The New Kind of Heresy

I have been a Christian since breakfast.

For those of you who don’t know, that is a different way of saying “not very long.”

Since becoming a Christian, I have always felt the desire to know as much about my faith as possible.  Growing up, I had the kind of family that either acknowledged God but refused to talk about Him unless they were praying when things went south or did not acknowledge Him at all.  So, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and what I needed to know to convince others.

What I have found is that there are a lot of things that I truly do not understand about Christianity, which made me want to know more, and more, and even more.  Since then, I seem to have found two main groups of Christians.  One group is filled with those who have clearly defined black and white beliefs.  Anything different from what they believe is viewed as an attack on the Gospel.  There are also those who are so unwilling to define what is true and what is false that I am not even sure that they know what they fully believe.

This is just weird to me.

You see, I believe that there are some truths and some lies when it comes to our faith.  I think it is important to try and understand all that we can and know God as best as we can.

After all, theology is the study of God, not Calvinism versus Arminianism.  Theology is getting to know God more so that you can worship Him the way that we were meant to.  It’s not about proving other Christians wrong.  I think it is weird that we have two giant extremes: the Christians who won’t allow any questions and the Christians who won’t answer any.  So much of Christianity today is fighting amongst ourselves and we think we are going to convince society that someone joining this family feud is a good idea…

Are you nuts?  We have made our faith into a battle of denominations.  The Lutherans versus the Baptists.  The Presbyterians versus the Methodists.  The Reformed Baptists versus the Westboro Baptist Church…just kidding, no one likes the Westboro Baptist folk.  Sorry not sorry.

So what am I saying?  I am saying what the heck are we so afraid of? Seriously?! You honestly think that God is going to fail because some people are in the wrong denomination?  You honestly think that God will fail because some speak in tongues while others do not? That some baptize babies while others do not?

I have a word of advice for you.  Get over yourself.

God is bigger than your right answers and He is powerful enough to not sweat your wrong ones.  We have a responsibility to maintain glory to God and the faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because, ultimately, it comes down to worshiping Jesus the way that we were meant to.

Stop viewing this as a competition.  Stop trying to break down one another.  We are a family and we will more than likely be spending an eternity with most of these folks, so we better play nice now.

I am not saying we should not hold teachers accountable to God’s word.  I am not saying we shouldn’t rebuke false doctrine.  Jesus, Paul, and Peter all warn us of false teachings and Christians.

What I am saying is that we should be okay with not having an answer to everything. We should be willing to discuss these things with folks outside of our camp and try to figure out the truth.

We should also stop being cowards and running from our own beliefs. Too many Christians today struggle with just being honest about what they believe because of what society says. I am not saying you should get a megaphone and broadcast it from every major street in your nearest major city. I am saying commit. It’s this wonderful idea my generation seems to be forgetting. If you love Jesus and believe in the Bible then say and do something about it!

With all of that said….

We need to accept that there are some things we just will not ever know.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Until Jesus returns again we can only do our best to work together through the power of the Holy Spirit to figure out this truth thing, but things aren’t going to get better and people won’t just listen to the truth if we walk around calling everyone a heretic.

Truth is huge, we believe in an objective truth, and that is the word of God. We just need to approach it better. We can do it. We have the power of the living God inside of us. Stop getting so insecure about your theology and trust that God is perfect, and He will not fail. So live with that kind of trust. Live your life seeking that truth, with humility and grace.

And love people like crazy. Because ultimately that is something I think we can all agree is important.

There Is One Common Thing In Your Whole Life

I have been a screw up my whole life.

No, seriously.  I am not trying to have a pity party…I really have screwed up my whole life.

Okay, okay, we all have, but I have been particularly good at it.  Let me explain.

In high school, I did so bad my last 2-3 years that I almost did not graduate.  Then, after actually graduating, there was the reality that I did not have the grades to get into college…anywhere.  So I joined the Navy.

