Jesus loves…the people at Exxxotica.

So I find myself here, the night before another outreach with xxxChurch at a porn convention. I’m not nervous like I was last year. I’m not worried. I’m at peace. This time last year I was preparing for Exxxotica in Atlantic City, with no idea what I was getting myself into, and yet here I am a year later, ready and so incredibly excited for this weekend. I’m not excited about porn or getting hit on by horny guys or being on my feet for hours on end [I do that already with working at Starbucks]. But what I am excited about is being able to, once again, go into this world of porn and show people love. The people that attend these adult conventions are normal, everyday people. They are teachers, mothers, fathers, college students, bankers, baristas, coaches, and of course, throw some creepers into that mix. The vast majority are simply normal people and Jesus loves them. Jesus loves the dancers and strippers. Jesus loves the producers and sex toy salesmen. Jesus loves every single person who will be in the Taj Mahal at Exxxotica this weekend.

He loves them tremendously, and I’ll bet money on it that most of them have never really been told of Jesus’ love for them. That is what breaks my heart. Jesus deeply loved people, but what we forget is he loved them where they were at…he didn’t judge them and picket and protest and hate and spit and cuss at them. In fact, he only ever responded violently toward the religious and abusers of his faith in the Temple. He only ever was critical to the ones that knew the love of God but refused to act on it. His heart was open and loving to the poor, the prostitute, the adulterer, the Gentile [those of other races], the dishonest, and so many more. The common factor was that he loved people and he wanted people to know it before he made mention of their sin or wrongdoing. He wanted people to have the choice to love him or not. He wanted people to choose him and accept his love.

That’s what I am going to with Exxxotica this weekend. Good Friday and Easter are right around the corner- the holiday taken over by bunnies, chicks, and candy and often abused by religious orthodoxy. We have missed something so much if we go into Easter without being vocal of Jesus’ love to all people, regardless of the backgrounds or whether we agree with them or their lifestyle. He loved people to the point of surrendering himself to death. He loved people so deeply that he broke his own body so we could have forgiveness and restoration. I want to be able to love people that weekend with the kind of love that is unconditional, accepting, and redeeming- the same way Jesus has chosen to love me despite my own flaws, sin, and wrongdoing. No matter who you are, Christian, church-goer, stripper, porn star, addict, or anything else… Jesus loves you.

 

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JJ’s story. {Jesus Loves Porns Star, Pt. 2}

MJ:

A year ago I met JJ at the AC Exxxotica show with xxxChurch. He is one of the many stories that are full of reason as to why I do what I do.

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

I figure one blog post about this weekend was not going to be enough to explain what I experienced. So much happened in so little time that I have to decompress and really think about it all. I met so many people this weekend, probably most of which I will never see again. They will continue on with their lives and may even forget that they met me, the short, blonde, non-porn star at the Jesus booth at the eXXXotica porn convention. But there are a few… just a few that I pray to God I get to see again. I pray that I can encounter them somewhere, even at the next eXXXotica later this year. I have their names written down with descriptions in case I forget them, though I doubt I will. With all the people- the hundreds of people I personally met this weekend, there was only…

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Religion and what we’ve made It to be.

MJ:

In this Easter season…. remember this important thing: religion means nothing. Christ means everything.

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

I want to be honest. I feel like so much of my faith has been spoon fed to me where I have done nothing but eat. I have taken in what I have been told without truly figuring out all for myself. At church during fast songs you clap your hands and sometimes dance. During slower “worship” songs you raise your hands and close your eyes. A typical service consists of announcements, a 30-minute worship set and an hour sermon. Some time during that set tithes/offerings, special music, and communion are done.

Its a ritual.

It was when I got to college that I began to find God in new ways. It was when I arrived here in Israel that I no longer will view religion, regardless of denomination or name, the same. I can’t. I refuse. I have seen Orthodox Jews worship GOD with such reverence and honor. They…

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Darkness Meant For Me.

MJ:

A bit nostaglic today as I think back to five years ago being in the very place where Jesus Christ was held the hours before his death. Still gives me chills.

