  You could pretty much be as mean as you wanted, but you were the poster child for Christian faith if you stayed a virgin. That pretty much fits with many ways that we often understand Christian faith.  Don’t drink, smoke, swear, sleep around, or do anything else that sounds remotely fun, and you’ll be a good Christian.  Wooohooo!  Sign me up!

But seriously, if you’re in the position where you are choosing to wait (or trying your best to choose to wait!), sometimes it can feel like it’s torture, like God is simply telling you that you’re not allowed to have fun like everyone else, and deep down, if you knew that you could deal with the guilt and get away with it- you’d totally go for it and have a fun one night stand.

Those feelings are natural.  I dealt with them too.  But here’s what I’ve learned as a married, sex-having person…. choosing to be intentional about sexual decisions is about waaaaaay more than not having fun.  It’s actually about how God has wired us.

I have this inherent belief that Jesus wants us to have fun. Yes, there’s serious sacrifice in there.  But I think Jesus invites us to a way of life not because he wants us to be miserable and always have to struggle to follow the right rules, but because he actually wants to set us free.  Living, I believe, is the word he used for it.  Fully living.

I also tend to think that God created us intentionally.  And I tend to think that for the most part, following Jesus makes sense.  Real life sense.  More sense than we realize.  Not just in deep spiritual ways, but in totally normal, practical ways.  Forgiving people makes sense because you’re not free when there’s bitterness in you– your emotions are wrapped up with that person.  Being generous makes sense because money can create this jail that stops you from being able to live freely in God’s world because your emotions are wrapped up in your stuff.  And having sex with the person you’ve committed your life to makes sense because, well, you’re free to have your emotions wrapped up fully in that person, and not in someone else.

This whole sex thing is not just about the spirit.  It’s about the body.  More studies are now being released that are showing the chemicals that the brain releases during sex- not just chemicals of pleasure, but chemicals of connection. When you have sex with somebody, you become connected to them in a unique way.  There’s an emotional and psychological connection that is significant, long lasting, and wonderful.  Except…. when it’s with someone you’re not going to keep having sex with forever.  Then it sucks.

I feel like I got this incredible gift by struggling through the whole not-having-sex thing.  It was way harder than I expected, and I got pretty close a few times. But here’s the crazy thing- I become bonded to my wife. I learned how to have sex with her.  And my emotions were able to stay wrapped up in her, instead of trying to unwrap them off of someone else.  There was and is complete freedom, and it’s wonderful to be free in that way.  Many people aren’t.

I’d love it if we were able to start talking about sex a little differently.

First, can we start talking about sex in terms of what we’re doing instead of what we’re not?  The outside world looks on the Christian approach to abstinence as strange because we don’t know how to talk about it.  It’s looked at as a limitation on freedom- maybe we can express it as an expression of freedom.  We’re actually living the way our bodies were intended to function- free from significant heartache and emotional hurt that comes when our bodies make a commitment that our hearts and minds aren’t able to make.  I’d love to see those in the abstinence camp be able to comfortably talk about their abstinence as doing something, rather than not doing something.  If we knew how to talk about this stuff, maybe others would be able to hear the wisdom in it.  That being said, we are a culture that LOVES instant gratification, and sex is nothing if not that, so waiting will always be a radical and countercultural thing.  It’s cool though, because Jesus was both of those things too.  

And second, can we please stop it with the judgmental spiritual superiority that those who abstain give those who don’t?

I’m going to say it- having sex before marriage is not the end of the world.  Jesus specializes in helping bring life in hard situations.  Abstinence is not the mark of true Christian faith, nor is premarital sex the unforgivable sin. Waiting makes life a whole lot easier later on, without a doubt. But you are not damaged goods.  Seriously.  People who are trying to maintain purity and end up having sex deal with a lot of shame and guilt already, not to mention all the emotional weight of being connected intimately to multiple people.  That journey is tough enough, and there is emotional baggage that many of us have to carry from sexual brokenness and find healing for.  I’ve seen it so many times. It’s a hard enough journey. Please don’t add to it!

Ok, one more sex tip for single friends who are choosing to wait, and feel like years are beginning to pass you by…. you know, the really good sex-having years….. Rest assured that sex is like wine.  It ages really well, and you have plenty of time.  Sex is great.  But the freedom Jesus gives us – in sex, in life, wherever…. is even better.   Hang in there.

~ ~ ~ ~

unnamed-1Keith Miller lives in Newark, Delaware, with his wife, Bethany and 3 little people they made.  He pastors the LifePath Church community and loves the adventure of figuring out how to follow Jesus in a world that’s gone nuts.

