Sunday, December 31, 2006


I have a love/hate relationship with New Years. Every year at this time I enjoy the process of thinking through the things I’d like to change in my life. However, I also find myself thinking through all of the things I failed to achieve the year prior. For some reason my second list is always longer than my first one. In other words, rarely do I actually change anything. This year I’ve been asking myself why this is and I’ve come to a conclusion.

A true journey of change isn’t about changing my scenery; it’s about changing the way I see. Anything less is nothing more than the same sh*t in a different place. In other words, changing my external circumstances, without addressing my internal ones is worthless.

Just something to think about.

I truly pray that your new year will be a time of real change, success, and growth, but more importantly I pray that you will experience a renewed and strengthened relationship with your creator. Have an amazing year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part Five

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part Five

DICLAIMER: Please understand that these are broad brush strokes and intended to incite conversation, thought and action. This is not intended to include, and or define everyone calling themselves a Christian.

Now let’s turn to the matter of Christian freedoms. This is an interesting subject and one that has more room for interpretation than pretty much any other matter in the Christian world. The difference between Christians and those who practice Christian spirituality really boils down to one view of what is acceptable for a believer to take part in and what is not.

Basically it’s as simple as this; we believe that the church is not the believer’s moral compass. In other words the church does not, nor should it, define morality. In many ways the church has established a set of moral standards that have become the test of mature Christian behavior. Good Christians don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t hang out in bars, listen to secular music, have friends of different beliefs and or lifestyles, and so on. As I mentioned earlier in this series, this has happened because the church lives in fear of loosing people. Because of this fear the church has made an attempt to vilify anything that isn’t “holy” in order to keep people away from the potential damage that could come at the hands of the wicked world. When people are separated from the world they will naturally look for community and where better to find it than in the church.

I believe that this trend is an unintentional one, but the damage its doing is profound. Where judgment exists there will be problems. As the culture of regulation has progressed it’s taken a natural turn toward “classification of sin.” What I mean by that is the church has propagated a culture that will tolerate certain sins, but others are in a special class of their own. An example would be homosexuality.

In countless churches across the country there are men and women living together outside the confines of marriage. For some reason these folks are taken into the fold and loved on, and yet the homosexual couple is shunned and made to feel un-welcome. The mentality of regulations is so ingrained in the minds of Christians, that they can’t see the blatant hypocrisy in their midst. Although this is denied by almost everyone I talk to, the evidence is staggering. The bottom line is, the culture of regulations has inadvertently created a classification system for sin and it is turning the church inward, in sort of a spiritual nepotism.

“If you’re not a pervert (said with a hillbilly accent), we’ll tell ya bout’s Jesus.” Christianity has become the suburban, conservative republican’s religion of choice. Jesus and the other bible characters are portrayed as white men and women to the children, and the programs are geared towards certain demographics. On the flip side, churches are opening their doors and affirming every type of behavior as acceptable in the sight of God. The extremes are ruling the Christian culture and the message of Christ is lost.

The church looks at people like myself and those who live their lives with Christian principles, outside the institution of the church, as rebels. We have beer in our refrigerators, cigars in our humidors, and gay friends. We’ve been known to be seen in bars, at secular rock concerts, and from time to time smoking on the fire escape. We talk about Jesus over wine and cheese, and elder meetings usually include cigars. Our love for each other is deep and our commit to Christ is unwavering, but we refuse to accept rules that are not explicitly or implicitly instructed in scripture. Jesus is our moral compass and morality is defined by scripture.

In addition, you will find that we have a tendency to maintain a friendship base that is just as large outside the gathering of the church, as it is within. We believe, as Christ said, that we are not called to those who already believer, but to those who desperately need Christ. When the church gathers the couches are filled with an eclectic mix of sinners. Liars, thieves, gays, gossips, boastful, arrogant, promiscuous, and worse gather together to explore the truth of scripture. Some believe, some don’t, but everyone is seeking. The journey towards true saving faith is a long one for some, and rather quick for others, but no matter where an individual falls on the faith journey they will be loved and accepted for who they are, and not judged based on what they do. Sin is still sin, and truth is not watered down, but the message isn’t rules, its Jesus.

(Of course the pendulum swings in both directions. There are churches within the institution that work differently, they will actually pull seekers into their midst through doing away with the issue of sin and regulation. There has been a great influx in the institution in this direction. In these cases liberalism is running ramped and the church is being destroyed from within. However, this is an entirely different subject that we’ll get into some other time.)

Have you ever seen “Forest Gump?” A certain point, after he had been running for months, he simply stopped. Well…..I’m gonna pull a Forest Gump….

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Greetings all,

I wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a truly amazing Christmas. I pray you're all surrounded by those you love and enjoying yourselves very much. Lets focus on Christ this weekend and get back to our blogging next week. I love you guy.

Warm Wishes


Friday, December 22, 2006

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part Four

DICLAIMER: Please understand that these are broad brush strokes and intended to incite thought, conversation and action. This is not intended to include and or define everyone calling themselves a Christian.

I’ve received a lot of e-mail regarding these posts and I’d like to thank all of you for your thoughts, even those telling me I’ll “burn in hell.” Statements like that just go to prove that there is some truth to the ideas I’ve been raising in this series. Once again thanks for all your idea and I hope that this series has provoked thought and maybe even some conversation amongst those you worship with.

(Continued from Part Three)

Having already discussed the matters of the nature of the Church, and salvation/conversion I’d like to bring up the matter of Christian leadership again, as well as, the matter of God given freedoms (if we make it that far).

I’ve long said that there is a problem with the leadership of the church. I call it the “Titanic Mentality.” The titanic mentality is simple to understand and even simpler to spot. As we discussed in part three, Christian leadership is standing by as the magnificent ship of what was once the church as it sinks into a bottomless pit of complacency.

