Deep Sin & The Christian Soul


Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5.19-21)

As I recently finished a Church Bible Study on the book of Galatians, those verses inevitably caused some discussion.

I mean, we’ve all to some degree engaged in most–if not all–of the items on that list at some point in our lives, right? Even if you’re a Christian.

So what does it mean to say “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”?

As we discussed it, we arrived at the answer many of us come to if you grew up in the Church: these scary statements only apply to those individuals who have these “works of the flesh” as a pattern of their life to such a degree one might be able to say that the sins have “dominion” over them. That answers it, right?

Not really. Because there are Christians who find themselves in seasons–days, weeks, months, decades, even–where these sins are their practice over time, seasons where these sins have a very real sense of dominion over them and their lives.

And, this isn’t theoretical or theological for me. To be honest, I myself am coming out just such a time.

. . . . . 

I wrote the above words a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve only sunk deeper into the bewilderment of this season I’m coming out of. How does a Christian understand a period of time in which they’re given over so deeply into self-absorption, sin, and hurting of others? I’ve sat on this question, mulling it over, letting it ruminate within me to see what fruit it bore. I’ve wanted to figure out a nice, tidy answer to this post–for the sake of both others and myself.

And alas, I have been found wanting.
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Sometimes, Mercy is Sweeter Than Grace


I grew up in a pretty stereotypical Evangelical setting, which led to a pretty stereotypical back-and-forth between guilt and self-righteousness. That is, until I really heard the Gospel of radical Grace.

Many of us have this same story, where it has been so healing to hear that how God relates to us is not, in fact, based on our performance. Instead, everything necessary for God to be pleased with us has been accomplished on our behalf by his Son.

In response to this, we fall in love with God’s Grace. We pray for it, long for it, and cry for it. We read books about it, write about it, and talk about it. We try and speak it into others’ lives while trying to figure out why we don’t apply it to our own. We joyfully build our relationship with God on the glorious foundation of His Grace. It is fundamental, primary, and essential.

In short: we love Grace.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I fell in love with liturgy and ancient forms of worship, to notice the utter lack of “grace” from the prayers and worship of the earliest saints. Continue reading

How to End Homelessness (this is what I do for a living) [VIDEO]


philly-rowhomes-neBelow, you will find a brief documentary that was done at my wonderful job, Pathways to Housing, to highlight the work that we do. It features many of the clients and coworkers I work with, and I had the chance to be present for a few of the film shoots. It is so beautiful and well-done. I’m so happy to share with you all a part of me that I don’t really talk about much in the rest of my life.

(Also, if you’ve lived in Philadelphia for a few years, you might recognize some folks in this video that you used to see on the street. But now, they have housing.)

I have spent most of my time in the field of social work pretty disengaged intellectually and emotionally. The older, more subtly coercive model of social work marked my previous companies, and the way the work was structured definitely played more to my weaknesses than my strengths. This left me in a constant state of feeling like I was terrible at my job. And so, it was just easier to not invest much of myself into it at all.

And so I’m only now learning how much of a difference it makes to love and adore your job. This is where I’m at now. I’m at an amazing company with amazing people doing amazing work that produces amazing results. I feel I’m good at my job, and I feel like I’m flourishing professionally, intellectually, and emotionally in it. There’s so much hope and excitement over my work. Here a couple of things I’ve recently heard clients say:

“When I was homeless, I felt like an animal, stuck in a concrete jungle. I only came out to eat and survive. Now that I have housing, though, I feel like a human again. It feels good to be human.”

“I haven’t been homeless my whole life, but I’ve always been a human being.”

And so, though much of my writing (and conversation) is centered around religious, political, and church things, I’m happy to share a little bit of how I spend 40+ of my hours each week. I hope you are encouraged and that you are offered a little bit of hope in the midst of our urban brokenness.

The Early Church: not so big on grace, so why are we so obsessed?



As promised, today Lore Ferguson, over at Sayable posted my second guest post on her blog, as she is on a sabbatical. My first post went up yesterday. Originally, Lore had asked me to write a post on grace. Ironically, this was the first post I wrote for her (almost an anti-grace article–even thought it’s really not). Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Leave comments and, like I said yesterday, follow her blog. You won’t regret it. Here’s a preview of today’s post:

I grew up in a pretty stereotypical Evangelical setting, which led to a pretty stereotypical back-and-forth between guilt and self-righteousness. That is, until I heard the Gospel of radical Grace.

Many of us have this same story, where it has been so healing to hear that how God relates to us is not, in fact, based on our performance. Instead, everything necessary for God to be pleased with us has been accomplished on our behalf by his Son.

And so, in response to this, we fall in love with God’s Grace. We pray for it, long for it, and cry for it. We read books about it, write about it, and blog about it (I even did a five-part series on it myself). We try and speak it into others’ lives while trying to figure out why we don’t apply it to our own. We joyfully build our relationship with God on the glorious foundation of His Grace. It is fundamental, primary, and essential.

In short: we love Grace.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I fell in love with liturgy and forms of worship that were centuries-old, to begin noticing the utter lack of “grace” from the prayers and worship of the earliest saints.

Continue reading →

“Lord have mercy…”


[journal entry dated 2/28/10]

Father? Daddy?

I’m so f—-ed up. That’s just the best phrase for it. It’s Lent. It’s only a week in and I’ve already broken my fast several times. Why? Why can’t I just…stop?

(Okay, I get it.)

The point of giving something up for Lent is not to just “give something up”. At the heart-level it’s supposed to be a sign of devotion to You. That’s what it is at heart. And you know our hearts, Daddy. You know they’re weak. You know they’re willing. I’m willing Father, I’m just so f—-ing weak…

Ha!

I sound like “high-school Paul” all over again with those old Christian flavors of angst and “emo-ness”. I suppose there’s a place for him somewhere in my walk with You. But what is it? I’m not quite sure. But I don’t think he’s supposed to be here right now.

I’m secure. I’m loved. I’m Yours. I’m pleasing to You. I’m approved.

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