Sunday, March 29, 2015

John 16 1-3

John 16:1-3
These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.  These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.

I'm reading headlines which is a terrible habit. This week it is all about Indiana and a law that backs religious freedom.  People have been stirred up and people are demanding boycotts and travel bans to Indiana over this.  Why? because they say that this law means that religious institutions can now discriminate against homosexuals.
It doesn't matter to most of these people that there is nothing in the law that says that. It doesn't matter that twenty other states already have this law on their books. IT doesn't even matter the fact that former President Clinton passed a law on a federal level in 1993.

All they hear, is the sound of the mob yelling louder and louder.

What the intent of this law is for is so that government bodies can't dictate what churches can and cannot preach, or as far as a business goes, make it so that they do not have to betray their conscience. 

It brought me back to this passage in John as I read the comments from the mob, about how God loves everyone and people in churches need to embrace practices defined as sin. Discrimination they cry as they violate the freedom of people with convictions, coercing them to participate in acts that the Bible classifies and unacceptable. 

... but most of the comments, those people believed that they were morally justified.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. -2 tim 4

Stick to your convictions Believer. It will get worse, and then it will get much much better. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Cross

Someday, I'll probably write something that's worth really reading.
I have some insights on God and life and man.

Lately I've been talking about  churches, and dancing around the occasional spiritual abuses I've incurred. I was talking to a friend about them tonight. I was tired and I read an article that detailed the same types of things. People who are upset with what you're saying calling everyone but you... some one finally calling you trying to shut up the things that you said. The doomsday focal points.  Running down the line I related to so very much. Standing at a church function defending what I saw to be as scriptural to members of a leadership about an emphasis of mercy, when they confessed that what they were really trying to do was maneuver a man into a decision that they wanted him to come to... and not caring much about how they were losing him in the process.

This friend I was talking to, God bless him, started out with a question in the ball park of numbers 13. Admittedly, I'm tired, and I am also tired. It struck me how often in the Messianic movement that the subject of Nephilim would come around. I remarked, "Why can't people in the messianic movement study how to exemplify mercy to others. .. instead every one wants to talk about nephilim" half tongue in cheek.

I laughed at my own joke for a moment before it dawned on me how unfunny it is. When I am in Christian churches, there is a strong emphasis on the Cross... dying to self, the Grace of God, the Mercy of God... extending that Mercy and Grace to others. In many Messianic atmospheres, People want to talk about Angels doing it with the daughters of men, How many knots to tie on titzit. How a square beard on a mans face can make a pattern of the furnishings of the tabernacle.
When confronted about why so much time is spent on these things rather than the cross and the words of the Savior saying that we must pick it up and die... I have heard more than one person say " I've spent a lot of time studying the new testament and now I want to focus on the old testament"
The most important moment of the theology, the apex of the Savior's purpose for man, marginalized because it does not feed the intellectual "meatiness" of what they're looking for.
The emphasis then, became not on a ministry to help live like the Messiah, but instead a ministry to know things about the Messiah. The head vs heart dynamic is an important one. This isn't to say that these men were not without moments of Grace or Mercy, but the subtext was undeniable.

What is the point of church?

Are you there worship God with the body, and let your soul be bare with the trust and love of other believers? Is it an intellectual fact finding mission that fills them mind with so much informational trivia that even sharing who the Savior is and what he has done for us becomes a convoluted jumble of indecipherable madness? I'll tell you truthfully, that I have both seen and become the latter.
When trying to tell someone about the Sacrifice of Christ, a bunch of other things came spilling out that made me sound like a madman. Instead of the open truth that God has made a way for fellowship with people who have transgressed against him, a bunch of stuff about lambs, lions, threads and color meanings of threads, hyssop, incense, doorposts, the Sabbath, Shrimp and all kinds of things came rushing out.... in the span of only a few sentences. I used to hold a bible study that a friend of mine, a new believer had decided to come to. She had just started getting her life together and she had a zeal to now more about who this God is and how this Jesus fellow saved her soul and she craved his words. I had an older messianic lady show up and started talking about the tribes, linage, the land, the northern and southern kingdoms, revelation, and sticks. I kept trying to get to the structure of the passage in John that we were reading... but the mentality that this was somehow elementary made the information seem blase to this Messianic woman. Though with what I believe was pure hearted intentions, she instead managed to turn the essence of Victory over Sin in your life into some antiquated anecdote.

I've seen some men in every church cry crocodile tears and then stand before crowds and say they've received some deep revelation from God, and then I've seen them go on without their lives changing much. In the Christian church, I felt the power of God move upon me. One day stands out in particular. I do not remember the message of the sermon, I do not remember the songs for praise and worship, but I recall praying and singing. I was fading in and out of attentiveness when the voice that I recognize as God's spoke to me and he called me Son. He said that I was His son, and he is pleased with me. Truthfully, that knocked me on my ass and I wept openly and loudly for hours. I do believe that I took down half a box of tissues on blowing my nose alone. I left that service and I hung out with a few friends as we did every week. We'd hit up taco bell then headed over to someones house before night service when we'd all file back in. There was no message that night. Instead the entire service was going to be prayer. I sat in a seat near the back next to a friend. We were only two minutes in when I heard it again. God spoke as he did before and said " I love you Son, and I in you I am pleased" I didn't tell anyone what God had said, but people started walking up to me and laying hands on me, and began praying over me. I tried to hold back the tears because, you know... crying in public is weird frankly embarrassing. I'd like to have though that I could hold some of it together, until one of the people praying over me spoke up and said the words affirming "Let it out, God loves you and is proud of you" I wept as loudly as before and went through the other half of that box of tissues. By the end of the night I was dehydrated and overcome with a sense of peace.
I still carry that day with me. That day made me stronger.