It never ceases to amaze me how self-centered, blind, or plain old stupid many Christian pastors/elders have become. Church attendance is dropping in the majority of church, and those who are growing are not growing by conversion they are stealing people from other churches. It’s called transfer growth, and it’s mostly unchecked. The pastors of the growing churches are reveling in their success, and propagating the bastardized version or Christianity, and the pastors of the struggling church keep trying to implement the strategies of the mega churches in the hope that something will catch on and cause growth. In both cases, the issues that need to be addresses are being ignored.

The titanic mentality is simple. Pastors are on a sinking ship, they know the ship is sinking, but they still walk the decks with a smile on their faces, whistling a happy tune hoping on hope that no one will notice the water pouring into the boat. Why? If the boat sinks, they’re out of a job!!! Pastors know that their churches will be dead or dying in the next ten or fifteen years, if it’s not already. But, they also know that if they tell the people, the process will be accelerated as people seek refuge in lifeboats; i.e. the church down the street. It’s horrible, sad, and pathetic, but in my opinion, job security is one of the major reasons the issues in the church are not being addressed.

Pastors hold a tremendous amount of authority in the lives of the people they “shepherd.” People trust their pastors to keep their finger on the pulse of the church and to seek Gods wisdom in regards to the direction of their assembly. The vast majority of Christians are not aware of the devastation in the church, so if the pastor doesn’t have the intestinal, and or moral fortitude to speak truth to his people, they will continue moving in the direction they are moving without a care in the world, just like the good little sheep they are. Meanwhile, the pastor keeps his paycheck one more week. Never mind the fact that the pastors salary is 49% of the church annual budget, and that not a single penny has gone to the actual work of the ministry, aside from a couple hundred bucks a month split between six missionaries in foreign lands.

This is how it plays out. Pastors read, so pastors know what is happening in the church. Trust me; there are very few pastors who are unaware of the reformation that is beginning to take place in the church internationally. Pastors begin to see a trend taking place in the church. If that trend will not effect the bottom line (growing and collecting) they will at least give it a courtesy sermon, and some may even order a few books on the subject and sell them to the patrons for a reduced cost. Having “progressive” material available make the church appears to on the cutting edge, when in reality it’s not even close.

However, if the movement of the church is beginning to look like it will completely change the way the world views God, religion, church and Jesus (as the current movement does) they begin to establish a battle plan. Mind you, it’s a covert operation. Neither the leadership, nor the congregation can know until the plan is in place. It may not be a conscious deception, but its deception none the less. I’ve been amazed at how many pastors I’ve sat with who will look me in the eye and tell me that they are aware of the movement of the church, and then give me some lame ass excuse as to why they think it’s unhealthy, or unbeneficial. They know the movement is coming (the titanic mentality), but they also know the movement will require dramatic change and possibly even some restructuring. In most cases this is a problem, because they have allowed “growing, getting, keeping, and collecting” to turn their congregations into apathetic, lukewarm, possibly saved, people who have no intention of changing, or stepping up to the plate to engage the radical call of Christ.

The Church is the west is sick. We’re anemic, emasculated, lazy and pathetic!!! No longer is the church in the west the once powerful catalyst of change in the world! No longer are we a sending nation! No longer are we the center of our communities! No longer are we the voice of truth! We are nothing, and we will continue to be nothing until the men of God who lead his church stand up, grow some ______ and lead the church into the next century! Pastors who have allowed their churches to become lazy, must, I repeat, MUST be called on the carpet, confronted, and removed if they are unwilling to call the people of God to action!!!

Not long ago I sat in a congregational meeting at church and witnessed the most pathetic display I have ever seen. The church was in a time of transition, they were between pastors. The chairman of the elder board presided over the meeting and there were probably one-hundred people present. The conversation quickly went downhill.
The church was cutting a missionary out of the budget because her husband had died. Their rational was that she was no longer doing the same work her husband had been doing. I didn’t speak up at that point. I spoke up when someone suggested that they reassigned the money to the building maintenance fund!!! I came unglued. My comments were brushed off, the vote passed, the money was reassigned, and the meeting went on. The next order of business was to discuss the salary of the new pastor. The candidate had submitted a certain number that he would be willing to take and the church was deliberating on whether or not to accept it. The number was half the annual budget for the entire church. Now put this into perspective. An additional 10% of the budget had just been assigned to the building fund totaling about 20%. Now 49% of the budget was going to be approved for the new pastor, and less than 5% of the budget was being spent on missions, or outreach. The remainder of the budget went to things like paying bills, decorating, Sunday school materials, secondary staff costs etc. I lost it, and I called on the elders of the church to do the right thing. The vote was taken, the vote passed, the candidate was accepted, and now the church has shrunk by 50%.

Folks this is more common than you would ever want to know. The American church is impotent and dying because of this kind of mentality. Pastors are the primary expenditure, evangelism is a second thought, and the congregation sees no problem with it. What’s worse? Pastors are willing to suck the life out of a church with their salaries because they think they have the ability to GROW the church to the point that it makes more money!!! WHAT THE HELL (literally)!!!

Pastors, I beg you, please, please, please, consider the love you once had for the church. Evaluate yourself by the standards of scripture. Are you leading the flock to the lush green pastures of Christ’s call, or are you leading them to the butcher. You will stand before God and give an account for the souls of your people (Heb 13); will it be a beautiful day?

