Celebrating Sanyu (Angela) – 1 Year Late

About a year ago, a dear friend of mine released her debut album. I’ve never been more happy or proud for a musician as I was for her. I had the opportunity to interface with her greatness for about 8 months in 2001 and 2002… a really long time ago… I know… but her talent and musical vision made a tremendous impression on me.

Halfway through the third song – a beautiful R&B, neo-soul tune, I might add – she sang this verse that just stopped me in my tracks:

Looking in the mirror, who do I see?
I see God in my big brown eyes
I see God in my double a cup and my beautiful curls
And the loveliest legs that you ever did see

He knows, he sees, the image of a king rejoicing over me in sweetest song
To you Oh Lord I lift my eyes ’cause I trust you
You are my light and you make me see I am beautiful

You can listen to the whole thing HERE

There were so many things that struck me as I heard the lyrics. The delivery was incredible. The honesty of the lyrics was refreshing. The journey of a young woman struggling with self image and seeing herself exactly the way God made her – beautiful – was encapsulated so well.

I’ve wanted to write a review of her album – not because this blog is about album reviews – but rather because I wanted to share my dear friend’s talent with the world. It IS a creative album. It is very well written and executed AND even recorded, considering it was all done in Uganda. I’ve wanted to write a review, but I’ve failed because I could not find the words to say how much it meant that she put herself out like this until it finally dawned on me what the underlying thread behind this album was…


Every song on this album has the quiet theme of a life transformed by grace. A faith ignited by grace. Forgiveness received because of grace. Body image and self esteem struggles massaged away by grace. I know Angela… erm… Sanyu… better than most people do because she is one of my best friends in the world and this album brought tears to my eyes because I saw how God took this precious life and filled it with passion and fire that could only come from one place – grace. HIS grace.

I want to celebrate Sanyu – albeit one year too late – and her incredible achievement on this album. It is a well-produced, well-executed piece of art. This album makes me so proud of all the music that is coming out of Uganda. It draws heavily on R$B and neo-soul influences and in it, you’ll hear Angela’s story telling, incredible vocal and instrument arrangement, but most of all, if you listen very closely, you’ll hear the grace of God calling out to you.

Rushing To The Lessons – Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the fact that there is a tendency to force people to rush to the lessons of life prematurely when they are going through tough times. We want to do our best to help them make sense of a difficult situation, but in truth, none of us really knows what the lessons are or what they will be in time and how God will use the pain and the pleasure in our lives to make sense of it all in the end.

As a pastor, people are always looking to me to say something to them that will help them make sense of the world they are in. Now, I am blessed to be a part of a church that knows me well and knows that I am not a wise sage possessing all the answers to the questions of life, so they generally do not pose me with such questions. But outside our little congregation, I occasionally find myself in conversations with people that have just found out I am a pastor and are unloading their lives on me. They are walking through an inexplicably difficult time and are hoping that in my position as a spiritual leader, I might have some insight into the situation that they are walking through.

In those moments I wish I could be as self assured as the pseudo gurus that live on our TV screens using their bad psych 101 on their TV audiences or guests with total confidence that they know how to solve their problems. I wish I could be more like the bloggers and the podcasters with their biting wit and well-researched solutions to the questions of life. But I am not. And I have started to be OK with the fact that I am not.

I am starting to understand in small part the reason why we should not rush TO the lessons. I’ve started to understand that there is value in being present in the moment instead of suspending reality in the false hope that it might all mean something in the end. I think that if you live in the reality of your NOW – whatever difficult time you are walking through – you might have the ability to find something even better…


The inexplicable joy that comes, not as a result of understanding the deep cosmic reason for the crap that you are currently dealing with, but rather as a result of an assurance inside of you that can only come from God. A joy that is not dependent or related to outward circumstances, but rather built on an inner fortitude that can only come from the image of God in you touching the eternity of the God of the universe.

And perhaps JOY is a more worthy pursuit in the trying times than THE LESSONS are. Because lessons can be forgotten, and frankly, not all of us are smart enough to learn them. But “joy” is something that nobody can take away once you really have it.