The Sessions on Sex: Where’s Your Starting Point?

purity_ringI’ve come to believe that in North American Christianity, saving sex for marriage does not matter anymore.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve come to believe this.

To begin with, I’ve heard it first hand.

I go to a Christian university and I’ve been around the church scene my entire life. So, I know for a fact that the number of people I meet who are saving sex for marriage is a much smaller number than those who just don’t think it’s a big deal, or who think it’s actually important to have sex with their future spouse to test compatibility, or who have made a “mistake” in their past relationships, and will most likely choose to make the same mistake in their future relationships.

Second, I hear less and less being taught about this issue in Christian environments, including churches.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in a Christian service, study, or talk of some type and heard someone talk about the importance of waiting until you’re married to have sex. There has been a strong movement to elevate the importance of singleness but I hear little talk about what it means to be single while still being a sexual being.

Thirdly, we’ve moved the standard.

For a long time, a person’s virginity was assumed on the wedding day. Abstinence was encouraged to the point that youth were chaperoned by adults whenever they were in the presence of one another. Young people were challenged to sign a purity card, pledging to save sex for marriage. Boundaries were the focus of many youth group talks. Perhaps we grew tired of these things and have decided to push back, or perhaps in an attempt to be more culturally relevant we’ve placed the subject of these things to the back burner. Somewhere in all of this, the standard has been moved with only the sole proof that it’s getting harder and harder to meet a Christian young adult who is still a virgin, and who thinks it’s even important.

Fourthly, there’s been a family shift. 

It makes sense that if parents haven’t waited, then they are most likely not teaching their kids the importance of waiting. Like it or not, the kinds of values kids are raised with actually does affect who they are as young adults and adults, whether it be negative or positive. If kids are raised to believe that there is great value in saving sex for marriage, if they are raised to have open and honest discussion around this topic, then there is a good chance they will think long and hard about their choices, when it comes to relationships and boundaries.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe that having sex before marriage is the unforgivable sin, I don’t think it makes you a bad person. The reason I believe that waiting until marriage to engage in a sexual relationship is important is because I think this shift in Christian culture to not wait actually harms our relationships, our definition of love and our ability to persevere through difficult things. 

So for the month of February, I’ve invited several guests to weigh in on this topic and some themes surrounding it, based on their experiences and personal beliefs. I’m looking forward to engaging with this topic a little bit more, and I hope you’ll consider engaging with it as well. I encourage you to think about where your starting point is. Does waiting to be married to engage in sexual intercourse matter? Are Christians settling when they allow themselves to be sexually involved with multiple partners? If you’re engaged to be married, then is sex ok? What are your thoughts?

As always, my desire is to engage with these topics in a healthy way that promotes positive discussion and thought, so let’s keep any comments in this spirit too.

So with that, where’s your starting point? Are you for or against premarital sex? Why or Why not? Have we moved the bar?

Welcome to February – a month for the sessions on sex!

How The Coptic Orthodox Church Taught Me About The Meaning of Being Welcome…

PJ-BQ082A_copti_G_20130821163526About a year ago I wrote about my struggle to find a church home. I spent some time learning what it was like to be the new person at church, not knowing anyone, not knowing where to sit, feeling awkward and alone. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to go because I knew it would ultimately lead to me driving home after the service in tears. There were some mornings I would visit a church and I would leave without one person even talking to me. For a girl who grew up with the church as my safe place, this period of time was extremely difficult.

I can see now that it was important for me to experience a different side of church. Because for a lot of people, what I experienced is exactly why they don’t go. The church isn’t a safe place for them, it’s a place that reminds them that they don’t fit the mould. And why would you go to a place like that?

I needed to learn this lesson, as painful as it was at the time. It’s made me so grateful for my church community now and it’s taught me about how to think about creating a safe place for new people to come.

For one of my classes this semester, I was required to attend an Orthodox Church on a Sunday morning and then write about the experience. So this past Sunday, myself, along with three other classmates went to a Coptic Orthodox Church in Toronto. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. We looked up Orthodox Church etiquette before going and so I made sure to wear a dress, below my knees of course, and I tried to remember not to cross my legs during the liturgy, since apparently that’s a no no! So in we marched, dressed in our best.

The air in the church was thick with incense, an ashma sufferer’s worst nightmare. The lighting was dim and the architecture ancient. We made our way into the sanctuary and sat near the back of one of the four sections of pews. Since we clearly stuck out like a sore thumb for not being Egyptian, we didn’t want to sit near the front and draw too much attention to ourselves. Immediately 2 young adults approached us to welcome us, and inform us that we had entered the Arabic service and had just missed the English service! Our bad! They went on to tell us about the church and some of the events for young adults. They even offered to give us their numbers so we could get connected. It hadn’t even been 5 minutes and we had been sought out and welcomed.

