feels good to be a gangster

Posted: April 1st, 2010 | Filed under: life | 13 Comments »

They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them. -Jesus, John 16:1-4

What would cause a church to throw someone out and feel like it’s what God wanted them to do?

This happens all the time. Even if bystanders have a deep feeling things aren’t being handled properly, they can’t reconcile what they feel with the reasoning their church gives. Churchy talk can go a long way with a group of people who don’t know anything other than what their leaders tell them. Even if something deep within them is unsettled, they dismiss it and stay under the cover of the bylaws instead of taking a risk on grace. Maybe they’re afraid that if they speak up, they’ll be kicked out, too.

The religious homeless have the best seats in this story. On the surface, you would think the pressed out, backcombed, polish tipped alter professional would be the crowned jewel, but that’s not the case. The transient, ruffians with salty tongues and a raw diet of grace and wild grown sanctification are the ones with the golden ticket. Ragamuffins. Outcasts. A band of spirit led gypsies.

If you’re there and you’re feeling left out of the religious red carpet fashion show, then take this as a reminder. They don’t like you because they don’t understand you. They don’t know where you’re coming from and you make them feel uncomfortable. Their pride wells, up and they fight it. Their muscles ache to run, but they massage it away. You cause them pain because something deep within them knows that they’re supposed to be free, but they don’t know how. They’re the earners, the achievers, the competitors. They need to do this thing their own way, in their own strength, so they can beat their chest at the top of this mountain. Stake their claim of property and settle down on their throne. They hate it when you saunter in late and get paid the same wage.

When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’

“Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’

“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” -Jesus, Matthew 20:8-16

It has to be antagonizing to do everything you know to be who you think you should be and watch someone else not be so conscientious and still get the same serving. When compared to time and effort, they’re actually getting paid more. The more need, the more provision. Makes personal strife in the matters of religious gain seem the same kind of useless as complete disregard of morality for selfish satisfaction. They both end up in the same spot with the same pay.

Why do they throw you out of the meeting places? Because you represent something they can’t stand. You’re disregard for tradition and ‘brand’ are intolerable. Not when you’re the only one who doesn’t seem to want to ‘wear more flair.’ Seriously, most just want to get passed the regulatory b.s. so they can get on with their worship and ‘fellow-shipping.’ They can’t get to the table of food because everyone is questioning their level of devotion.

You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair? -Joanna; Office Space

Jesus changed everything when he sauntered into town. His attitude was unacceptable to the churchy people. I see him with a road worn swagger and air of ‘I’m not from here.’ Like a traveling band of rock stars excited about a truck stop bathroom. People were drawn to him and a little afraid of Him. He cared more about fringe people than he did about the way he was perceived. He nestled in the uncultivated, uncolored part of the picture because he didn’t belong to the time warped civilization of religious pretension and narcissism. They hated Jesus because they thought he’d come in and validate them and their efforts and he didn’t. He didn’t even attend their multi-media, U2 song covered, fake fog saturated church service. He went straight to the seedy part of town and made friends with the guy who never showers because his beer glass never stops refilling itself. Most choke on their communion grape juice if they saw who he was sitting by when he should have been sitting in their synagog.

If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you. -Jesus, John 15:18-19

If Jesus had kept his mouth shut drinking wine at birthday parties and talking to women he shouldn’t have been talking to, then he wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble. But he didn’t. He walked into towns and was met by the neighborhood holy gunslingers. The religious villains keeping the towns people scared and compliant. He bypassed their intimidation dance and started unravelling the ropes the law tied them with. They questioned his authority, they accused him of being a heretic, they tried to undermine his message by casting doubt on his reputation. They scrambled to out smart him, to intimidate him and to make him keep his mouth shut. But it didn’t work.

They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. -Jesus, John 15:21-24

When these people did this to him and they do it to you, just notice the irony  that they are confirming the very scriptures they quote when they are trying to condemn you (or ‘speak truth in love’ as they like to call it).

Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’ -Jesus, John 15:25

Jesus was who he said he was and he went back from where he came. He sent the Holy Spirit to stay with us and help guide us. Jesus started this whole thing and he’s asking us to continue it. You’re not going to be treated better than he was, so when it happens, just expect it and shrug it off.

Your calling is to join this ‘thug life’ and carry out the work he started.

When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start. -Jesus, John 15:26-27



13 Comments on “feels good to be a gangster”

  1. 1 Lady jess said at 11:03 am on April 1st, 2010:

    That was really good, I appreciate other versions of the Bible. They put it in plain words, it kind of helps me understand it better. What version do you use? It really sounds great! Thank you for this!

  2. 2 Serena Woods said at 11:22 am on April 1st, 2010:

    This is The Message. I love the ESV, too, but it's not as conversational. I study out of four different one's to make sure I don't stray from the intent of the text:




    and The Message

    I always double check the NIV just to see what people are used to hearing so I can see why they 'took it that way.'

  3. 3 Anna said at 11:30 am on April 1st, 2010:

    looks like the Message, which is really not a translation, but a paraphrase. It's great, though… definitely helps as far as understanding and puts it in todays terms. Actually makes me laugh outloud… a verse in Romans in the Message Bible literally says, "don't be stuck-up!" I love that because we always used the term stuck-up in high school and usually don't hear it nowdays. I like to have it alongside NIV.

    I've actually never seen or heard of anyone getting kicked out of a church. Do you mean literally asked to leave and never come back? Wow. I must be naive.. but have never seen that. We've had homeless come in off the street and sit on the pew with no problems.

  4. 4 Serena Woods said at 11:46 am on April 1st, 2010:

    April: Yes, literally kicked out.

  5. 5 m* said at 4:10 am on April 2nd, 2010:


    that which we are unable to control, we fear most

    Yeah. You know what, yeah, I do. I do want to express myself, okay. And I don't need 37 pieces of flair to do it. ~Joanna (Office Space)

    We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." ~Luke 23:41-43 (NIV)


  6. 6 Julie R. said at 4:47 am on April 2nd, 2010:

    I was talking to a woman from the church which holds my membership a few days ago and I was sharing with her some of the things I had read here, things which I have been feeling in my spirit for a very long time…she said to me "you realize the stuff you are saying would get you tossed out on your ear if you said it out loud in our church." I said that I knew this and then I laughed.. I realized I wasn't having a crisis of faith anymore….I am in the midst of a "clarity of faith". And it feels like I am finally shaking free of the religious yoke that has been shackled to my neck since birth…

  7. 7 Serena Woods said at 7:59 am on April 2nd, 2010:

    M*: 🙂

    Julie R.: I'm curious to know what 'stuff' it was that she thought would get you kicked out.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 9:31 pm on April 2nd, 2010:

    "You know what would be good? Is if we could just all move our desks down to the basement. Mmmmm'kay?"

  9. 9 April said at 7:59 am on April 3rd, 2010:

    Hello. I want to deeply, sincerely apologize. I don’t know at what point, but somewhere I began to become offended by some of your writings, Serena. I became puffed up with pride, too. I am sorry for hiding behind the name, Anna. I guess I was feeling I wanted to be anyone but the real me. I am a follower of Christ who struggles with depression/anxiety. The anxiety is so severe that I literally shake now like a diabetic who needs to eat. At times in my 33 years I have balanced delicately on the edge of life and death in the physical sense. So much darkness overwhelms my aching heart, that I forget who I belong to, Christ Jesus. I sent my husband and kids to church last Wed. night with a hug and a kiss, a wave goodbye…and I stayed home after a tough emotional roller coaster of a week forgetting to take the medication that I had become convinced I don’t need. I started to take a bath meant for relaxation and it ended up being a place that I decided I could literally sink down in under the water and not come up; saving myself from destructive thoughts and saving my family from having to live with someone who is always in a bad mood. I was so wrapped up in the thinking that I am not needed, no one would care or notice much if I was no longer here. I . I . I … .notice how selfish that thinking is?, but I was allowing myself to suffocate underneath it.

    Thankfully, God sent my family home early storming through the front door, and my son running through the bathroom door saying, “mommy I have to tell you I love you and I need you, okay? bye! then he ran out… slamming the door!!!