So today, don’t rush to the lesson. If you are walking with somebody that is going through an incredibly difficult time in their life, resist the temptation to make them feel better by finding the lesson. Go for something better…


Rushing To The Lessons

Every summer I think back to one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever had to live through – my first year back in Canada in 2003. I think about it every summer because the summer was the hardest. As much as the weather is spectacular in Ottawa and there are so many things to do, and so many places to go, I was walking through an incredibly difficult personal time.

The thing that was making my summer difficult was the realization that, even though I had arrived here with many hopes and dreams for my future, they were most certainly not going to work out. Almost every immigrant to Canada faces an incredible amount of difficulty adjusting to life here.

But it goes deeper than simple culture shock.

Even though many immigrants are allowed to arrive here because of their education and work experience, the fact that this education and work experience was not accumulated in Canada means that you arrive here with nothing except the pennies you’ve saved up and the clothes in your cases. It’s even tougher for immigrants that arrive here as refugees, because as much as they arrive here fleeing tough situations in their countries, they too are proud people that have been abruptly uprooted from the lives that they knew and are basically told to scrape a living together without any real tools for the journey that is laid out before them.

And so like many immigrants before and after me, I spent my first summer living through the decimation of the dreams for my future that I had before I arrived in Ottawa. Everybody that has lived through the destruction of a dream knows how painful it is. The realization that your romantic life is not turning out the way you had hoped, or the family you thought you would have is not going to happen is tough. The realization that your career is going nowhere, or that you are bleeding money faster than you can make it, is painful. The realization that your friends are moving on from you, or that your family secretly thinks you’re a disappointment is devastating. It really is. In fact, many people cannot stand the pain, and live in denial about the reality of the situation that they are living through.

In the summer of 2003 I was struggling with the realization that my education and work experience amounted to nothing. I was really, REALLY bugged by the outright refusal of the worship leader at the church I was attending at the time, to include me on the worship team. He gave me some BS line that I took many, MANY years to forgive. The closed doors and the constant refusal to let me get involved in anything meaningful was so tough for me that my self esteem took a hit that I have not fully recovered from to this day.

As if it was not enough to be living through my own personal difficulty, there was an terribly annoying soundtrack in the background. There were always people trying to make me see the “lessons” for the season that I was walking through. God must be trying to teach you something. The universe must be trying to say something to you. Blah, blah, blah!

The fact of the matter is that NOBODY knows the lessons that are to be learned. While you are walking through the pain of watching your dreams die, there is no way that you can know what the life lessons are till you’ve had the perspective of time and reflection. In fact, in my case, I am STILL learning stuff about that time in 2003 TWELVE YEARS LATER!!!

I know why people ask those questions or say those things. They are trying to make you feel better. The hope is that if you understand that your pain has some higher purpose, you’ll feel a little better walking through it.

But they could not be more wrong!! (…and I just pounded those words into my keyboard)

In truth, I do not know what the lesson is for a parent that lost her child in the mediterranean trying to illegally cross into Europe. I do not know what the lesson is for a starving teenager in South Sudan. I do not know what the lesson is for a mom in Mexico who just had to bury her children that have been gunned down by drug lords. I do not know what the lesson is for the mom who desperately wants a child of her own but cannot conceive. I do not know what the lesson is for the single young, successful woman who would like a partner but cannot seem to find one. And my guess is that YOU DO NOT KNOW EITHER!

So instead of trying to make the situation better by saying something about the universe or God trying to teach a lesson, how about you just sit long enough to see the real pain that your friend, or your family member is walking through. How about we take a pause from rushing to the lessons and get into the real, messy business of actually living through the reality of the pain. Chances are, that’s what your friend/family needs from you

Returning to the blog

One of the things that has happened over the past year as I have settled into my role as the chief communicator at our little church in Ottawa is that my blogging has gone out the window. I started blogging initially as a way to communicate with people on my worship team and to disciple them in my thinking about all things worship.

Over time as my audience expanded somewhat, I started writing about larger ideas concerning worship. And last year as I transitioned to actually leading a church and not a ministry within a church, it became a way for me to share my messages in a way that was not simply specific to our little congregation, but also, hopefully, useful for people outside our congregation.