I joined the Navy as a CTI, which is a really “cool” job where you learn a language and other “cool” stuff and I hated it.  So, of course, I failed out and then got sent to a ship in Norfolk, Virginia, which, in case you were wondering, is NOTHING like California.

After a couple of years in Virginia, I became a Christian and that is when life really got tough…weird right?  I started to learn how to follow Jesus and do certain things and pray certain ways.  I even learned another language.

Yes, Christian-ese.  Trust me, it is real.

So I began to try to live my life for Jesus, but I sucked at it.  I mean seriously.  I had to stop cussing and drinking as much among other things.

So, wait, I can’t just say that I love Jesus and do whatever I want?  Crud.

So I started making mistakes…BIG ones.  It all started after my first Christian relationship ended.

I jumped right off of the high-dive into a pool of sin and what is worse?  I enjoyed it.

After getting caught and called out I began to get angry.  I was blaming everyone and everything but myself.

You see, I was forgetting that I am the common thing in my life…What I mean is that all of my problems and bad situations had one thing in common: Me.

When you take ownership of the crud in your life, it forces you to do something about it, but we do not always want to do that.  In fact, I am willing to bet that the last time you were in a crappy situation you blamed everyone and everything but yourself.  You were not willing to ask, “What did I do wrong?”

Pause.  Just for the record, I know that some of you reading this might have had something horrible done to you..something that was not in your control.  I am not talking about you.  You did not deserve that and it was not your fault.  You were a victim.

I am talking about the stuff that we can avoid.

Looking at porn on your computer.  Letting that girl or guy sit on your bed late at night…Alone.  I am talking about the way that you act in relationships that cause them to plummet like a meteor into the surface of the earth.

I was an EXPERT at this, until I asked for help.

What would your life look like if you owned up to the fact that you are in a bad situation because of your own bad choices and not because of anyone else?  Or, if there is someone else, admitting that it takes TWO to tango?

In order to stop repeating the same mistakes, you have to admit that there is something wrong and that you might possibly be the sole reason that it continues to happen.

Get a mentor.  Ask for help.  Reflect on what you have been doing.

For me, it took finding 1-2 people and being brutally honest with them about my struggles, identifying what my goal was to change, and then setting up a plan to make that goal a reality.

Has it been easy? No!

Have I screwed up? Yes!

But there has been real progress and people loving me through it all.

All it takes is one conversation…one moment of sitting back and reflecting on what mistakes you keep repeating.

You are only one decision away from improving your life.  Or destroying it.

The choice is yours.

How Hip-Hop Saved My Life

Daniel Catron

I love hip-hop. I’m a white kid from the burbs, but rap has always resonated with me. I’m drawn to it. It speaks to me. In fact, if it was not for rap I would not be where I am today.

A little over two years ago I was in one of the darkest times of my life. I had been in a relationship with a girl who I had poured my heart and soul into.

I had so much faith in God during that time and felt so in tune with Him. I felt like He was speaking to me. I felt like He was finally placing things in my life that for months I had been praying for.

I had so much faith in that relationship, something that does not come naturally for me and all of a sudden it was over. Boom..

Just like that.

I questioned everything…

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Don’t Hide Your Burps From Your Friends

Sometimes it blows my mind how silly the things I get embarrassed about are.

I mean super, ridiculously, silly….

For example I was out with some friends one night, when I burped.

And when I say burped I mean I released the Kraken. We’re talking a silent (but deadly) burp from the deepest pits of hell.

Now I did what I could to avoid burping in anyone’s direction. I thought I succeeded..

Until I saw my friend Crystal’s face. “Why are you making that face?” I asked.

Crystal said “I thought I smelled vomit.”  Immediately I knew it was my burp…

But I denied it, and what’s worse, I acted like I was trying to figure it out myself. But I knew deep down, it was mine.

I tell you that story because that’s just a small example of how silly this thing called shame can cause us to act.