Pastors, and I know some of you read this blog; the church is at the threshold of a major reformation! It’s time, it’s needed, and it’s coming whether you’re on board or not!!! Put your people before your job, and make decisions based on the call of God. Have you forgotten who lifted you to the office of pastor in the first place? Do you truly fear that your savior will leave you unemployed and in the cold? If so you need to resign and make way for a man of faith!!! The Church, the Bride, is not your retirement fund, it’s not your meal ticket and it’s not your kid’s college fund. The Church is Christ’s vehicle on earth for the purpose of saving those who would be lost!!!

If you no longer have a passion for seeking and saving the lost, jump ship, before you’re thrown overboard. There’s a new generation of Godly men hot on you heals and we have no tolerance for the dead weight!!! Step up to the plate, or get off the field.

My fingers hurt……More to come….

Stay tuned for Part Five

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part Three

DICLAIMER: Please understand that these are broad brush strokes and intended to incite thought, conversation, and action. This is not intended to include, and or define everyone calling themselves a Christian.

So now that I’ve made some very broad brush strokes about Christianity, and asserted my opinions (undoubtedly flawed), lets take a look at the differences between these to views.

Christian Spirituality, as its name reflects, is birthed out of the Christian faith. We believe in the triune God (Father, Son Spirit), the Holy Scriptures, and most of the standard Christian truths. However, as I stated in part one, most of the differences exist in the practical outworking of those beliefs. Christian Spirituality is not a religion; it’s a belief system that is manifest through a relevant lifestyle. In other words, it’s not something you do, it’s who you are.

Christian spirituality is rooted in and upon the revolutionary life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The fundamental differences lie in the in a couple of main areas.

1). The Church is not an institution, a building, a non-profit organization or anything of the sort. The Church is a living breathing organism made up of those who have truly and fully committed their lives to Christ. Those in the Christian religion will claim that this is their belief system, but there is little evidence to support such a claim. Those who embrace Christian Spirituality place little importance on formal church services. Although they believe that the saints need to gather together as instructed in the scripture (Heb. 10:24-25) they see no specifications in scripture that dictate how, when, or where such gatherings should be held. Subsequently, often times there is little organization in this regard, and it’s most assuredly not the primary focus of the believer.

Believers with this sort of mind set gather together in many different ways, at different times, and in different places. Some meet in home, some in bars, coffee shops, or restaurants, still others meet on a larger scale in what looks similar to a church service. However, these services are likely to look and feel different than a standard Christian meeting. These meetings are externally focused in that they point outwards toward the world and emphasize that the believer be in the world up to their foreheads.

Some will argue that these smaller meetings also take place within the Christian church, but there is a fundamental difference. Small groups as they are commonly called in Christian circles are designed to be stepping stones that help move people towards the larger church assembly. Small groups provide a non-intimidating environment for the wary to experience church before they take the big step into the main assembly. They are inwardly focused.

This idea is frequently seen in the small group development material that is put out by many of the larger organization out there. The entire focus of the small group plan is to bring people into the church. In other words, small groups are a church growth strategy that can also be use in a secondary fashion as fellowship. Do you see the problem? The fellowship of the saints is secondary to the growth of the organization. The paradigm is seriously out of whack.

2). Secondly, the matter of salvation must be addressed as a difference. As discussed earlier, within the Christian religion conversion takes place at the time the mantra is vocalized. Although the vast majority of Christians will claim that this is not the case, the reality of the situation is there is nothing to prove this statement as inaccurate. The sinner’s prayer is the moment in time that Christians use to identify when conversion took place. This prayer also allows believers to make judgment calls as to whether or not someone should be approached as a believer or as an unbeliever. If the prayer has been recited, the person is saved, if the prayer has not been recited, the destination is hell.

Although I believe that most Christians would claim that the prayer must be accompanied by a true heart of faith, I have seldom heard it explained. Countless times I have heard it said, “If you don't feel that you can believe, simply ask God for the faith and pray the prayer.” Once again, the prayer comes before the faith, which would lead on to believe that the faith never truly existed in the first place. It doesn’t take much to see the dangerous patter that has taken root in the Christian church. One would have to wonder how many of those claiming to be “saved” have no claim on heaven other than that they recited a prayer.

Those who hold fast to Christian spirituality would say that Salvation occurs when a persons heart is convinced by the Spirit of the living God that Jesus Christ died on the cross, rose from the grave, and is now seated at the right hand of the father in heaven. There can be no mistaking the call to faith, or the conviction of Jesus’ divinity. Although there may not be a specific date that can be attributed to this “conversion”, the resulting change in the life of the convert is dramatic. The belief is that when someone comes into contact with the extreme nature of God there will be extreme change. At the moment of conversion the individual has no choice but to believe, due to the immensity of conviction place on their heart by the Spirit of God! In other words conversion takes place at the moment a heart is convinced that their sin requires a savior and that that savior is none other than the living God who sent is son Jesus Christ to die in his or her place.

What I find to be most frustrating about this issue is that nearly all Christian leadership is fully aware of what true conversion looks like, but they do nothing to promote it. Christian clergy have become lazy, cowards who are more concerned with numbers than salvations. Countless people sit in their pews on Sunday morning fully convinced that they will see the face of Jesus upon death when in reality that have no claim on heaven. Silence is maintained on the issue because true salvation has teeth, and today’s clergy no longer have the balls to hold their parishioner to the extreme nature of Christ’s call!!! If the dramatic call of Christ is preached, their number will diminish, because the true call of Christ is not what most believers have signed up for.

The false promises of peace and prosperity have backed clergy into a corner. Their lies are now defining their strategy. Think about it, who wants to pick up and instrument of death (the cross, representing dying to the world), deny themselves, and follow after a revolutionary (Luke 9:23-27) who requires everything of them, after they have been promised peace and prosperity. The silence of Christian clergy is contributing to the eternal death and ultimately the damnation of countless souls. Yet, nothing is said, and nothing is done.