I must confess, however, that when I saw that there was not much traction on those posts – probably because they are pretty long – I kinda lost my way and started to wonder about the purpose of this blog. Should I continue writing with my worship hat on? Should I continue sharing my messages and meditations with people? Should I make it about something entirely different?

I do not know for sure what this new blog will become, but I think what’s going to happen over the next few weeks is that it is going to be the place where I say the things I wish I could have gotten round to saying in my messages, or in worship, or in some other forum that I provide speaking or leadership. I hope that there is somebody that still reads this blog and finds my perspective interesting, refreshing or annoying. And if there is something you’d like me to write about, I’ll see if I can!

So… here I am again. I hope you enjoy the upcoming content!

Stop The Madness!! (Part 2)

If you are new to Christianity or know very little about it, here’s the cheat sheet for Christian theology: we are supposed to find our definition in Jesus. His non-violent-Calvary-shaped-life-of-love is the blueprint for his message. He literally lived what he preached. And his politics of love are starkly different from the politics of power that the church has historically wielded over countries, denominations and congregations.

Now, part of the reason the religious aristocrats rose up and clamoured for Jesus’ execution was because he was upsetting the apple cart. He was tearing down their meticulously designed structures of oppression. He was undermining the authorities that were persecuting the people that they were supposed to help. And he was destroying a religious system that claimed to be about grace, but instead bred tyranny.

Jesus was setting out to destroy the asylum once and for all and his call on us to free his church from the asylum that she seems so keen to reconstruct over and over again echoes through history and through the pages of the bible and at a time like this, is ever more poignant.

Matthew 7 is a portrait of Jesus that shows him in all his asylum-busting glory. This passage is part of a much longer message that he is giving as recorded in the gospel of Matthew that starts in chapter 5. We find Jesus coming to the end of this counter cultural message in Chapter 7. Listen to what he says:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Ooooh Boy!

Judge not or you too shall be judged!

You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye!


Has there ever been a more pointed indictment against the asylum-trapped church than those simple phrases? None of us are innocent! All of us are guilty of most egregious sins, AND of classifying them in such a way that our personal ones are minimized, while those of the people that we intend to demonize are maximized. It is only when we recognize that grace has been freely and readily given to us that we not only recognize the planks in our eyes, but we in turn become agents of grace in a world desperate for it.

It is only when we realize that God is on the side of the downtrodden, the orphans, the widows, and the slaves that we stop using them as pawns in our prejudice-driven crusades against sexual minorities. It is only when we realize that the churches we belong to are exhibiting a kind of asylum-worthy behaviour, that we are able to realize the seriousness of the prophetic words of Jesus when he says this:

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

The conclusion that we must all come to, is that whether you are a Christian or not, the numerous good things we do and devote our lives to are mostly powerless to mask the stench of the crazy and hurtful things that we do. As churches we must accept that our lukewarm attempts at trying to re-write the stories of our faith communities are largely unsuccessful because the certifiable things that we do completely unravel all the good we think we’ve done. We are bad trees bearing bad fruit. We are not good trees!

This is why we need Jesus – each and every one of us. Christian or not. Through his life, teaching and his death, we see a man who perfectly embodied his message. He is the template for actions lining up with words without any caveats or explanations. What we see as we gaze on the wonder that is Jesus of Nazareth, is that it is only under his mastery that we are able to become more like him – people whose words line up with their actions.

Ultimately, this Jesus-following thing is not about our works or our displays of piety. It starts and ends with a leap of faith. Breaking out of the asylum in which we are trapped by our botched attempts at righteous living, and entering into the freedom that Christ offers, has nothing to do with what we can do. Instead, it has everything to do with what Jesus has already done by unlocking the gates and breaking down the walls of our prison.

I say this to you very plainly and very frankly. The good things that you do as an individual do not save you because the bad things you do tarnish you irreparably. The good things that your community tries to do are always usurped by the bad things your community does. This is why we are not saved by the things we do, but by something else completely – Jesus’ astonishing grace in his life, death and resurrection, AND our faith in him.