I eventually came clean about my burp….weeks later at a concert in another state. When I did my friends and I had a great laugh about it, and I was left inspired to write.

I struggle so badly with wanting to be myself, with wanting to share my pain, insecurities and heartache with others. I just get so caught up in worrying about how they will respond. I forget that they are human too…

I think it’s funny how we want strong intimate relationships with people, but we can’t even tell them that we are struggling. We expect our friends to come to us with all of their problems and yet we are piling on our stress all by ourselves.

We live in a time where everyone is screaming “Be yourselves!” “Be anything” but we’re all just trying to be what we think we need to be.

If you don’t believe me check out everyone’s hair. I am serious do it. My roommates and I have the exact same hair cut.

If you walk into any major city you’ll see everyone being different…in the exact same way. We are obsessed with matching, fitting in, and labeling it as new, unheard of, or edgy.

I am sick of being edgy, and I am sick of being fake. It’s exhausting, and it’s caused me more hell on earth than good.

What we don’t realize is that there is someone out there who wants to be themselves but they need someone to show them they can. Someone who is so authentic it inspires others to be who they are.

I know all about the tension of not wanting to show weakness, not wanting to show people who you are.

If you tell people who you are, and they don’t accept it..that means they reject you..they reject the real you.

I have read some amazing books on people pleasing, being authentic, being true to who you are. One of the common threads I love about those books is their mention of being exhausted.

Being fake. Is. So. Exhausting.

Donald Miller, in his newest book “Scary Close”, talks about being exhausted after being around other people, from “performing.” Essentially when we are being fake all we are doing is acting. We convince ourselves it is for the right reasons but that could not be farther from the truth.

When we fake our way through life we are sending a message to the world that being real is not okay anymore. Being who you are will get you nothing but rejection and pain. What a terrible message to send.

What if we stopped acting? What if we could spend time with other people and feel a sense of peace knowing we are accepted?

I can tell you from experience that this journey is painful. It will hurt. It will cost you “friends” but really if they can’t stick it out through that, who needs them?

One of the first things you need to do is be open and honest with at least one person, I guarantee someone is coming to mind right now if they have not already. Find them. Open up. And be real.

Talk about some of your dreams, the weird things you want to do that others probably just don’t admit to.

Be honest with the music you like….even if it is Creed.

Be honest about the movies you like….even if it is any Nicholas Cage movie ever.

People need you to be who you really are. They need to see that you don’t care about what others think, they need someone to say the bold things, ask the bold questions.

These same people need you to love them for them. That doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they are doing, but it does mean loving them despite some of the stuff they have going on. Remember, if you want others to love you for you….love them for them.

If the world was filled with less actors I believe we would all be better for it.

What is one area of your life where you do more acting than living?

I Am Not Saying Churches Should Do Drive-Bys

Sometimes when I am driving, I wonder what people’s reactions would be if I were in a terrible car accident.

I mean, who would show up to the hospital? Who would cry? Who would call my mom? It’s weird, but I do it.

I have always craved attention. When you are an only child who grew up with a single mom, your desire for community and for belonging is off the charts. A lot of what I have felt my whole life didn’t really make sense. Well…it still doesn’t.

I just know that I crave attention, but more than that I want love. It’s really easy for me to see people as placeholders. Temporary beings in a spot that can be easily filled. I don’t like feeling this way, but after having someone who is supposed to love you more than anything bail….it’s kind of hard not expecting everyone else to follow suit.

Now, I am not writing this for you to feel pity, and don’t misunderstand me, I love my life.

What I am saying is that I have always wanted community, and a sense of belonging. I didn’t always have it.

When I first started coming to church, I was excited because that’s what I thought I was going to get, family.

The truth is though that’s not always what we get when we join a Church. I truly think a lot of people want Jesus, but they also want community, a sense of belonging.

Pastor Francis Chan did a video teaching series titled “Basic” where he talked about the core “basic” truths to Christianity. In one of the teaching videos, he spoke about a gang member who had become a believer and was baptized. Soon though he noticed the man stopped coming to church.