A few minutes later after the young adults had left, a deacon dressed in the full gown (I thought he was a priest at first) came over and said there was an English service going on in another room that was for youth and families with young children. So he escorted us to the other side of the church and into the English liturgy. We sat near the front of a room full of kids, parents and youth. The boys were all seated at the front of one side of the room, all wearing long white robes. The older boys instructing the younger ones, concerning proper worship etiquette. The priest was assisted by several young men throughout the liturgy. The priest came over to us right away and shook our hands, welcoming us. Several times throughout the liturgy he told the people that we were guests and that they should make us feel welcome and after the service to bring us downstairs and feed us, with middle eastern hospitality. He mentioned this to the congregation more than once.

I wasn’t exactly sure about all of the things that happened throughout the liturgy, lots of incense, lots of chanting, and we never quite knew when to sit or stand. A few times I sat when everyone stood. A few hours later when the liturgy had finished, following communion, we were swarmed with people. They shook my hand, told me their names, welcomed me and my friends over and over again. They apologized for the noise from the kids, which I actually loved. They told me to come again, and then at some point we were ushered downstairs and put in a room. Then they brought us food and drinks. Several people came in and out of the room to welcome us. One deacon came in and sat down to talk with us and said that the priest was going to come down and meet us but had been slightly detained. So we waited, not sure what to expect. The Father finally came down and sat and chatted with us for about 40 minutes. He asked us about ourselves and told us about his story. I was able to ask him all of my questions about the Orthodox traditions and things that happened during the liturgy that I didn’t understand. Before we left they made sure we knew that we were most welcome anytime.

As I drove home I couldn’t get the experience out of my mind. I’ve actually been thinking about it all week. I honestly never expected that the kind of church where I’d feel most welcome would be at a Coptic Orthodox liturgy, full of people I’d never met before and with a service where I didn’t really understand what was going on. But do you know what? If I didn’t have a church home that I loved, I’d go back. Even though the service is really long and it wouldn’t be my first choice of how to worship, I’d still go back.

Because I’ve never felt more welcome and wanted in a church ever before, in my entire life and in my entire experience with the church!

Well done.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

This will teach me to judge a book by it’s cover, or a church by it’s name and style.

Lesson learned, and thankful for it! Sometimes it’s the places you least expect that will teach you the most meaningful lessons.

Why The “Christian Life” Isn’t Worth Living: A Blog by Kurt Willems

I have a friend named Kurt, who is a prominent blogger from the States. He’s been a big inspiration for me concerning all things in the blogosphere. He’s graciously allowed this post from his blog to appear here on my site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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For most of my life, I focused my faith on knowing Jesus through morality management. More accurately, Jesus was savior and the Spirit was the voice that helped give me the strength to avoid things like cussing, gossip, lust, and pride. Getting through a single day where those sins were avoided meant a major victory as I walked closer to Christ.

In college, a new sort of emphasis emerged in my Christian journey. Instead of seeing discipleship as a system of sin management, I discovered the red letters of Scripture. These words of Jesus (along with the actions of Christ that aren’t in red) propelled me in a new direction: justice.

Compulsively, I would give a few bucks to homeless people as they asked. In my youth curriculum (while I served as a youth pastor), more of the emphasis moved toward Christian activism. That is not to say that I didn’t care about relational aspects of knowing God, but that justice (at times superficial forms there of) became a primary emphasis. As a result many areas became important in my personal life: signing every progressive petition that would lead to influencing the system for the poor, avoiding stores that are known for their social Darwinism, and purchasing anything I could find that is organic.

It would be safe to say that I went from conservative evangelical focuses to a progressive faith emphasis. Still holding to the essentials of the Christian theology, but believing that true discipleship meant doing certain things. It’s interesting to me looking back: at one end of the pendulum of my faith journey I tried to avoid things, and at the other end of the swing I tried to do things. Both attempts at living the Christian life miss the point of discipleship – completely!

Which begs the question: What’s the point?

I’m becoming convinced that both polarities of holiness miss the point. We aren’t supposed to live as though God is a cop, ready to bust us each time we sin. Neither does God call us to work ourselves so hard that we become void of spiritual vitality.In this sense, the Christian life isn’t worth living.