    God loves me. Even me. I want to apologize, I started out being blessed by this blog, and somewhere along the way… I am not sure where or why yet, but started become offended. I think by the statement that “someone walking in darkness does not know the truth” I hope I am not misquoting there, but I often walk in darkness, but know the truth. I am sure, I took that to mean something different that what it was intended to mean. And I humbly ask you, Serena to forgive me! Seems like I started to switch from encoraging to troll!

    And I sense the Holy Spirit asking me to back off from all things online and focus on him alone to flood me with peace and bring me back to Him.

    With a heart full of grace and humility,

    Thank you.

  10. 10 Serena Woods said at 8:51 am on April 3rd, 2010:

    April: I respect your honesty. I know that you like to use a pseudonym when you want to speak more freely. 'Dana' or 'Anna' is still 'April'. I understand it.

    I appreciate your apology and you should know that it's not necessary. You're allowed to have flaws with me. I'm very intuitive when it comes to people and it gives me patience and compassion. I don't take the behavior hiccups of others personally. It's just them (you) being real and I'll take real over fake any day.

    I know that you've been struggling with the things I write. It doesn't bother me because I know what I'm doing. Anyone can read what I write and find that I'm paraphrasing scripture, then I follow it up with the scripture I just paraphrased.

    I speak/write with courage only because I know I don't have to answer for what I'm saying. It's all backed up by scripture.

    For example: You mentioned that it offended you when I wrote something to the effect of “someone walking in darkness does not know the truth.”

    When the Holy Spirit is breaking in on you and trying to show you something, it never feels good. A great deal of the time, the Holy Spirit uses someone else to communicate with you. You can fight it off, argue, question, even get angry at the 'messenger', but the choice is yours.

    You say that my words have offended you and made your pride swell up. But the truth is, they're not my words:

    If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we're obviously lying through our teeth—we're not living what we claim. -1 John 1:6

    Pride is the biggest issue between a person and God. Instead of thinking, 'I know I'm right and I'm in the dark, so this must be wrong.' Try to consider that you might not be right, so that you can hear what He's trying to tell you instead of your own defenses. Your answer to prayer will most likely be at the expense of your pride.

    You're always welcome here. Especially if you're real. 🙂

  11. 11 Julie R. said at 9:04 am on April 3rd, 2010:


    The "stuff" I was saying included things like,

    I felt like the church was more interested in numbers than in people.

    I felt like we were being drowned in milk and I was starving for some meat.

    I said we couldn't sit back and tell our youth that they mean the world to us but not give them the proper tools in order to face real life situations. (our church currently uses "Lifeway" learning materials, which there isn't anything wrong with the company that produces the material, but the director who picks that stuff chooses VERY basic things for ALL age groups.

    Its patronizing and condescending. But to here our board talk Lifeway Material is the next best thing to KING JAMES 1611… which is another whole tangent I won't even get started on here…(hopefully you could almost see the "eye-roll")

    thats just SOME of what I told her….

    I'm just one step away from having myself ex-cmmunicated…

    but I ain't worried…

    I am tired of sitting back and being quiet for fear of rocking the boat…

  12. 12 April said at 9:20 am on April 3rd, 2010:

    I think I saw my anxiety as the darkness I was walking in… and told myself that I must really not be a believer if I have that struggle! Not true. In other words told myself, "you're a fake, you aren't truly a Christian because you're always under a dark cloud of anxiety…" that is a lie.

  13. 13 Serena Woods said at 9:29 am on April 3rd, 2010:

    Julie: so, you're questioning 'the man'? 😉

    I'm not sure you'll ever find a church that can keep up with the hunger once the hunger has kicked in.

    I read a quote the other day that was a response to someone who feels they're not 'being fed' at their church. The response was (roughly): 'If I spoon feed my baby, it's to be expected, but if he still wants me to spoon feed him when he's five, then there's a problem. I'd hand him a fork and knife and tell him to feed himself.'

    I'm not sure that applies to your situation at all, but I like the visual.

Leave a Reply