When questioned, the man said that when he was baptized as a believer into the Church, he thought he was becoming a member of a family and a part of something where people would have his back and he would have theirs. That didn’t happen. I am not saying churches should do drive-bys…

But isn’t it amazing that the place where community should be at the center of who we are and what we do is often the loneliest place on earth? This guy literally felt more community, family, and belonging in a gang…..let that sink in people.

I can’t tell you how many times I left church only to feel like I had nothing and no one, where I literally cried from loneliness.

Now I know what some of you are thinking, “You shouldn’t be worried about others, you should be focused on Jesus.” And you are right, but that’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is “yes, we worship and glorify God, that is why we are here.”

However, we should feel the most at home, the most love, the deepest sense of belonging at Church. If we don’t, then what in the heck are we offering people? Come join us for an hour on a Sunday, and an hour and a half during the week for small group and that’s it? Do. Not. Bug. Us. After. That…No I don’t think that’s what Church was meant to be like.

It wasn’t until I found a Church where community matters that I felt a sense of belonging. I feel loved, I feel as though I am welcome, as though I am family.

To get this though we have to do our part. We have to volunteer, we have to join some sort of small group, we need to participate.

Otherwise all we did is mimic the same environment we get at a movie theatre…only this one is about Jesus. Have you ever truly sat around after a movie to meet people? Didn’t think so.

There is hope. There is a place out there for you. Where you will not only glorify God, but feel His love through His people.

It’s the greatest joy I have ever felt, and I pray you don’t settle for anything less. Because there is nothing better than viewing the people you do life with as family.

Why Are Christians Throwing Rocks?

I struggle everyday with trying to live for God and not be a total screw up. A lot of times I fail, sometimes I succeed. It’s a process.

What makes this process bearable is having a body of people surround me and help keep me accountable and on track with what God has planned for me. This is why I think Church is so crucial for Christians at any stage in their walk. We simply cannot enjoy the fullness of this life for God without other believers encouraging and building us up (See 1 Thess. 5:11).

Which brings me to the awkward topic at hand.

The tension between being a church with open arms for anyone and everyone of all backgrounds, and being a church that calls for repentance of sins and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

I recently read a post about Pastor Andy Stanley and his comments in regards to homosexuals (specifically students) in the local church. He declared that the local church should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

Now my problem is not with Andy’s statements, in fact I proudly posted the article on Facebook and stated I couldn’t agree more. My problem is with the response from Christians on social media. Many began to bash Andy, say he is an untrustworthy, liberal, Pastor. Some said he was attempting to be popular for church attendance. Others stated he was being dramatic and jumping on the bandwagon of being too critical of believers.

Pause. Let me state for the record my stance. I believe homosexuality is a sin, I believe it is against God’s design for relationships and marriage. I believe we were built to marry the opposite sex. However, I also believe we were designed to show grace. What Andy (at least in my humble opinion) was doing is not calling for us to condone anything, but simply to create an environment where people can come broken and sinful and receive love.

Where people can come and not have to pretend to be better than they are.

Where people can come to encounter the living God and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sins.

We see this in Jesus’ ministry when he welcomes broken, no good rotten sinners to be His disciples and through love, relationships and time radically transforms their lives. We have the ability to foster and create an environment where this can happen, but we have to be willing to deal with messy broken people.

Why? Because Jesus did.

People often act as though showing patience, kindness and grace to sinners is the gateway drug to condoning their sin. Here is my problem with that mentality. It contradicts exactly what Jesus did and said.

I see this in a very famous story where Jesus defends a woman who committed adultery and saves her from being stoned to death. The religious leaders of that day were about to KILL this woman.

But Jesus steps in, and right before He drops the mic says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

The men one by one left until it was just the woman and Jesus. “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)

Now obviously we don’t stone people to death here in American churches, but some of us make it very difficult for any person struggling with same-sex attraction to feel welcomed in our doors.

