Monday, October 19, 2015

God of the blues

  For most of my life I've listened to all types of music. (With the exception of the short time in my early teen years that it was hardcore or piss poor!) I love a sweet bluesy lick on a guitar. It feels like home when I hear bluegrass. I can head bang to Rage Against the Machine, and have a romantic date with Maggie while listening to John Legend. I do not believe in sacred or secular. I hear The Lord's voice in U2 and feels his joy in a Bruno Mars song. Even the most hallow songs of hopelessness I can hear a persons heart cry like a  psalm, and I know God has heard that cry with compassion. 

  He's the Father of music, all music. Not just your cookie cutter hillsong tunes. Although, you can find him in those too. Put your iPod on shuffle and go see where he may show up. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tithing vs Giving

  Now, this one may be foreign to some so please stay with me. For those who may not be from the church world I'll explain tithing briefly. It was established by God for the Jewish people as an offering system that would use 10% of their cattle, livestock, grain, vegetables, etc. to take care of the temple and those who took care of said temple such as the Levites. Instead of farming or some other trade these men spent all of their time taking care of this temple. This system helped sustain normal living needs for these guys. Now, if you look back through the Old Testament before all the temple rituals and such we see a guy named Abraham. The first man to ever give a tithe. Genesis 14 describes Abram (before his name change from the Lord) just freshly out of battle. Along comes a Priest named Melchizedek offering these tired soldiers bread and wine. Abram's response to such a blessing is to give a tenth of all their spoils from war. 

    Let's take a look at a few things here:

1. Abram's tithe was a response to the Priests kindness. If you would've just finished up kicking ass and taking names, you would probably be ready for a beer and bologna sandwich too. 

2. This tithe was not of Abram's income. It was from someones belongings whom of which he had taken their life and then all their stuff too.

3. You never see Abram tithe again.

  A lot of church leaders like to use this as leverage to say that tithing was initiated before the law of Moses. That's fine if you see it that way, but then people should only be tithing once in their life and it should be from someone else's belongings essentially...right?
Let's move on...

  Later in Genesis 28 we see Jacob making mention of giving a tithe to the Lord after his wrestling match through the night, but once again it's AFTER he saw the Lord and received a blessing AND his promise is to tithe off whatever the Lord gives Him IF the Lord keeps him safe. So apparently we can put conditions on tithing?

  Let me just say something here. I believe the tenth had very little to do with the giving as a whole. They were responding to something. A blessing from another or from the Lord himself. Their response was whatever they desired, not something God demanded. Now I'm not going to even touch the levitical law of tithing because when you dig deep enough you see it never amounted to money but more agriculture and sometimes it ended up being more than ten percent. Also, if you were say, a blacksmith you didn't tithe at all. My personal favorite tidbit of info is found in Deuteronomy 14:24-26. If you lived too far from the temple you could exchange your agricultural tithing gift for coins, take those coins and buy food and strong drink (beer), and basically fellowship before the Lord.

  By the time you reach the New Testament tithing is only mentioned in conjunction with Abrams generosity because he wasn't commanded to do it, or Jesus' message to the Pharisees about remembering the tithe but forgetting justice and mercy to the poor and needy. NONE of which describes financial income! Jesus fulfilled all of the law and the prophets. He put His temple inside of us where He can dwell forever. The tithe is obsolete and we give from our hearts. Generosity is mentioned several times in the New Testament in reference to taking care of the poor, widows, and orphaned. Also, the Apostles and other leadership were given to out of generosity. 

  So without boring you any longer I'll say this, I quit tithing years ago. I do give to ministers and ministries who have helped me grow and learn, and I give to the poor as often as possible, but every time I get a pay check I do not look at my gross income and make my God contributions. Jesus gave to us because he loved. The early church gave to the needy out of love and compassion and to the apostles out of love and appreciation. Giving within the new covenant is out of love not command. It is not given a percentage only guidance from the Holy Spirit. Let Him guide you in ALL financial decisions and you'll never lack. I used to tithe and like everyone else my finances fluctuated. Now, that I don't guess what? Nothing has changed. Unless you're counting the fact that I don't worry about God smiling my bank account if I don't give every single Sunday. I believe in giving to churches, ministries etc. I just don't believe in pressuring people to do it and making sure people give an exact percent for God to recognize it. Give what you desire and give because you LOVE.