Need to stretch my legs......more to come.

Stay tuned for part four.....

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part Two

DICLAIMER: Please understand that the statements contained in this blog series are broad brush strokes, and intended to incite thought and action. This is not intended to include everyone calling themselves a Christian. Jeez...take a deep breath people :)

(Continued from yesterdays post below)…...Herein lies the problem, Christians have spent so many years hiding behind the doors of their churches, they have no idea how to effectively function within the modern culture. As a result they have no relevance in society. In my opinion the church is well aware of this fact, but because they are trapped in a corner sort of speak, they have no choice but to lash out. They lash out in self righteous judgment, as if to say, “Maybe if we keep telling them how evil they are, they will stop picking on us.” However, the world will not stop progressing, and the Christian religion shows no sign of progressing, so the rift between culture and religion gets wider, and wider.

So here we sit. The institution of church has stopped contributing to culture in favor of separation, and the culture, without the presence of a true witness, continues to grow darker and darker. They keep their existing patrons through fear of the wicked world, and they get people through false promises of peace and prosperity. All the while hoping on hope that one day they will grow big enough to once again regain control of the culture.

False promises play a large part within the culture of the church. People are drawn out of the secular culture and into the Christian religion through the promise of a life that is defined by peace and prosperity. They have a mantra known as “the sinner’s prayer” which promises to bring Jesus into ones life and to save from hell. Although there is no scriptural premise for this sinners prayer it is now the limpness test for whether or not someone will ultimately end up in heaven or hell. “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” The one million dollar question.

The sinners prayer is the cure all, end all for the life that has been defined by worldly sin. Once a believer has prayed the prayer they have the guarantee of eternity in heaven. Although many, if not most, of those claming to have prayed the prayer show no sign of true change after having prayed, the act of praying is all that really matters. From the point of “conversion” the “believer” is then ushered into what is called discipleship.

Discipleship is the process of teaching new believers the rules and reiterating the promises. It’s basically a class on how to do Christianity. Although discipleship is not a bad thing, it has become less about truly educating the believer about their faith, and more about forming the believer into a homogonous saint. Discipleship is designed to help progress a believer from the infant stages of their faith into a more mature faith complete with service, and tithing (giving money). After discipleship, the new believer is considered to be well on their way to a mature Christian faith.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not opposed to biblical discipleship, but I am opposed to this form of discipleship. In the book of Matthew Jesus’ instruction to the church was to go into the world, make disciples, and then teach them to do the same. Discipleship within the Christian religion has nothing to do with launching the believer into a life of service to God and people, it’s about establishing the rules that they must follow to be considered an acceptable Christian. Granted, the new convert is taught about the basic principles of the faith, but the true spirit of disciple making has long been lost and forgotten.

Where does all of this leave us? It leaves us with religion. Christianity is no longer contributing to culture, salvation is based on a mantra, and maturity is defined by obedience to the Christian moral standards, which sadly are based on fear of the culture.
Rules have been established that have no biblical precedent, and “true faith” is defined by church attendance and monetary donation. All told it looks more like a social club than a revolutionary movement.

The similarities between Christianity and Catholicism are staggering. In both world religions the institution of the church holds priority and authority over the individual. Both have liturgical practices, and both put more emphasis on church attendance than on true change. Think about it, how many Christian churches have you attended? Have you ever seen anything but a slight deviation in the way those services are conducted.

· Opening Prayer
· “Worship” (stand up)
· Communion (optional once a month, or after lecture) (sit down)
· Special Music (Optional)
· Prayer for lecture
· Lecture (Sit Down)
· Prayer for offering (stand up)
· Offering (sit down)
· Closing song. (stand up)

This may not look like priests walking down the isle with censors billowing incense, alter boys in white robes, and opulently dressed pontiffs, but its liturgical practice none the less. Every where you go it’s the same thing. Why? Because it’s a religion! Religion is about conformity, not individual expressions of worship.

I have to pee again, so….

Part Three tomorrow…..Stay tuned for more of my self-righteous opinions

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christianity vs. Christian Spirituality: Part One

Recently I’ve received a lot of questions regarding the difference between Christianity, and Christian Spirituality. Most of you know that I no longer align myself with what would be considered mainstream Christianity, but have chosen to adopt a more “liberal” stance, often times referred to as Christian Spirituality. When the two are lined up next to one another, almost without fail most Christians will claim to be spiritualist rather than Christians, but the reality is, they are not, nor will they ever be.

Brass tacks, bottom line, Christian Spirituality is a worldview, or as I like to call it a “Goodview” that shares some common elements with Christianity, but is also dramatically different in many ways. Please understand that different people hold different positions on this matter so my explanation is subjective at best.

In Short, both views hold to the core fundamental beliefs of the early church, for example;

· The central character is Christ.
· The central metaphor is the cross.
· The central instruction is scripture (The ancient Hebrew text known as the Bible).
· The triune nature of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

The differences lay in the practical outworking of those beliefs. To most, the difference may seem so incidental, but to those close to the issue the differences are dramatic.

At its roots it comes down to the issue of Organism vs. Institution. Today’s Christianity is a world religion. In other words, one can now claim to be a Christian, and be accepted as such, simply based upon the denominational persuasion of their family. Much like the catholic faith, association with the church is implied by birth and has nothing to do with faith. The Christian faith is no longer rooted in a true faith.

Secondly, The Church has become an institution. The church is the place a Christian goes to on Sunday to be with friends and family. It’s the organization that provides Sunday worship services and various programs. Christians are content to attend church, live a good life, contribute when possible, and give to the organization so the “work of the Lord” can go on. Jesus is a savior in the sky who died for their sins, and is readily available when needed. Within the Christian institution, expectation is limited to regular attendance, and monetary donation, and the main thrust of ministry is limited to those who have chosen it as a vocation.