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

Caiaphas’ House. Now resting on site is yet another church marking the site of that which was deemed holy. Until now, the churches built on these sites distract from the purpose of the visit. They decorate the site to ultimately bring attention to their purpose rather than the actual event that occurred. But this, this was different. This was a beautiful church, however in its simplicity. We entered in to what was a normal church with the remnants of a bedrock and caves in the main chapel. As we walked around the site, we went below…to the dungeon. I could not have imagined what I was about to see. To feel. To touch.

We made our way to the caves below. It was a place where prisoners of the Pharisees were held. The Pharisees [the religious leaders for the Jews that held a lot of power] would take their prisoners…

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Promise in the Sky

MJ:

Five years ago, today, I was in the middle of the Negev in Israel…a desert place seeking God, direction, and peace. I will never forget that night. I still dream of that starry night sky.

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

I had to write this separately. My mind cannot not cease to think about this. Last night we stayed at the Bedouin camp and was something I needed for some time. I loved everything, yes, but this one thing touched me greater than anything else on this trip thus far. The stars. Why would the stars matter so much when I can see the stars back at home?

I love the stars. I love to star gaze. It is quite simply my favorite thing to do. I think clearly. I pray. I sing songs to God- songs I just make up and sing from my heart. I have seen the night sky in the mountains, in Florida, at home in Jersey, in Colorado, Alaska, and honestly the list goes on. But this time was very different. I walked away, alone, from the Bedouin camp, leaving all behind- my friends, the…

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My last six months…Dangerous prayers.

Ever go driving down a country or wooded road late at night? You’re surrounded by darkness. You might see some houses, stores, and slight hints at civilization, but you are mostly surrounded by trees or fields with the only light coming from your headlights and the starry night sky. Those moments of driving like that are among my favorite moments to think. They are my favorite moments to just let what is going on in my life resonate within me. As of late, I feel that these very moments are metaphorically my life.

I feel like my life is surrounded by unknown. I’m traveling down a road with limited signage. Its dimly lit. But amidst the darkness and lack of direction, there is such beauty.

That is exactly my life in this moment.

Six months ago, I felt that not only did I need change, I desperately needed it. I was ending my third year as a youth pastor at church. I’m going to be honest. I liked the church, loved getting to invest in the students, but it was not for me. My parents were my senior pastors. There was a severe lack of young adult presence. Every one and quite literally their mother, including my own, made it their mission to tell me of every single male they knew of and how perfect we could be together. Granted the experience was one full of learning and gaining of understanding, and for that I am so completely grateful. I got to meet and work with some great people and awesome students. During my years there, I was faced with many challenges, moments that made me want to quit, days that made me want to leave ministry. And to be even more honest, that is ministry pretty much anywhere. Within those three years at the church, I felt as though I was made for something else. Something different. I always thought it was missions. I always assumed that was the direction God was taking me because it made sense. Working in a church did not make any sense to me. Living in the crazy madness of some foreign culture made sense.

God has a funny way of showing us different.

In August of last summer, I made the decision to officially resign. It was a decision I had been praying about for a while, but never felt peace about completely leaving yet. I was worried for my youth. I loved them and had invested so much into their lives. I did not want to walk away to quickly. But by August, I knew it was time. I actually put in my resignation believing completely that I would be hired at a job in Florida that was certain, only it turned out that was seemed like a sure thing, completely failed. By that point I was now with a job prospect and was fully in my resignation. I felt like I needed to move forward with my resignation and see what God wanted to do in my life. It was completely dangerous, risky faith…faith trusting God knowing full well my life was about to shaken. I was certain that this, this time, was God opening the opportunity for missions or non-profit work [hopefully] overseas. But job rejection after rejection proved otherwise. It proved that my plan was not working. It proved that my idea of what my life looked like did not match God’s desire for my life. I told God I did not want to work in a church again. I told God I wanted missions work or work with anti-trafficking efforts. I told God I wanted a job that paid “x” amount of dollars. I told God… and it did not happen that way.

In fact, I found myself in December, having moved back in with my parents- relinquishing my lovely apartment, without a career, working 40 hours a week at Starbucks, barely making ends meet to pay loans, and without a single bit of direction. Four months of this and I was done. I was sick and tired of job rejections of jobs that I should have gotten without a doubt. But then I remembered something I had prayed back in August…I basically had prayed “God, if this job or any other job are not what you want for me, make it very clear and make no sense as to why I do not get hired”. Talk about not making sense. I told God [yes, very firmly actually] in December that I was done looking for a job. I was done trying to make it happen. I was done trying to figure out. I told him that he needed to give me a job. Period.

