Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mr./Mrs. Anonymous

Over the weekend I had a classic thing happen to me. This is something that bloggers deal with often…THE ANONYMOUS COMMENT! I have to tell you that if you do blog and it is truly your opinion and not some vanilla blog…you will get these. Here is what one person wrote to me regarding my blog, “Day 92: Rick Warren and Funguses in the Church.”

“I find it humorous that a pastor would be so unloving as to mock people who say something opposite to what he believes. I would be running far from you, buddy. Yep, just saw this and yep, not posting my name after I see what you and your followers do to people who suggest you may be wrong.”

I responded to this persons comment by saying it is quite “cowardly” to post such a comment and sign your name. Here was this person’s response.

“Hmm, insults mixed with blessings. And I'm not the classy one. Riiiight. Cowardess? No. Protecting myself and those I love from people I feel total unlove and disrespect from.”

Now to the seasoned blogger you can almost say who certain ones are that leave comments. This is no different from what a pastor will get now and again. Pastors get the plain white envelope on occasion with no return address label on them. I can usually tell it is going to be bad letter if it comes like that.

As badly as I would like to engage people like that and completely pummel them on an intellectual level I realize very quickly it would do no good. I am reminded of the quote by Mark Twain, “"Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference." Now I know this may not be the “Christlike” answer to this situation so….Proverbs 26:4(NIV) “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.”

If you are a blogger or pastor and reading this and can relate…the best advice I can give you is simply write that person off. It is one thing to have a name and maybe try and talk things out but if they are going to post something with no name…it is not worth your time. It is not worth your stress and it should not stop you in being who you are. These comments won’t stop me in being who I am because it is amazing how many people get blessed by these blogs. You probably have or will discover how blessed people will be by your writings/teachings as well if you simply remain yourself.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

They Don't Have a Relationship With God!?

Have you ever heard the phrase from a Christian, “I don’t think so and so has a relationship with God.”? This is typically seen in all areas of pop-culture. Whether we are talking about, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Madonna….shall I go on? You hear some Christians say, “they don’t have a relationship with God.” Perhaps you hear this same conversation within your family or friends regarding other family and friends. After wrapping up my message for this Sunday, God really got my wheels spinning as I sat in my office late at night for an hour in the dark (12am-1am). Yes…my favorite scripture on prayer is “be still and know that I am God.” It is during those times in the dark in my office that I feel God really speaks to me.

I have come to realize that this statement “he/she doesn’t have a relationship with God” does in fact annoy me and comes off quite judgemental. Let me explain…whether someone knows it or not everyone has a relationship with God…EVERYONE!! We (Christians) are so quick to put on pictures, mugs, shirts, etc. the verse in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you……” Does this verse not indicate that God does have a relationship with everyone? What about the woman at the well in the Bible? Before that scenario even played out I am quite confident that God had a relationship with her. What about the drug addict coming off an all night binge crying out to God? God still has a relationship with him/her and whether they know it or not…they have one with him. How about the gay person completely cut off from family, friends, and church where people are now saying “they don’t have a relationship with Christ anymore” and now they are crying out to God? Yep…God still has a relationship with them and whether they know it or not…they still have a relationship with God.

Perhaps some of these relationships are fractured or completely destroyed but the good news is that it can be repaired. If in fact God made us (which I think we would all agree)…then why would we make an ignorant comment like, “That person does not have a relationship with God.” When at any point in a person’s existence does God cut us off from a relationship with him? If my son, James grew up and completely disliked me and wanted nothing to do with me…we would still have a relationship. It might be fractured but always repairable. It might be distant but when he/me is ready to reconcile…we are there.

This blog does not mean I am Universalist. I believe in Salvation and the need for it which I will talk about more this Sunday at church. However, when I am at a traditional church service and the speaker says, “Friend (typical way to begin altar calls) God desires a relationship with you.” I will now want to tell that speaker…he already does. This guy might be the same one who tells people “I am taking God to Africa this summer on a mission’s trip.” Guess what? God is already there…you may help in providing a message but there is also a good chance you will botch things up.

I am so glad I am passionately pursued by a God who never breaks relationship with us. That I love a God that is always ready to love me know matter what I have done or will do. I am so glad those who may not know God that well still have a relationship with him. It doesn't matter when they call out….God loves us because he created us and not only desires but has a relationship with us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Season of the Skeptic

One of the things I believe that is healthy for a Christian to go through is a season of skepticism. For some it may be a season of agnosticism or atheism depending on how messed up of a Christian upbringing they may have had. Perhaps some have endured some pretty legalistic teachings growing up and are now confronted with a new and fresh approach to God. There may be those that have discovered what they were taught about God really isn't God at all. This new teaching may be a bit uncomfortable because of the amount of grace and yet it feels so right. It is as if the Holy Spirit is making this thing resonate within you. It is time to become a skeptic and rediscover, study, dive in and examine this new truth.

Some may have had such a terrible painting of who Jesus is that it really is not Jesus at all. It is in these times you are justified in becoming an atheist for a season. It is time to not believe in “that” high being, but rediscover the true Jesus of the Bible….the red letter Jesus.

In all areas of Christianity I believe it is most helpful to remain a skeptic. According to Dictionary.com a Skeptic is: “a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.Other definitions would say this usually happens in the realm of religion. Is this really a bad thing though? I personally do not think so. For the churches or pastors that insist that you don’t question, but rather believe every word they say...this is a nightmare for them. There are absolutely some things that are true and ring true when you hear it that there is no need to be a skeptic. However, I believe it is okay to question and reason with yes….teachings in the Bible. Even today when you walk into a Christian Bookstore (which I don’t…can’t stand the places) or visit the “Christian” section at Barnes and Noble all you see are the end results of people questioning the Christian life/teachings and putting it into book form. What do you think a commentary is? It is the end result of someone wrestling with scripture and putting what THEY believe into book form. However, I bet these people were still a part of a church and even had a pastor (probably loved them both)…they just understood that it is okay to examine scripture for themselves as well.