Subsequently, because the church is the trusted source of spiritual instruction, and personal study is not significantly stressed, the views of the church have become the views of the Christian. In other words the Christian has in many ways stopped thinking and is now simply accepting. I’m not trying to say that Christians are mindless, or that they don’t think for themselves, but I’m very concerned with the herd mentality. What concerns me is that Christians are not considering the big picture.
If the focus of the church is no longer “going” as Christ commanded, then it’s safe to say that their focus is elsewhere. The question is, where is the focus of the church and how does that focus affect what is being taught. In my opinion, the focus is no longer going, it’s growing.

Think about it! If the churches focus is growing, getting bigger, then what will the church have to make their primary focus? Answer: keeping people, and getting people. If keeping people and getting people is primary then it becomes paramount that the church set some boundaries. There have to be rules. Why? Because, rules keep people scared, and scared people follow blindly. I don’t believe the church is intentionally attempting to scare people, but I do believe that fear is a natural result of this progression.

In a nut shell the church has allowed itself to fall into a cycle that promotes fear in an attempt to keep people in the pews. Fear is generated by preaching the overwhelming wickedness of the world, which although true, is also very misleading. The world is filled with unspeakable things, but it is also the context in which we live, and is subsequently our mission field. However, this is not the message of the church. The message of the church is separation. Separate from the world and find safety in the warmth and comfort of the church. The church will protect you, just keep coming and keep donating so we can keep the lights on. Because of this mindset (although exaggerated) Christians have become hostile to the people living in the depths of “perversion” and are note afraid to be vocal about it. They fear the wiles of alcohol, smoking, certain movies, and anything else that could potentially penetrate their warm comfortable existence. Separation is the only answer.

Part Two Tomorrow……………..

I’ve had too much coffee and I need to pee. J

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A question worth asking.

Have you ever stopped to think about the things that you allow to control you? I was thinking about this question today and it’s quite overwhelming. I’m not just talking about the big stuff, you know, nicotine, alcohol, sex, and so on, but the smaller stuff. The stuff that goes unnoticed without careful introspection.

I don’t want to make any suggestions, but there are a lot of things that are possibilities. Some of them aren’t malignant in anyway, their just regular parts of life. Others are just as normal, but not so friendly. For example, I once heard this quote, that pointed out how extremely frustrating it would be to eat if God hadn’t made food seem so enjoyable to us. We have to eat, it controls us.

The apostle Paul points out in the first epistle to the Corinthian Church that God has granted us a tremendous amount of freedom as believers. He says that we can take part in almost anything that we want to, but that not everything we take part in is edifying, or in other words beneficial and ultimately right before God. However, it’s amazing how quickly something that seems so simple, and within our God given freedom, can become such a beast unnoticed.

What controls you? Is there anything in your life that you have allowed to become bigger than it should have become? Is there anything that although designed to be a freedom for you, has become a burden in you?

It’s a question worth asking.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

People Ready?

While browsing the headlines online I came across a Microsoft add that caught my attention. The commercial is advertising network solutions, but the tag line was profound, it reads, “Is Your Business People Ready?” What a great question!

Isn’t it funny how business does such a great job of marketing itself in ways that people relate to? The business asks relevant questions and then adapts to meet the needs of the ever changing culture. I wonder why major businesses can adapt so quickly, but the church moves at the speed of sludge in January. I hear talk by emerging leaders about being organic, and holistic, but their churches are nothing more than standard evangelical churches with a postmodern paint job. They’ve painted the walls neutral earth tones and play emo worship, but they aren’t exegeting the culture any better than the Second Baptist Church of South Central No Where.

We need to ask ourselves the question Microsoft is posing. Is the church "people ready?" Have we figured out how to be relevant in our culture? Do we have answers to the questions plaguing the minds of the seeking? Are we prepared to meet the needs of a newly emerging generation? Are we set up to adapt to the movement of the culture?

I’ve been asking myself this question all day and I’m humbled by my lack of conclusions. What does it mean to be “people ready?” Is Tapestry people ready? Am I as a pastor people ready? I’m not sure that we are.

I’ll be asking myself this question until I answer myself. More to come…

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another One Down...

Another one down. I don’t know what to say…

“In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.

A month ago, the Rev. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in Doug las County preached to his 2,100-member congregation about integrity and grace in the aftermath of the Ted Haggard drugs-and-gay-sex
scandal. Now, the 54-year-old Barnes joins Haggard as a fallen evangelical minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin but grappled with a hidden life.

Careful saints of God. Remember, the next man to take this pulpit will be no closer to perfection than Mr. Barnes. Pray for this family, pray for Paul Barnes, pray for his congrigation, but pray as well for the bride,of Christ, The Church. We're in a desperate state.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sea-Tac Takes Down Christmas Trees

This morning it was reported that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has taken down all of it Christmas trees in response to a formal complaint filed with airport officials. The complaint came from a local Rabbi who wanted to have an 8 foot menorah installed complete with a public lighting ceremony. Sea-Tac’s talking mouth claims they complied with the demands after the Rabbi threatened to sue the Port of Seattle if his demand were not met in two days. Apparently the airport is two busy with holiday traffic and helping to ensure the safe travel of thousands to worry about adding holiday paraphernalia that reflects the diversity of various religions. Go figure.

Every year it’s something different and quite frankly I just don’t care. Look folks, what’s the difference? Is our faith affected by whether or not some Wal-Mart chooses to take Christ out of Christmas on their signs (Xmas)? Is the story of Jesus’ birth compromised if Sea-Tac takes down the trees? Is the redemptive work of Christ dependent upon the world’s views of our holiday?