Sometimes, us getting out of the way is exactly what needs to happen for God to actually move in our lives.

Within two weeks of my demanding a job and basically being in a place of broken desperation for God to “do something” [another dangerous and risky prayer], my friend- a youth pastor/interim senior pastor- called me with a job offer to temporarily help run the youth program at the church. Not what I expected. Not what I wanted…six months ago. But when we get out of the way, God really does something. Sometimes we block with our own best intentions God’s best intentions. Immediately I felt a peace about telling my friend yes. I couldn’t explain it; I just knew that it was right. I knew that it was God’s way of saying he had not forgotten me or my desires and needs.

I know, two months into this job at the church, still face much uncertainty. But this time, its different. This time its a faith that is new to me. This church is where I need to be because its where God wants me. I didn’t want to work in another church. God had a different plan. I’m glad I listened. I wanted a job in missions or non-profit. I’m glad God is directing me in that while leading me at this church. Honestly, even just one month from now, my may look different. I don’t have answers to my own questions. I don’t have direction. A new senior pastor could be voted in, and I then become with my job. They may want to hire someone else. They may want to reformat the structure of the staff. They may want to do a lot of things, all of which I cannot worry about right now.  Right here, right now, this is where I am because this is where I feel God has placed me. I don’t have the certainty of knowing what will happen with my job at the church. I don’t have the answer as to how long I’ll continue to be a barista.

I have a ton of questions. I have a ton of things that I would LOVE to know what is happening or knowing God’s plan. There are some things personally [non-ministry] that I would love to happen but I need to be patient and trust God even in these areas. I keep praying “God surprise me!” and he does. I have unknown before me- like the unknown, dimly lit country roads I drive on a lot. But there is still beauty in all of this. Just like the starry night sky, there is beauty in not seeing everything in God’s plan right now. There is beauty in letting the stars be exposed throughout the course of the night. There is beauty in seeing from a perspective of faith and trust. I have been praying some dangerous risky prayers…prayers that shake me, challenge me, and strengthen me. Prayers that say to God that he can do whatever he wants. I dare you to try it and see what he will do.

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After Jericho.

MJ:

continuing to work on this…

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

I feel like lately God is speaking to me about promise, purpose, and purity.  Continually, in my devotion time, I find myself thinking about all three. I can see how all three correlate with my life currently. I am in a place, like the Hebrews [read my last post] in the desert wandering. Just wandering. But somewhere off in the distance and future there is the Promised Land. God has set out something for me, in my future, somewhere, but it is not for now . Right now God is beckoning me to believe in his promise. He is beckoning my heart to believe so strongly that he does indeed have wonders ahead for me. Purpose. I have purpose. It is not to just breathe and to go through life, but to embrace whatever is ahead. For the Hebrews it was Jericho. They had to face an obstacle before claiming…

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Jericho before me.

MJ:

A lesson I am still learning.

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

I love the story of the Israelites. Their history fascinates me. Can you imagine? In Eygpt for years, and finally freedom is in sight. Finally released by Pharaoh and freedom is tangible. They leave. All Hebrews. But shortly after leaving they find themselves at the sea. They have nowhere to go. Pharaoh, by this time, as changed his mind and now ready to capture the Hebrews. They were stuck. No solution. Water on one side, certain death at the other. But God provided. He held back Pharaoh meanwhile separating the Red Sea allowing for dry ground. The Hebrews made it safely to the other side. They had their freedom. Finally. On their way to their land, the very land promised to them by God, they were afraid and for some reason did not think God could handle the danger ahead. Because of their lack of faith and doubt, they spent…

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Be mine

MJ:

Oldie but felt like sharing it again because of today being Valentine’s Day :)

Originally posted on beyond the mundane:

Before you ask, no, this is not another I hate Valentine’s Day blog. In no way do I hate it. Some people only complain about being single or not having “the one”.  Often I see people get so caught up in the tradition of the holiday rather than the supposed motive behind it…Love. Instead, Valentine’s Day is symbolic of something far greater. It celebtrates those that have found [what they think is] love and wish to enjoy it with someone special. It is a chance for them to invest in the other person, with time, money or anything else they can think of . Ultimately, it is a holiday focused on making your significant other feel special. However, if you have found that true person in your life that you feel you love, why make such a big deal out of Valentine’s Day when you could surprise with a random…

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My issue with tolerance

I write tonight out of a lot of built up thoughts and emotions regarding some current events. I write in honesty. I write knowing full well that someone, or maybe several people, who read this will find me as the very thing I am writing about. I am aware that some people will pre-judge me. I’m aware that some already have.  I will not go into the specific events, as the events alone are not the reason or focus for this post and thus not something I feel like debating.

I have seen a trend lately that if someone disagrees with you on any level such as religious belief, sexual orientation, behavior, political view or otherwise, in their disagreement it then almost automatically makes them a person lacking in respect, tolerance, or love and in turn making them a bigot.

Let’s get one thing very clear from the start of this post: just because I may disagree with you about a behavior (s), lifestyle, decision, voting party or whatever else, it does not mean I think of you as less than a person. It does not mean I find you inferior. It does not mean I am holier than you. It does not mean God hates you. Religious people can find enough reasons to judge and condemn someone for not believing the same thing as them. So can anyone else. That is where I find the problem.

I am a Christian. I know what I believe spiritually, Biblically, politically, and why I believe such things. I back things with scripture and prayer. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am opinionated, blunt, and honest. I’m fine with being defined as such. However, I can disagree with, be opinionated about, and honest towards any person or subject matter with grace, love, and compassion. I think that is the Biblical approach according to Christ.

He always loved first.

This is exactly where I have found fault on Christians, Christians that continually walk in ways that go against God’s heart, design or calling and justify such behavior by saying God loves them. Period. I see it all the time with the ministry I work with in xxxChurch. Our slogan is “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”. Granted we know the slogan is catchy, intriguing and potentially sacrilegious, but more than anything, we believe it is indeed true. We also know that people will try to think, “Oh great, he loves me. I can still live however I want and still walk in His love”. Just because Jesus loved first does not mean that’s where His love ended.

There is another side of Jesus, the side people like to ignore more often. He went to the Temple and over turned the tables of people that were corrupt. He flipped over tables of the money changers because they withheld money and abused their position. He flipped over the tables of those offering animals for sacrifice, all the while giving unclean, blemished, or wrong [according to their laws] animals. He was mad at the greed. He was saddened at the compromise. He was livid at the deceit. And he let them all know that he disagreed. He was also Jesus [trump card!] and acted out against the religious, not the secular culture.

You can then look at another Jesus story and see how graciously, lovingly, and compassionately he was toward the Samaritan woman. She was a woman, harlot [or in our world, a slut], an adulterer, a liar, and probably other things. Not to mention she was of a half-breed race that “good” Jews avoided. Yet Jesus sat there and loved her in spite of disagreeing with her.

I wish Christians could be an example to our culture, one that is drilling the idea of tolerance into our brains, and then yelling at us [or anyone else] if we disagree with someone because of __________ [fill in the blank]. I wish that in our disagreement, other Christians, un-churched, and the rest of culture would see people that, in spite of disagreement, would still be loving toward others. That we would exemplify Christ’s love for the world. Tolerance is a word that I hate. It is, by the definition of the majority, a word that describes accepting and loving people no matter what, yet it is intolerant of anyone with different opinions, regardless if they are religiously based or not.

So to you, the reader, I ask that you understand something very close to my heart. God loves you. No matter what Christians say, no matter what culture says, no matter what family says, no matter what politics say. God loves you. I’m sorry if someone has mistreated you or done anything to make you feel like you are less than worthy of his love, especially in the name of God or religion. But I am not sorry if I disagree with you on any of the things I have already mentioned. I am not sorry if I disagree with you because my faith and religious belief [really dislike that word] contradicts your lifestyle, behavior, attitude, etc. Even if I disagree with you, know that I still love you. I still believe God loves you. And I still believe that you matter.

Living out love is tolerance. Agreement does not equate tolerance. Let’s not get those two confused.

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