P.S. Malachi 3:8-12 is not a bludgeoning weapon to be used to threaten non tithers. Those robbing God mentioned in this passage were Priests taking more then their fair share. It has absolutely zero to do with new covenant giving. It's a misuse of authority to use this scripture in such a way.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Legos: a picture of real community

   Everyone has seen or played with a Lego before. Most everyone has seen the very funny Lego movie. Legos are a timeless toy. Since their arrival on the toy market they keep finding their way into kids homes around the world. The marketing and gimmicks may change but the concept is always the same....a ton of little individual pieces that once placed together have endless possibilities. Short ones, long ones, wide ones, zig zags, etc. Each a different purpose but all together for the purpose of building a fortress, or little people, maybe even a car, or my personal favorite a millennium falcon!

  My point here is short and yet for me profound. The Legos are speaking to us, or maybe more the Holy Spirit via the example of Legos. Though we are all individual people, our purpose is collective. We were not made to do this alone. We are designed for family and friendship. At our core we are a Lego...fashioned to  link to others for a common goal. Love is our goal. Shared life is our mission. Joint participation is our cause. To quote my friend Ben Delgado - There is no 'us' and 'them' only US and unrealized US. We need're not alone. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

He defines us

  So I've been contemplating our identity as sons and daughters and my thoughts lead me back to the garden. I do not hold to the belief that sin seperates us from God. God runs to sinners, we see this in the life of Jesus...the perfect reflection of our Father. Separation is a westernized idea. Sin is missing the mark. What mark? The mark of being truly ourselves. Our sinful behaviors are simply symptoms of lack of understanding who we are.

  The story of Adam and Eve is not just about eating fruit that God said not to eat. We see the problem when "the accuser" convinces them that they can be like God by knowing the difference in good and evil. A few things to consider here:

  1. They were already like God, made in His image. 
  2. They had to be convinced that drawing lines if demarcation between good and evil was  
       The lens our  Father saw us through.
  3. The separation came from them not the Father.

  When we don't see the Father accurately we don't see ourselves accurately. They were already in God's image but they believed the lies told to them and began to think the Father didn't make them in His likeness, and that he would be angry at their poor choice. Then the scapegoating began..."but the serpent convinced me" / "but the woman." They were convinced that they could not trust our Father to define us but we could define ourselves based on our goods and evils as opposed to Him defining us in grace. He defines us in the incarnation. Jesus the perfect human re birthed us, to prove our likeness. We look into Him as a mirror of how God sees us.

  We have so many filters we see God through. Our upbringings, our country of birth, any painful experiences, etc. Ask any person with a poor relationship with their dad. They struggle to see God as dad. This is the renewing of our mind. This is repentance. Taking sides with Jesus in the light of how He sees us not how we see ourselves. I hope my thoughts here are clear. Let's keep asking Holy Spirit to show us the difference in our own made up images of God, and the real ones. We are sons and daughters not slaves to our definitions of ourselves.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sometimes it's wrong to be right

   For some time now I've been going thru a major upheaval of all things faith and theology. Don't get me wrong it's been a really good thing but my desire to really understand has become a point of contention in my response and interaction with others point of view. My friend  Randall Worley has said something to me before that has really began to show me my arrogance in my change of views. 

"If it doesn't cause me to love God more, myself more, and others more then it's heresy." 

  This is his litmus test for heresy and what I've been pondering as of late. Changing what you believe on topics and evolving faith is a part of every persons journey. There's a way to share your point to help someone and then there's a way to make them turn deaf ear to what you say. I've sadly been entrenched in the latter. So despite my growing in revelation, my desire to be right has caused some people to think I'm an asshole. To which to some degree I would say you're right. Hopefully though you'll see me with eyes of grace and forgiveness and know I'm still growing in love myself. Sorry for not loving well. Sometimes being right is wrong....being right at the cost of not loving is wrong. 