I know some of you will e-mail me with complaints, and if you’re one of those people hit yourself because you deserve it. Christmas is sacred to followers of Christ because it’s a day that represents the birth of our savior. The world doesn’t know our savoir, He means nothing to them. As long as the government isn’t trying to take away our rights to celebrate, as long as we continue to have freedom to express our gratitude to our savior publicly then there is no issue, so let’s not try to manufacture one.

There are battles to be fought, and there are battles that don’t deserve the effort. Christmas trees have nothing to do with Christ! December 25th wasn’t Jesus’ actual birthday! Sea-Tac is an AIRPORT! The Port of Seattle has no responsibility to make the air terminal feel like home anymore than they have the responsibility to decorate the cranes at the shipyards. If some over zealous rabbi feels the need to make a name for him/herself, that’s not our issue. Our faith is a beautiful faith rooted in compassion, love, and hope. Our responsibility is to love God, and love people.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

King of the Retards

Recently I had a conversation with some one that prompted so much thought I’ve had to begin writing down my thoughts in order to continue thinking on the matter. This particular individual and I are antithetical in almost every way. However, although we disagree on almost everything we deeply appreciate each other and remain truly close friends. The subject of conversation was, as it frequently is, God and faith.

My friends position is that faith in a God, particularly my God (the triune God; father, son, and spirit), is nothing more than a crutch for my weak mind. He contends that the idea of God gives mankind hope in a hopeless world, and acts as a placebo allowing people to see the coincidental as miraculous, the positive as blessing, and the negative as divine providence. He believes in moral relativism, and advocates an existential approach to life. Of course out of respect for our friendship he omits me from the weak minded masses J

As I’ve been thinking on the matter I have to say that I disagree with his omission of my membership in the mindless masses. If faith in God is for the weak minded then I’m the chief of the retards!!! And proud of it!

We are artists, musicians, teachers, professors, inventors, civil servants, doctors, lawyers, skilled tradesmen, nurses, and pilots. We are blue collar, white collar, and everything in between. Our faith has changed the course of human history and defined a moral standard used around the world. We boast some of histories greatest thinkers, and those who have served our God have aided in shaping the foundations of countries.

True lovers of God are called upon to trade the vast majority of their physical desires for a life of discipline and service, to live in constant introspection and adaptation, and to constantly expand our thinking by veracious reading, and study of the ancient texts. We deny ourselves sexual passions until marriage, we live free of many common substances, and we give our lives for others. Christian spirituality is a joyful, but difficult life.

If faith in God is a crutch, it isn’t a very good one!

Personally, if I were looking for a crutch I would look for something that made me feel good. I’d indulge in all of my physical passions, and use substances to anesthetize the pain. I’d crown myself the highest form of life and then live based on my own moral standards. I’d deny the existence of a God and serve myself as supreme. I would explain away the supernatural with generalities and platitudes and live in the freedom of my own imagination. The only God in my life would be me! Now that sounds like fun.

If there’s a crutch in this life, it isn’t my faith.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Darfur Genocide

On any given afternoon, well dressed women blows into Starbucks dressed to the nines. With a quick sigh of relief and a shake of her umbrella she heads for the counter to order her tall, non-fat, no whip, extra hot, triple shot, vanilla hazelnut latte with room for cream. The counter clerk is sweet as usual, and as she hears her named called she picks-up her coffee and proceeds to a quiet corner where she plugs in her laptop and gently sips her designer coffee in the warmth of this little piece of paradise.

At the same time a women not so different from the previous cowers in a corner, covered in a blanket with her young child praying to God she won’t be heard, and subsequently found. As the rebels raid her village for the third time this month she hears the screams of mothers, the cries of fathers, and the weeping of children as crudely fashioned machetes cut through their flesh. Bullets wiz through her home seeking someone to kill and nearly miss her. She fights back the screams of rage and fear with everything she has in hopes of keeping her life one more day in Darfur Sudan.

Two separate worlds on the same day.

Those of you who know me, or have been following this blog through its different stages know that I don’t care to get involved in politics. Although I follow politics very closely and continually educate myself I feel it necessary in my position to refrain from expressing my political views in a public forum, or from the pulpit. With that said, I’m going to approach this subject carefully.

Today in Sudan, and several other countries, genocide is claiming the lives of innocent people. Thousands upon thousands of people are dying for nothing more than being born into the wrong family, in the wrong part of town, in the wrong religion. Governments, including ours, are doing nothing, because world politics take precedent over human life. The price of oil is revered over the sanctity of life. The political ramifications of intervention out weigh the cost of providing aid. As you read this blog someone is dying for nothing.

I don’t want to this message to be received as being cryptic, or depressing, but the realities of our world are in many cases not pretty. On CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, and NBC we see pictures of pain that no longer affect our souls. Children are strapping bombs to their chests, one tribe is killing another tribe, poverty is ravaging a nation, children are dying of malnutrition, and we continue to change the channel, or simply ignore the bigger picture of humanity. When are we going to care? If we care is there anything we can do?

The answers to these questions are simple. We are going to care when we ask God to give us His heart for people, and we can help by praying, giving and serving. I believe with every cell in my body that Jesus is moved to tears over the harsh reality of human suffering, and I know that if He chose to walk the earth today, like he did so long ago, he would be in the middle of the hurt, the pain, and the suffering. Remember, Jesus is not a right winged, Caucasian American, with an S.U.V.

If nothing else, stop and take a minute to inform yourself on the issues. Click on some of the links I’ve provided and allow your mind to take you to these places. In my opinion, these are the places Jesus would be and that means these are the people we should care about.