I wanted to sleep at 4:30 in the morning after I finished talking to my friend about the subject of spiritual abuses but instead I prayed and It was impressed strongly on me to write this all down now before sleep takes my mind, while the words are fresh in my heart.

The Messianic movement is full of truth. In many cases it is the truth that the earth is round, when truth that you really need is that you've been shot, the doctor is prepping for surgery and  you need to hang in there because you're going to pull through. Describing the faucet or how water evaporates and turns into rain is truth, but it does not give drink to those who are dying of thirst.

We need more Christy Andersons. that have the balance of truth.

We need more Cross and empty grave because describing what type of sandals the Savior wore is not the same as bowing at His feet.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fear Not

There is a lot a of fear out there and I'm not only speaking about the world.

The world is full of people who are scared. Some of them are afraid of terrorist that are making a conquest through parts of the world. Some are afraid of a political party losing power, or another party never gaining it. There are people out there who are afraid of losing their jobs and/or not having the money for doctors and medicine. Some people are scared they've wasted time and money on a degree and they'll never get a job to make a good wage and have a part of the American dream as it once was. Some people are afraid that the last relationship that they were in was the best that the could ever do, and nobody could love them, or their partner as well.
This is the world we live in.  This is, the state of affairs.

What is a church to do with a world like this?
How can a church help in these times?

As believers we're called to be in the world but not of the world.
We're called to be a strong example of love whose trust is firmly in God... but we often aren't
Some ministries are terrified of governments coming in and telling them what they can or can't say, so they don't want to get incorporated or become a 501c3 or even have a telephone
Is it wrong? That isn't my call, but I think its strange.
People become afraid of what a person might say, and they tailor messages of condemnation around someone that may just have a differing opinion. Fear.
Churches are supposed to be a hospital for the soul, not contained in any building but a vast reaching body that tends to the wounds and concerned. It laughs with you, It cries with you. It loves you and represents Christ. I was part of one ministry for a great while and for years I fought for lunch with a leader so that I could get to know the man.  I came away knowing more about him by all the things that he refused to open up about and wouldn't say and the questions that he never cared to ask or get answers too than any words that he ever threw out behind a pulpit. I wondered, Is he afraid to let me in?

I read an outstanding post yesterday titled "How to love a psychopath" and in it they spoke about the need for a deep connection in order to facilitate healing and to convey love. I've been a part of several ministries that not only fall short on the connection, but it would seem that they are against it.
Love is a lot of hard work, and it is the thing that is contrary to the atmosphere of fear. In some ministries, every new person is a potential threat and the only people that are really welcomed with open arms and lovingly embraced are those who already believe what the house believes.  A friend touched on this point quite well when he said

"I'm not saying this to bash the church or synagogue. I don't usually go to religious services anymore because I just can't handle it. The way things are done is so opposite to the way I am and to what actually works when it comes to making disciples and personal transformation, I often walk away feeling frustrated and drained. I'll give you a couple examples.
I'm very talkative, relational, and interactive, but in most religious services you can't talk - except for scripted prayers and songs - and there's little relational interaction except for what you squeeze in after the official service.
I'm very active physically - read that hyper haha - but in most religious services I have to mostly sit still and passively go along with whatever is happening.
I'm obsessed with making new disciples and changing the world, so I would rather be out there meeting nonreligious people (the 1) and building friendships with them than spending half the day sitting around with other people who already believe just like me (the 99) acting as if the pinnacle of discipleship was singing songs and 'getting fed'. Yes, some congregations have a strong focus on making disciples, but for many of the ones I've been to, it's not even on the radar. "

I've seen a disproportionate balance in relationships. I heard my own brother teach that the kingdom of God is built on relationships. Some places had no idea that my parents divorced, that I had moved in to help my mom, or that I was moving across the country even though I'd been talking about it for a while. A select few told me that they would miss me and that god would bless me where ever I was but there were others who said that I was making the gravest mistake of my life because of a strong sense of fear and impending doom was upon us all. Some of these same doomsday people thought a meteor was going to hit us last year, the economy was going collapse the year before that, another crisis and before that another crisis.  Don't get me wrong I love these people, and I'd most likely take a bullet for any of them.... but the constant paranoia fostered in an atmosphere of a lacking deep connection while pushing a specific thrust on getting their message out....

It felt as though the doctrine was truth, but I was among a cult. When I spoke out about concerns, the wagons would circle and their would be meetings about "slandering the ministry", because there was not that deep connection, it was easy for some of them to assume the worst and rally groups for secret meetings on how to "deal with the Jay situation" instead of reaching out in a one on one phone call.
On the other hand I once lived with a Pastor. He took me in until I could find my way in a new town. He poured into my life not by forcing scriptures, but by being a light. He listened. He laughed with me and he treated me like a brother or a son. He walked in a way that was comfortable with God, not looking over his shoulder but trusting in Him.

How can we appropriately minister to people with the hard questions if we as a people are afraid of them and their questions. Legitimate doubt in a quest for truth produces a more resolute faith at the other end. When that doubt is met with chastisement, fear and separation then it only reaffirms in the negative. I've been in churches that do not appreciate legitimate questions, because the pastor was afraid of those questions leading to a reevaluation of his doctrine, which contained flaws. It still hurts sometimes knowing that I was rejected because of questions.

We have to overcome our fear or the world. Fear is generally not an attribute of those who have died in the Messiah.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love - 1 John 4