We talk about the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ, except if you’re gay of course.

We talk about the Church being a hospital for sick people, but we only treat certain illnesses.

As a Church we talk as though the only threat to marriage is homosexuals. Let’s not worry about men being addicted to porn and teenagers having sex outside of marriage.

What we need is for everyone to drop their rocks, look broken hurting people in the eyes and say, “I do not condemn you. Go. Sin no more.

We will walk with you, love you, pray for you. We will not leave your side.” We do not need to condone their actions, but we also do not need to act as if we are any better than them.

What would happen if more churches welcomed people struggling with same-sex attraction?

Get Over It.

When I was 3 years old my dad was given two options. Choose drugs or choose me.

He chose the drugs.

Growing up I was angry towards my dad, and the decision he made. Some of you know what I mean, those holidays, and events that leave the fatherless or the motherless feeling like complete losers because of a decision we had no say in. It wasn’t easy. I swore that I would never be like my father.

Now when I became a Christian I was told that forgiveness was essential to faith in God. Forgive those who have wronged you, and allow yourself to be forgiven for the wrongs you have done.

Easy right? Wrong. In fact I think I have convinced myself for quite some time now that I really did forgive my father, the truth is I haven’t.

This whole idea of convincing myself came crashing down recently when a person who I have hurt countless times said a very blunt yet powerful statement.

“You use your dad leaving as an excuse for your actions.”

Now some of you might feel the same way I did initially. “How dare you say that to me!” “You don’t know what it’s been like.” etc. All these thoughts came flooding in while trying to hold back tears. I was furious, and I thought I had every right to be. There was a problem though…

She was 100% correct. You see I have acted like the exact guy I swore I would never be. The guy who can’t be counted on. The guy who can’t be trusted. The guy who bounces from relationship to relationship, and friendship to friendship. The guy who lies and tries to run away. I never forgave my father. I became him.

And although my problem hasn’t been drugs and I haven’t run away (successfully). I can still see the trajectory that all of this sin is starting to lead me towards, and I want nothing more than to run away.

I want to run away, but I can’t. I have wanted to leave the church, but I can’t. I wanted to just give up on this whole Christian thing, after all…a lot of others had hoped I would. But I can’t!

Why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I run away.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Now call me crazy, but I truly believe the only reason I haven’t completely bailed on this church thing as I have screwed up is because of one magical thing called Grace. You see I don’t deserve anything. Not a single bit of it. The friends, my incredible church, and family. I do. not. deserve. it. PERIOD.

But God by His wonderful and powerful Grace has pushed me forward, I fall off my bike, but he puts me back on it. I don’t like it, I don’t want it. I know that others sure are sick of watching it, but He will not let me quit. You see this whole Christian thing is not about me, it’s about God. You see God keeps me from running for two reasons

1. You can’t truly leave God. Once you are a child of God’s you’re His forever and ever and ever.

You can’t lose that. Although you might feel as though you can run away, God is there. The entire time.

2. His glory.

Paul was brought into the ministry radically. Why? Because God had a plan for him and it didn’t matter what Paul had done or had intentions to do. Jesus chose him and there was no going back.

So yes I have been hiding behind the mistake a man made 21 years ago, but I have a choice today, and tomorrow and the next day. To live my life on my knees dependent on the same God who puts me back on my feet. I haven’t been doing it. Shoot, I don’t even think I am worthy of writing this blog but I am a fighter, not because of my own strength but because He will not let the story end this way.

God has something in store for all of us. Even after your worst days, He can use you.

Now don’t confuse what I am saying, what my dad did hurts, and it will for the rest of my life. Your problems matter, what happened to you matters. But at some point we have to move forward, and let that pain drive us knowing that God will use it for His glory.

The question you have to answer is the same question that is haunting me. Are you going to live your life day to day making excuses for why you aren’t who God has called you to be or are you going to say enough is enough?