Although my mind is on fire at the moment, and I am dieing to dive into the political issues at hand, I’m going to leave this subject for tonight and trust that you will at least stop and look at some of the subjects I’ve provided.

FYI…tomorrow at Elliot Bay Book Co. on 1st Ave. in Seattle there will be a book reading from the author of “Darfur Diaries” at 4PM. I’m going to be there, Look for the fat guy with a shaved head and a cross tattooed on his right forearm. I love you guys….goodnight.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dan Savage Speaks Truth

This morning, over my coffee and toast I stopped by “Slog” to read Dan Savages blog and stumbled on this little gem.

“A lot of letters explaining that Jesus is laying in wait, ready to pounce, and change me from gay to straight came in after I threatened in a recent column to bitch-slap the next fundie douche who sent me a note about Jesus flipping my switch. Jesus is ready to work a miracle in my life, they tell me, even if he can’t be bothered to work on in Haggard’s. (Having seen my boyfriend in Speedo, I’d say Jesus already worked a miracle in my life.) The arrival of these letters can only mean one thing: there are a lot fundies out there who want to be slapped around by fags…”

I’m sure many of you would love to be outraged, but the reality is the dude is right. In fact I’m ready to slap the next Christian who makes the same mistake as these boneheads have. I’ve said it a million times and I hope sooner or later someone will listen. The world doesn’t hate God they hate his followers. They hate us because we still think the world gives a sh#t about our faith.

WAKE UP!!! We live in a post-Christian, post-western world folks and the reality is, so much damage has been done in the name of Jesus that the world has a very hard time disassociating Jesus from Christianity. When we throw around the name of Jesus in this manner we do nothing but create resentment and animosity.

We’ve all heard it said, “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” It’s cliché, but true. The Christian faith was built on a revolutionary named Jesus who changed the world through his commitment and focus on love, hope, and faith. People were drawn to Jesus because he loved unconditionally, and understood that an unbelieving world did not share his passion for the kingdom of God.

I have homosexual friends who I cherish. I love them and they love me. Why? The answer is simple, people can disagree, passionately at times, but if there is love in the mix it ends with a hug and a smile.
They know that I don’t condone homosexuality (probably not for the reasons you expect), but they also know I do condone people. People of every shape, size and lifestyle. Why? Because Jesus did. If you want to have the opportunity to share your faith you have got to earn the right to be heard, and once you’ve been heard you have to accept the fact that many won’t agree. If they don’t agree, so what. Read your bible, It’s not your job to convert the people, you’re job is to love people, pray for people and share your faith when the opportunity arises. If God wants a conversion out of the mix nothings going to stop Him.

Writing letters to people you don’t agree with and throwing the name of Jesus around is both stupid and ineffective. God doesn’t judge homosexuality any differently than he judges your self righteous judgment. God is after our hearts. That includes your heart, my heart and Mr. Savage’s heart, and when he finds that heart I don’t think he could care less if it’s in a homosexual, or a heterosexual.

Your convictions are rooted in your faith. Stop expecting that those who don’t share your faith to share your convictions. Live your faith, and if your faith is rooted in something real (and I believe it is) people will be drawn to it. Just like Jesus.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ted Haggard

I’ve tried to ignore this whole matter, but due to the onslaught of questions concerning it, I’ll respond quickly.

The day I heard about Ted Haggard (The Colorado pastor caught in a homosexual relationship) I felt as though I’d been kicked in the gut. It wasn’t the affair or the homosexual nature of the issue; it was the fact that once again the name of our savior took a slap in the face. The slap didn’t originate from Ted Haggards pants, and it wasn’t the leftist haters circling like buzzards, it was the response of the “Christian” community.
The moment the news broke, evangelical leaders across the country started disassociating themselves from Haggard as quickly as they could get the coverage. As soon as the word “homosexual” was mentioned Christian leaders nation wide ran for the big red button on the wall to engage the emergency damage control center.

Haggard is a man, which means Haggard deals with sin. Sin is a reality of life and each of us is guilty of failing to live up to the Holy standards of our creator. The problem we are facing in America is the “Classification of Sin.” In other words, Christians have decided amongst ourselves that some sins are greater than others. In the case of “lesser” sin we band together as brothers and sister and support the sinner into beautiful and peaceful reconciliation. However, in the case of the “greater” sins we run for the hills like fourth grade school girls and deny any association. We’re cowards!

Ted Haggard pulled a stupid, but homosexual, heterosexual, or anything in between, or beyond has been covered by the price Christ paid on the cross. As a pastor Mr. Haggard submitted himself to a public position and subsequently public scrutiny. His actions were not becoming of a man in his position of responsibility or his office as pastor and he should be relieved of his position for a season (as determined by God) to evaluate himself, and to reconcile with his wife, family, church family, and God. Both He and his family deserve our prayers of love and support.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rain is God's Way...

Rain is God's way of cleaning the alleys. A strange statement to some, but to those who live in the urban core a well known truth. The other day as I left our Belltown apartment from the rear fire escape/alley exit, I was greeted by a "Kenny pile." Kenney is our resident homeless man whose world exists within the boundaries of first and Second Avenue, between Stewart and Virginia Street. At night, Kenny, a rather large black man complete with matted beard and what will soon be dreadlocks, sneaks into a parking garage on our block and stays out of the rain. During the days Kenny guards the phone booth on the corner like Fort Knox. Frequently he can be found talking quietly to himself, or humming a tune from the Deep South, but one thing you can count on, Kenny won't ask for money.

On this morning, Kenny had used the back steps of our fire escape as a toilet and I nearly stepped in it. I really like Kenny, I find him fascinating, but I really can do without the piles. I took a super wide step over the pile and went about running my errands. When I returned the rain was coming down in sheets. As I ran for the fire escape, I noticed that Kenny's pile had been washed away by the rain and all that remained was wet cobblestone.