Read the Bible over again and you will find it is FILLED with skeptics and people that question. In fact you find people that question what God told them to do. At the sake of sounding to radical…I think if it was okay for Thomas to question the resurrected to Jesus to his face, I think it is okay if we sometimes question what our pastor is teaching us.

Being a skeptic can lead to deeper understanding. The reason why some don’t like when others go deep is that to quote a favorite video clip of mine, “when things get deep…people drown.” There is a healthy balance here however. One can remain so skeptical that they never grow and begin to live in such bondage that they eventually don’t know what they believe. The flip-side of that coin is that we can be a skeptic and grow from it. Even Moses, Jacob, Thomas, Jonah, etc. questioned but eventually went ahead with things.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Casey Anthony and Jonah

So just a while ago, Casey Anthony was released from prison after being detained for 3 or so years for the alleged murder of her daughter. This was one of those cases where people were thinking it is going to be a slam dunk win for the prosecution. However the world soon found out that this simply was not so. Much to the surprise of the nation, Casey Anthony walked a free woman.

It was not until last night I began to read many responses by the Christian world on this verdict. There were very few that were actually okay that she went free. Many Christians are still calling her a murderer and other less than flattering names. I saw a few banners on the internet that talked about this young mom going to Hell. This really is a saddening picture of what Christianity is.

I look at, Jonah in Chapter 4 of Jonah where he begins to get so mad at God for forgiving the very people that, Jonah wanted nothing to do with. In fact he went on to tell the Lord “take away my life.” Doesn’t this seem just a bit odd? To be this mad that you no longer want nothing to do with God because he forgives?

You and I know people that insist some wear the scarlet letter regarding “sin”. If you divorce or are a part of the gay community then surely God has no more use for you. You will never be forgiven by some who are supposed to continue to love you, ie…fellow Christians. However, if you are a gang member or kill someone and do your time while loving God. Suddenly you are good for business and will probably make the speaking circuit after a few years passed to share your testimony.

It is easy to look at Casey Anthony and make all kinds of crazy judgment calls on her life. I have to believe that after three years and a competent judge/court case that they probably made what they feel is the right decision. What would happen if they had convicted her only to find out 10-20 or 30 years later she was in fact innocent. The nation would have suddenly felt sad for her. There are many Christians that are ticked with this because “JUSTICE WASN’T SERVED.” These are the same people who probably say, “How could Jonah be so mean and upset with God after he forgave?” Unknowingly these people are doing the very same things. They are upset with a person who THEY thought should have gotten one kind of judgment but grace was extended.

Grace really makes a person squirm. Grace sometimes blows a part our theology that we may have been raised with. True grace never has and never will make sense to some. Grace will make many things the church is “selling” null in void. Why? Because what many believe nothing more than a made up false theology which some churches/Christians sell because it is all that they know.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inadequacies, Cornerstone and Christian Anarchism

So Tuesday morning rolled around and it was time to pack for Cornerstone 2011 in Marietta/Bushnell, IL. Looking back this was my 6th time making this trek however this time it was different. I went from being an attender to seminar speaker. I must say that filling in for, Pastor Bob Beeman last year at the “Sanctuary” stage really helped.

I find it quite interesting though how things work in Christianity. This trip was met with spiritual roadblocks right up to the day I left however. It is as if God said, “hey, fyi…let me remind you why you are speaking on what you are speaking on really quick.” I got a couple of phone calls, text message and Facebook message from those so engulfed into the institution of church that it got me discouraged. These are not people that I barely know but ones I do. The dagger in the back however was a Facebook message from a person that smashed me and made a sharp personal attack. This was a very discouraging scenario that would cause some to blog for months about. However, it was the extra gas I needed to go and teach with great examples.I did not forget about it however and really tried to let it go.

I remember telling, Tracy on the car ride down that from pastoring a church to speaking in front of a crowd of 5,000 to multiple speaking engagements…this is by far the most intimidating thing I have ever done. There are literally all types of Christians at this event and for some odd reason I am going to teach them. As I pulled up to the tent I would be speaking at it said, “Northern Seminary...Earn Masters Level Credit While at Cornerstone.” I read that and told, Tracy “MASTERS LEVEL!? Well I suppose to some I don’t have the book smarts but sometimes street smarts are far superior.”

It was a mixed time of emotions for me while I was teaching young and old. From board members to pastors to those about to give up on church, God allowed me to speak some life into them. It was quite overwhelming while I talked to people after each class who were going through some pretty heavy things in their life and ministry. I think people got it that there is life in ministry and that it can be the worst of callings but more over it is the best of callings. I was hanging out with Catholic community people, fellow A/G’rs, non-denominationalists, and Christian anarchists from England. It really was a time that I will never forget.

Looking back on the experience I would make a few changes. I suppose I could blame the lashings before I left on the Devil but I really think it was God showing me and confirming for me the need to do this course. It showed me that some people are so wrapped up into how THEY think church ought to be that when they don’t get their way or lose some control they begin to unravel. These things are going to happen when you are part of a non-traditional church. I am SO TIRED of churches functioning in the blah boring kind of ways with politics, policy, etc. that I find great rest in Radiant Fellowship and those who love the church are ready to see something more real and relational.