I’ve quoted Dallas Willard elsewhere but this is worth noting a second time:

“Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth.  These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Chrsitlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person – one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays.  Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do.  For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser…  True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.”[1]

This “responding like Jesus would” impulse comes to us in many places – like the Sermon on the Mount – but also in 1 Peter 2:

21 You were called to this kind of endurance, because Christ suffered on your behalf. He left you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps. 22 He committed no sin, nor did he ever speak in ways meant to deceive. 23 When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Did you notice the reason that Jesus was able to endure such horrendous violence? Jesus “entrusted himself” to his heavenly Father. Prior to enduring the sufferings of the cross, with beads mixed of sweat and blood dripping down his brow, he humbly accepted the will of God the Father. In that painful, yet intimate moment, Jesus’ relationship to God took the ultimate leap forward, a deep knowing that led to a profound trust.

Jesus had chosen to know the Father’s will so much that it determined the natural impulses of his actions toward his enemies. Peter invites us to model our lives in the same way. How do we live as people of peace? The answer begins with “entrusting” ourselves to God, allowing the life of God to transform our character. When this happens, enduring unjust treatment via nonviolence will become part of our second nature.

The same is true of every other justice issue. God empowers us to become the sort of people whose impulses are bent toward love, and this happens when we create space in our lives to know God intimately. Justice and spirituality go together!

And, what of my former moral management approach to faith? Well, the sort of morality that God desires is a morality formed by the Spirit of Christ. Anything that looks like self-help strategies to administer a sin prevention plan misses the point of holiness all together. Christ wants to make our impulses bent toward holiness, including social justice, not dependent on our own legalistic strategies.

Certainly, we ought to also practice doing justice and living morally, even when we feel spiritually deflated. Those moments also work toward intimacy with God. In fact,in serving is how many people come to know Jesus the most. The risk is that we allow all of our doing to replace moments with God in our own Garden of Gethsemane, when some of the most profound “entrusting” and character formation by the Spirit takes place. No wonder Jesus often got alone for prayer before major Kingdom moments.

The Christian life isn’t worth living as I used to understand it. Instead, what if we all chose to allow the life of God to live in and among us? With such a reframe, holiness coupled with justice might just become more like second nature.

[1] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives,7-8.

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378429_307809582593130_190381821_nKurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is an Anabaptist writer and pastor who is leading a church planting project in partnership with Urban Expression and the Brethren in Christ in Seattle, WA.  He writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.  Kurt is a contributing writer for Red Letter Christians, and has also written for Relevant MagazinePrismIn PartThe Ooze,Emergent VillageMennonite Weekly ReviewConverge Magazine, and Sojourners.

The Power of Thank You: A Guest Post from Craig Sider…

Today I was sitting with a friend as we planned his father’s funeral. His dad passed away a few days earlier at the age of 87. My friend said, “we need to find a way to get a thank you note into the memorial service.” He went on, “40 years ago when my father was a locomotive engineer, he gave a little boy a tour of the train. The little boy’s father wrote my dad a thank you note that he held on to for decades.” It’s the power of a ‘thank you’.

Thirty years ago I gave my first public talk. If you measured it against gifted speakers, I might have squeaked out a D- …maybe. In the audience that day was a long-retired leader and public speaker who took the time, several days later, to handwrite and mail me a page-long thank you note. He was encouraging, specific, and even constructive in his thank you. It motivated me to push on. Every year I pull out that thank you, read it, and remind myself of the power of a ‘thank you’.

In neither of these scenarios was the writer attempting to create a legacy statement; they just saw a reason to say ‘thanks’ and took the time to send a note. As a leader, when you observe a reason to say thanks, be intentional and send off a quick note (a quick handwritten note is more effective than an email!). Want to make it easier? Keep a stack of note cards in your laptop bag, desk, or car along with stamped envelopes and a marker. When you observe someone demonstrating:

  • A courageous first step
  • Consistent and faithful service
  • An extra mile effort
  • Generosity with someone in need
  • Outstanding performance
  • An act of kindness


Take the time to write them a thank you note. Don’t just think about it…do it. Years ago I read Tom Peters’ pithy little article, “50 Ways to Gain Personal Power”. Number One? Write thank you notes!! You’re leadership won’t go soft if you take this step….it will strengthen you while you encourage and empower others.

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ImageCraig Sider enjoys helping people, leaders, and organizations pursue more intentional lives. He serves as President of The New York City Leadership Center, A Christian organization that serves as a change agent for leadership and collaboration across Metro NYC. . In addition, he has served on various not-for-profit and para-church ministry boards. Craig and his wife, Laura, reside in West New York, NJ.