On our own, we are unable to undo the craziness of our history. On our own we are unable to re-write the wrongs of our faith communities. On our own, we callously cast aside 10,000 needy children around the world. On our own, we rebuild the asylums and trap ourselves once again.

Finding freedom and walking in it can only happen when we, by faith, accept the free gift of salvation that is in Christ. Faith is the key that will unlock the door out of the asylum and into the freedom that can only be found in Jesus

So I call on you this afternoon to step out in faith.

I call on you to grab a hold of the keys that will free you.

I call on you to leave the asylum.

I invite you to consider the message, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus

And when you have I invite you and welcome you into your true freedom.

Stop The Madness!! (Part 1)

A couple of months ago the president of World Vision announced that they would be changing their hiring policy to include monogamous, married gay people. A couple of hours later, the firestorm that was whipped up in the evangelical community over this decision rose to such fury that about 10,000 people stopped their sponsorship. The world vision head offices received over 7,000 calls mostly from Christians just taking them to the woodshed, some of them expletive-filled and calling them agents of the devil. In under 48 hours, the president returned with a new statement reversing his decision because of the visceral negative reaction from his key group of supporters – the church.

Many of us inside and outside the church looked on in horror as individuals and leaders discarded the children they were supporting over World Vision’s decision. There were many of us that took to the internet and to whatever platforms we could to plead with people to stop the insanity, but the damage was done. In the end, the collateral over a theological dispute was that about 10,000 desperately needy children around the world would suddenly and swiftly cease to receive the care that they had been receiving.

If you were somehow living under a rock and did not hear about it, I assure you that it is as heartbreaking as it sounds. It is as ashaming as it sounds. It is as CRAZY as it sounds.

But if we are honest, this is not the first time that organized christian religion has done something certifiable. And so I fear that this pattern of disturbing collective behaviour by the church forces a tough question we cannot duck.

Is it at all possible to undo all the craziness of the church?

The history of the so-called followers of christ contains more than just one asylum-worthy horror story. Organized christian religion has been the instigator or perpetuator of massive evils in western and colonial history. Everything from the inquisitions, to slavery, to the expansion of oppressive colonial empires has the fingerprints of Christianity. The forceful subjugation of people with the permission of the church, the martyrdom of people that do not adhere to a prescribed code of beliefs, and the open discrimination against people based on race, religion or sexual orientation has been an ugly calling card of a movement that traces its roots to Jesus of Nazareth and his followers.

Considering the fact that Jesus started his movement while the Jews were under Roman rule and that his first group of followers were among some of the most oppressed of society, it is astonishing that it would mutate so much and become an agent of oppression, but sadly it has.

Even today, the madness has not stopped. In countries around the world, pastors are leading grassroot movements calling for capital punishment of people caught in gay and/or lesbian activities. Probably the best known country in this regard is the country of my heritage – Uganda. While Uganda happens to be the most prominent case of this because of the grandstanding of her president, it is not the only country that has passed these kinds of laws. A simple google search will reveal several other countries that have passed or are in the process of passing similar laws. The absurdity of the situation is that these same pastors calling for the blood of LGBT people shamelessly prop up the governments that blatantly display ever-increasing levels of corruption.

And so, in truth, this latest incident with World Vision is small beans in comparison with some of the more certifiable things that Christianity has had a hand in. In spite of the many great things that Christians are doing all around the world, there seems to be an equal and embarrassingly large number of boneheaded things that we do.

It is no wonder that growing neo-atheist and agnostic movements around the world are calling for Christianity to be put into the looney bin once and for all. As far as they are concerned, not only are Christianity and other organized religions archaic, they are dangerous and they must be abandoned to the asylum once and for all. Lets be honest… if a person behaved in the way the church has historically behaved, they would be put behind bars and the keys thrown away once and for all for the good of society.

One of the loudest voices of neo-atheism, a well known geneticist called Richard Dawkins has gone as far as to suggest that if you are a Christian, you are deluded. To him, it is a form of insanity.