 Maybe we can all take a lesson from my screw up in the light of gay marriage rulings or confederate flag debates. You may be right, you may be wrong, but if you're  not loving then it's ALL wrong. I'm not done questioning a lot, I'm not done trying to challenge the systems, and mind sets of the current church and world, but I am done with being bad at loving thy neighbor.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wholly Holy

  So for a while I've been contemplating holiness. Mostly, how the western church has turned it into a list of "do nots" and sin management. However, in my contemplation I've come to what I feel is a better understanding of what it means to be holy.

  The Father, Son, and Spirit were holy long before there was sin to be managed. Holiness is being set apart for a specific purpose. Something created for unique reasons. Well, I think it's rather obvious the Trinity's uniqueness and set apart for a purpose of being love and others centered. Creating our beautiful universe. There was no sin to be holy from. The real purpose in my thoughts here though is us. We are holy. We were made holy. You were born holy...set apart for a purpose. When you walk outside of your design your acting in unholiness not just the list of "do nots" people like to throw around. Holiness is being yourself. Being fully yourself in your God created uniqueness. Stop stressing about all the moral rules people like to jab with. Just be you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Living right or righteous?

  First of all...Happy Mother's Day to any moms who may read this today. It's your day and you deserve it. I never fully comprehended Mother's day until I got married and had kids. Maggie totally deserves to be celebrated for birthing and nurturing children on top of dealing with me everyday!

  So I've been contemplating righteousness. One of my favorite scriptures growing up was 2 Cor. 5:21. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (ESV). The greatest tragedy of the first Adam was not his sin, but his loss of sight of where he stood in relationship to the Father. God's opinion hadn't changed toward them, but Adam and Eve were convinced it had. Sin didn't separate them, their momentary loss of sight caused them to think contrary thoughts of who they already were and contrary thoughts about their creator. They were already in His image and likeness but somehow they were convinced they HAD TO DO SOMETHING to be like him. Thus, in their own minds they concluded that they were different or separate from the creator and they wanted to be like they ate the fruit and we all know the rest of the story. Regardless of what you believe about the reality of the Adam and Eve story this is true...humanity created it's own separation not God. So, the LAST Adam, Jesus came to help us realize we were righteous. 

  Somehow over the course of time, righteousness has become moral standards. If we do XYZ then we are righteous. Righteousness is right standing with God or more easily right relationship or in good relationship. The morality comes with the righteousness not righteousness comes with morality. You see, the Trinity has always been righteous before there were ever "standards." Why? Because they've always been in good relationship with one another. We were created for right relationship and Jesus came to reveal their desire for relationship with us never stopped. We can't DO something to be "right" with God. Jesus did all of that work.

  I grew up in the mountains of Virginia. I can remember sitting in churches hearing old country preachers talk or more so yell about "living right." Meaning: Do all right the things and God will be pleased enough to leave the door of heaven cracked open for you in case you died on your way home today. Most of Christianity has become more and more about living right and less and less about knowing Jesus. Let me give an example. When Maggie and I got married there are things about me that annoyed her that she didn't know would annoy her until we were living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, using the same bathroom, every day of our lives. So we would talk thru her annoyances and come to terms with fixing whatever the problem was. I didn't have to prove I could put the toilet seat down before she married me. We got married...I learned to put the seat down. This is what Jesus has done for us. He without our permission repaired the breach. He has welcomed us into His life before we crossed all our t's and dotted all our i's. We must help people realize that Jesus' work on the cross included us back into the righteous relationship of the Trinity...back into the relationship we were never meant to live without. Within this relationship the moral code is love. We do not get to determine what needs to be changed in others nor the timeline. All we can do is love. Love will burn off the dross and refine us down to our truest identity. Beloved sons and daughters...the righteousness of God IN HIM!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Marco Polo

  There was a time in my life when this is what my walk with God felt like. A mystical game of Marco Polo. I would seek, and search, or press in, all in the name of quiet time or devotional time. I would cry Marco with a drive to be at more prayer meetings, more bible studies, or any extra curricular "church" meeting I could attend. In this, I would wait for Him to say Polo either by another prophetic word or just a good ole fashion slobber knocker of a meeting! I think back to those times and honestly I just get frustrated. Did I really see God as playing this cosmic game with me? Did I really think jumping through all the hoops would help me find the current soap box God was standing on so I could stand with him and help him out?