Don't ask me how, but for some reason I saw a bit of truth in that pile of shit. As disgusting as it was, all it took was a little rain to clean things up again. Maybe I have a low self image, but I saw a piece of my life in that pile. Parts of me that are nasty, that stink, that no one would ever want to see. Parts of my character that shame me, and remind me of my need for a savior.

I was able to look past the poop on my steps because I like Kenny. I was able to see his need and understand why a private place like our fire escape would be a suitable bathroom for a modest homeless man. I was able to laugh about it as I pictured Kenny peeking over the dumpsters making sure no one was approaching. It's still amazing to me how love can overlook even the most detestable things, and I can't help believe that my sin is no less detestable to God. Yet, because of his overwhelming love for me he's able to look past the shit and see my need.

God's grace is the rain that cleans the copplestone of my life. It washes the alleys that remain unseen and cleanses the parts of me no one wants to know about. I will forever be grateful for the grace of my savior that cleanses the reality of who I am.

Good Man

Is there anything to be said for being a good man? Last night I sat with a couple of people and a conversation about marriage started. My wife went on and on about what a good guy I am, and how lucky she is to be married to me, etc, etc, etc. In that moment I realized that I have officially been domesticated!

As my wife spoke I began to flash back, and as the memories flooded my brain I was humbled by the reality of who I am. My wife only knows me a man who has learned how to love; she never experienced the man that I was only a couple of years before our marriage. An angry man, a violent man, a manipulator, arrogant, shallow, self-absorbed, and so on.

She never knew me as the man who was paid to intimidate, and physically hurt people. She never knew me as the arrogant young man who went through women like socks. She has never seen the capacity of my rage. My wife knows a man who doesn't speak much anymore and who has learned the value of family, compassion, and a gentle spirit. What she doesn't see is the constant battle with the guilt of my past demons.
I've come to know my demons. I know their names and from time to time they return. They remind me of days filled with activities I used to think made me a man. Things that even to this day are still attractive. I begin to ask questions about my life. I look at the nicely decorated house, the child asleep in the next room, the smell of scented candles in the kitchen, the neatly made beds, and I ask, "What the hell am I doing here?" What happened to the adrenaline of a good fight, the nights of guiltless sex, the mornings of waking up in a strange place? "How did I get here?"
Then it hits me; there's something to be said for being a good man. There's something to be said for reading your child to sleep. There's something to be said for coming home every night. Hell, there's might even be something to be said for scented candles! The reality is it takes twice the man to be a father. It takes twice the man to be a husband.

There's something to be said for being a good man. Tonight I'll go home to a clean house, a beautiful wife, a kid who adores me, and the smell of scented candles. I'll sit down take a cigar from my humidor, sip a screwdriver, and listen to my wife tell me about her day. That's right, I'm domesticated, and even with the little hand soaps in the bathroom, the placemats on the table, the poodle with the bow in his hair, and the freshly pressed shirts in my closet; I still pack a hell of a right hook.

Ready for a Refill?

Are you ever surprised by your own stupidity? Do you ever forget who you really are? Well, at times I do, and today was a perfect example. Just before noon I decided to stop by good ol' Jack in the Box to get the best hamburger $.99 can buy. Where else can you get a full size burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and all for $.99? No Where! Anyway.....

As I sat at the table going over some paperwork a young Hispanic couple came in with their young daughter. I took notice because 1.) Their daughter was loud, 2.) They didn't speak a lick of English, 3.) I had been listening to talk radio in the car and immigration was the issue. I have to admit that I was a little irritated by their presence. Why? Because sometimes I'm surprised by my stupidity!

After they had ordered their food they sat down at the table to eat. Their daughter was screaming something in Spanish, and I couldn't concentrate. To make matters worse, their daughter spilled her bladder buster sized drink all over the table, chairs, and floor causing a huge scene. Her dad simply reached out and tosseled her hair as if to say, "It happens baby girl, no tears." Of course I missed that gentle gesture until much later. Why? Because sometimes I'm surprised by stupidity!

The clean-up and subsequent conversation was all in Spanish, and my mind kept wandering to talk radio as I pondered how much it was costing me in tax dollars to fund their little lunch. Why, because sometimes I'm surprised by my stupidity.

After the floor and table had been cleaned by mom with countless napkins, dad got up to refill her cup. As he headed for the pop machine I started to think, "That bum isn't even going to pay the refill charge." "Isn't it bad enough I have to pay for his lunch; now he's going to leach off good ol' Jack?" As he got closer I noticed that no one was looking and that he might just get away with it. I was furious! In my minds eye I was sprinting across the isle and tackling him before he could refill his Coke. Why? Because sometimes I'm surprised by my own stupidity!
Just as he was about to reach the pop machine I noticed him reaching into his pocket. A GUN? A KNIFE? A POCKET BOMB? ....................Who knows with these filthy illegal, they're capable of anything! Right?

Just then he reached into his pocket and pulled out some change. Carefully counting it out he waited quietly at the counter for several minute before someone noticed he was there. He couldn't speak English, so he handed the cashier the change, held up his cup, and pointed to the pop machine. The cashier waived off the change and motioned for the man to simply go ahead and fill his cup. As she turned away the young father look at the change in his hand and gently placed it on the counter next to the register before turning to fill the cup.

I was moved. I was angry with myself. I wanted to run across the room and hug the man, to shake his hand. I can't remember the last time I saw such integrity and gentleness. At that moment I was overcome with just how stupid I can be, and once again I heard the gentle voice of God whisper in my ear, "how about you son, ready for a refill?"

Just for the record, I would have refilled without paying. Why? Well, you know....