I understand why people like him think this way. I understand why in their minds, this kind of craziness belongs in an asylum. If the core of your message is supposedly grace, mercy and love, why is it that your actions display fear, judgement and condemnation? Where is the grace, mercy and love in racial and sexual discrimination perpetrated by christians all over the world? Where is the grace, mercy and love among christian groups worldwide that have silenced their prophetic voice in the defence of the defenceless? Where is the grace, mercy and love in the silliness of the world vision saga? Fear, judgement and condemnation are on display for all the world to see in spite of the loud protestations of the church.

King Solomon, who is credited for writing most of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which have some of the smartest common-sense writings of all time says something so simple and so wise as to the reason why the good christian communities do is quickly erased by the bonkers things we do or support. This is what he says at the beginning of the 10th chapter of Ecclesiastes:

dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor

At the church I pastor – Pivot 613 – we talked extensively about setting up pillars – markers – that we feel will ensure that we do not perpetuate the pattern of certifiable behaviour. These pillars are: living simply, acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly, accessibility, creativity and excellence, multiculturalism and theological diversity.


I know. I can’t remember them all if I don’t write them down… which is why we have.

They are many pillars and it will take time to make sure that our processes are aligned around them, but we actually believe that if we are true to these pillars, we will become a community that breaks the cycle of craziness for the most part. We believe that they reveal the heart of Christ. And I believe that more churches should go through the same process to ensure that, as a community, they do not react to external or environmental changes in ways that are less than Christlike.

Now, make no mistake about it… we are not a perfect church because we are filled with, and led by imperfect people. Because of this, we will every once in a while hurt people, but not because we are in the crazy house! And when we know of it, we will not spend energy justifying our actions, but instead be swift to repent and mend fences and bridges as best as we can. Our hope is that by pursuing these pillars, we will not be defined by the messes that we create, but rather by our pursuit of reconciliation and our commitment to building a no-fear zone.

Why have I kept returning to the the no-fear zone refrain on this blog?

If you do not forcefully reject and diligently uproot the seeds of fear, you will build communities that lash out in fear towards or about things that are new or different. You cannot bust out of the asylum, out of the craziness that faith communities around the world have precipitated, if you do not replace these insidious roots. The words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes thousands of years ago still echo hauntingly through history. A few bad actions from a few isolated people can tarnish the charitable, christlike and humanitarian work that millions of others are doing around the world in the name of christ.

You see, the history of Christian faith movements is not just one of extreme craziness. Quite the contrary actually. There are literally millions of people that are currently doing what they can to make the world a better place. Even in the face of the World Vision debacle, there are still hundreds of thousands of kids sponsored through numerous christian organizations around the world. There are those that rose up to try to pick up the world vision children that were so callously discarded. All around the world, there are people that leave the comfort of their homes and lay down their lives for less fortunate people that they know hardly anything about.

Even right now as I speak there are men and women all over the world looking to write a new story. There are people who are trying to build communities of faith whose faces and actions are consistent with the timeless message of Jesus encapsulated in the three words – grace, mercy and love. There are people trying to show that the church is not a certifiable movement filled with crazy people.

Even here at Pivot 613, we are working hard to build a community whose calling card is love first. We want to make sure that the community and individual experience with our group is one of an overwhelming sense of Christ’s love. We want to do our part to remove the dead flies that Solomon speaks of in the passage that we quoted a few moments ago.

Why? Very simply, because of Jesus.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “STOP THE MADNESS!!”

Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome (Part 2) – Breaking Free Of Indoctrination

One of the things that I have thought long and hard about for the past few months is the whole issue of freedom. I am sure you would agree with me when I say that freedom is not simply exchanging one set of social rules for another. We can all smell the fear and systems of control behind the unspoken rules of our faith communities and social communities and we know that no matter how attractive the packaging looks, this too is not freedom. And yet in spite of this God-given compass for freedom, we always seem to prefer slavery to rules instead of freedom. Our journey always seems to lead us back to the same place we think we’ve left.