  I find it true that the way we see our Father is the way we will live our lives. What I mean is, if He's angry we'll either live rebelliously and ignore His existence or we'll run on the hamster wheel of good deeds, praying more, reading the bible more, fasting more, do more ministry, hopes that He's taken our efforts as an acceptable sacrifice and doesn't smite us. Since the dawn of time we've missed the mark of seeing Him how He truly is and seeing ourselves in the light of how He sees us. Anything about the Father that doesn't resemble Jesus can be, and in my case, will be ignored. Jesus came to reveal what God was really like, not what everyone had made him out to be. Jesus didn't come to change God's mind about us, He came to change our minds about God.

  Take a look at this...In John 1 we find this incredible prologue that has so much deep and rich meaning that theologians are still mining it all out, but I'm not a theologian so I'll try to stay as simple as possible. "In the beginning was the Word (logos)..." stop right there. So many times we read that and do this equation: Word = Bible = Jesus...Jesus is the bible made flesh. I've actually heard preachers say to hug your bible if you want to be closer to Jesus. Um, I beg your pardon? Logos is so much more, it's such a more complex Greek word than just...word. Logos is logic of God, wisdom of God, it's the character and nature of God. It's His that = Jesus. Now, finish the verse. The Logos was with God, the Logos is God, everything was created through the likeness, nature, character, and logic of God. Verse 14, the Logos became flesh and lived among us. The Logos became one of us to prove a point. God loved us so much he'd become one of us, and let us pour out our anger and darkness on Him just so that we could see real genuine forgiveness. Since Adam and Eve, humanity had been trying to get on God's good side. Jesus was the embodiment of God's good side. Jesus ate meals with the socially unacceptable. Jesus made more wine for a party that had drank all their own. Jesus walked around with people calling him rabbi, but was caught healing the sick and doing good on sabbath. He was seen talking to a woman at a well...a rabbi should not be talking to a woman. Jesus was revealing God's good side. Jesus was revealing God's VERY good side. Jesus was revealing God's judgements or decisions concerning his creation. "I did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save, heal, protect, preserve, deliver it!" (John 3:17) His decision/judgement toward us was final. He includes all, loves all, forgives all. 

  He made His way inside our blindness to show us His true self. He delivered us through His death and re-birthed us through His resurrection. We're not in Kansas anymore Toto! We've been reborn into a kingdom that cannot be shaken. A kingdom in which the poorest get to eat at the same table as the richest. We are all sons and daughters. We can't run on the hamster wheel enough to get God's attention. We already have his attention. There's no cosmic Marco Polo. There's just eating and drinking with friends and knowing He's there with us. There's hearing your favorite song on the radio and realizing that He's inside us listening AND enjoying it too. He's the Father in story of the prodigal son. Excited to see that his sons and daughters are opening there eyes to realize they still belong to Him and coming home to a party in their honor. In your rebellion you're still a son/daughter. In all your striving to be perfect you're still a son/daughter. He won't let you live like a servant, He won't let you lie down in your shame, or continue hiding in your darkness like Adam and Eve. He's the light of ALL men. He's the light already inside you. He's cried Polo back to us from the very depths of our soul!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cause I did...

   The title to this blog is a phrase I used as a child anytime I was questioned for my actions. I'm not quite sure why I never bothered to explain myself when I had done something wrong or just out of the ordinary, but I didn't mind acknowledging the fact that I did indeed do it.

   This is where I stand again today. Why did I start questioning things about God, church, faith, or religion? Cause I did....

   Why do I question the way the world is seen through the stereotypical "christian" eye?

  Why do I feel the need to be so controversial on what most call absolutes about God?

Cause I do...Cause I did...Cause I probably always will...

  My faith is what has always kept me going in every situation of life. Jesus is truth with a pulse. That I don't question. On that topic I have resolve, but in most all other aspects of the world and life I will question the hell out of it...

  If this upsets you, perhaps you should find a blog more suitable to your taste. However, if you would like the hear my thoughts on God and life...then buckle up, there's no turning back now. Oh, and when I get asked why I did this or why I said that, you'll already know my answer. Cause I did...