It is into this conflicting construct that we must place Jesus. Jesus brings his message of freedom and liberty to a people that were oppressed on two sides. On one hand, they had the Roman imperial power in all it’s might and terrible glory. Rome was not a benevolent master. Rome was to be feared and would not suffer the rebellion of the people of this notorious part of the empire. On the other hand, they had the Priestly aristocracy, the Torah, and the complicated social and spiritual rules that came with them. For the people in Jesus’ time, it was a question of choice between one oppressor and another and it is into this construct that he starts to present a new construct called “the kingdom of God”.

The Kingdom of God was a marvelous concept – a third option – that Jesus puts before the people in his time to help them see that they could move into a wonderfully new construct that was not simply about the afterlife, but that could be lived out here on earth. No longer did you have to be faced simply with the controls, rules and oppression of either master, but rather, you could find a new path in which he, Jesus, was Lord and in which the yoke was easy and the burden was light.

Isn’t this what freedom truly is? Realizing that your choices are not simply one system of control VS another, but rather a third option in which those that the Son sets free are free indeed. Realizing that even though you are in the world, you are not of this world and so you can rise above the simple constructs that rules create. Realizing that you can abandon the appearance of perfection because you are accepted just the way you are – flawed, broken and yet somehow perfect in the eyes of he that made you.

You know what the true scandal of Jesus’ teachings is? It is the fact that even though he preached freedom, he was crucified. Even his disciples were imprisoned and killed and the Jerusalem church that he established was completely destroyed when every trace of Jerusalem was ground into the dust in 70 AD. But therein lies the true beauty of the freedom that Jesus offers in his proposition about his kingdom.

The beauty is that though it may seem like you are bound by a system of control, freedom is not what appears on the outside, but what is really on the inside. So even though on the outside it may seem like you are bound by your obligations to government or society, the truth is that freedom is not an outward appearance, but an inner persuasion. This why Paul, writing years after his conversion, can tell slaves to obey their masters. He is not promoting slavery as the church has said he might have been. To Paul, the appearance of slavery is not real slavery. Obviously it would be GREAT to not have to be sold from one master to another, but even though you are sold to slavery, you can live free because freedom is inside you and cannot be simply taken away by physical chains.

But sadly, it can be taken away by mental and spiritual chains. It is so easy to remain enslaved and to crave the construct of slavery even when you are set free. You can see this in the stories of humanity – from the Israelites preferring slavery in egypt to freedom in the desert, to the people in Stockholm defending their abductors. You can see it as people spiral back into addiction after working hard to get clean and sober and you can see it as people that are freed from modern-day slavery turn around and become traffickers in an underground global business that put them through hell. The saddest of all, though, has to be in the Church. You can see people come to Jesus and be handed a physical and spiritual freedom that they could have never known and still never truly walk in the breadth and depth of the freedom they have been handed preferring, instead, to willfully enslave themselves through guilt, fear, judgement and condemnation.

However, there is hope. In the face of this, you can see traces of what Jesus was really trying to say about freedom being a matter of the heart. You can see it in the determination of the north american slaves that overcame impossible odds to fight for a concept that only existed in their heads. You can see it in the unbreakable spirit of victims of abuse and addiction that may come out with broken bodies, but astonishingly unbroken spirits. And you can see it in the followers of Jesus and especially in Paul as he writes: we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

I believe that as followers of Christ, we have to honestly ask ourselves a couple of deep questions:

Are you really free or have you traded one system of control for another?

Are you a staunch defender of the rules that both you and other people in your faith community find oppressive, baffling and sometimes downright outrageous?

Do you find yourself wracked with guilt over breaking the rules that your faith community has created, but are not really found in scripture?

Are you exhibiting the signs of a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome all the while not realizing that you are defending the same construct that seeks to control you?

Are you still a victim of a rigid matrix offering an illusion of freedom, but not really giving it?

Are you a defender of a system of benevolent legalism rather than a champion for freedom?

I believe that in Christ we can really be free. We can be free from slavery to sin and slavery to our religious indoctrination. There is a third choice ahead of us – true freedom that can only be found in christ. You can really, REALLY be free.