Month: July 2016

Clergy Aren’t Respected Anymore… Is That Good?

DTATVH1RSD

Those who hold the title of clergy have been experiencing a fall from popular culture. The image of a pastor has transformed from a caring individual, dedicated to bringing hope and restoration into a community to a televangelist bent on stealing money from the poor through the prosperity gospel.

This seems like a new phenomenon.

It’s really not.

This utter lack of respect for clergy began in the early 19th century. Nathan O. Hatch mentions this time of transformation by quoting from the 3rd Epistle of Peter… at least that’s what it was called. Alexander Campbell mocked professional clergy with this fake letter. In it, “Peter” instructs ministers to “live well, wear the best clothes, adorn themselves with high-sounding titles, drink costly wine, and fleece the people.”

This destructive seed which was planted in the 19th century is now coming to full bloom in the 21st century. As a member of the so-called clergy, we can respond to this in two ways.

One way is to get angry. I mean REALLY angry. This is how many of the pastors in the 19th century responded.

This doesn’t work.

Pastor, you do realize that we serve a crucified Savior right?

Have you forgot Matthew 10:25?
“It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul (or Satan), how much more will they malign those of his household.”

The Gospel will be administered under the shadow of the cross. Ministry is not a call to respectability but to death. The Apostles themselves were treated as the scum of the earth, why should YOU be treated any better? This leaves us with the second option…

Pastor, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…” What if instead of getting mad at those who accuse us of fleecing the sheep, we laid down our lives (and time) sacrificially for those who malign us? What if, instead of bemoaning the lack of respectability for clergy, we loved the very people that hate us?

The ministry is one of crucifixion.

You will receive a crown… but not from the culture.

You will experience resurrection… but not from those who don’t know God.

The rewards you will get for faithfully fulfilling the ministry God has given you far outweigh every negative word, unfair rumor, and false accusation you will ever experience.

Pastor, keep your eyes on Jesus… He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Chief Shepherd – minister from HIS strength and power – not your own.

My Problem with Fundamentalism

0WTZ2XPOJ1

I’m a recovering fundamentalist.

Fundamentalism can be applauded for a variety of things. First, if you are a fundamentalist, you take the Bible seriously. You view the Bible as a set of demands upon your life that must be lived out. This encourages you to pursue holiness and righteousness.

This is good… except when it’s not.

Fundamentalism breeds legalism. Fundamentalism turns Christianity into a set of fundamentals – or rules – that we need to obey. Here are some of the rules:

1. You CANNOT listen to “secular” music.

2. You CANNOT mow your lawn on Sunday.

3. You CANNOT wear a dress that doesn’t go down to your ankles.

4. You CANNOT hang out with non-Christian friends.

5. You CANNOT play video games.

6. You CANNOT drink any amount of alcohol.

…You get the point.

Fundamentalists tend to downplay the physical world. In an effort to attain a certain level of holiness, these Christians tend to reject any type of “earthly” pleasure. This causes them to become lemon-sucking, self-righteous Christians.

Vigen Guorian describes this perfectly in his article on Christian imagination, “Modern fundamentalism doesn’t take the Incarnation seriously enough. It limits the the limitless God to the written word and denies his presence in the physical creation.”

What exactly DOES the incarnation teach us about God?

The incarnation shows us that the physical world really IS good.

When God created the heavens and the earth, He declared them as really good! Nevertheless, the enticement of sin brought ruin and destruction to the universe. This leaves us to question whether or not the physical world should be rejected altogether since it has been marred by sin.

The incarnation is a resounding NO!

God really did become a man. Jesus is fully man and fully God. He did not APPEAR human… He really is human. If God embraced the physical world by becoming part of it, we can find joy in creation as long as we remember the Creator in the process.

My encouragement to you today is to view creation through a God-centered lens. We sprint through our busy lives without taking the time to truly SEE. We need to slow down and search out the hidden parables throughout creation. I challenge you to go for a walk today and consider some of these questions:

1. What do the birds teach us about who God is?

2. How do trees reflect God’s beauty?

3. How does God’s care for seemingly insignificant insects such as ants teach us about his care for us?

Slow down. Open your eyes. Worship God. 

On My Grind (NEW SONG!)

grind

Do I still make music? Yup! (If you are reading this in your e-mail, you will need to go to the actual site to hear the song)

Verse 1
I’m grinding, do you know what that means?
You can find me in the studio killing a beat
I dare you to find a rapper that’s iller than me
Cuz I got passion I’m smashing everything that I see
It’s what happens when I snap and attack when I breathe
You thought that you’d laugh cuz I’m a Christian emcee
Expected me to be corny cuz I live for the King
Well you can find me recording and I’ll give what I bleed!
I don’t think you understand
You see impossibilities I see a plan
You ain’t feeling me that’s okay cuz I can’t
Be someone wearing a mask so Imma tear up a track
I ain’t scared of your laugh, so bring your best insults
I will succeed because I see that it’s all mental
And I know a King that I believe will never let go
So Imma breathe while I bleed through this pencil

Chorus
Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Verse 2
I remember sitting inside of a basement
I was a pre-teen using words to paint this
Bumping Eminem wishing I could replace him
To be the next rapper that’s after the same sin
I studied rhyme schemes while you were on play station
Hours on the web so I could set I how I say things
I learned how to rap from the net, yeah it’s amazing
Now you know I’m back as a vet and I’m gonna break in
Half the rappers in the local scene
Can’t use a multisyllable to hold a beat
I really flow it so complete
But when I do it they get to booing I know the beast
When I mention Jesus they don’t hold the peace
If I kept Him out of it I guarantee you’d roll with me
But that won’t happen I’m laughing at all these cold Gs
While these rappers smoke weed I’m grinding ’till you know me

Chorus
Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Verse 3
Yeah, this is what I do
Got a full time job and I’m going to school
But I stay on my grind so I’m showing the truth
I still kill a rhyme when I flow in the booth

I grind…

It’s something you ain’t ever seen
I’m aggressive with a message when I wreck the beat
I had depression but I left it with a melody
So music is my medicine step in if I pretend to be
Someone that I’m not, I’m my own worse enemy
A workaholic at times without a remedy
But when I yell it in rhyme my God will tend to me
Or else the penalty is for me to burn mentally
I’m working harder than the rest, wait let me see
It’s not me working but the grace inside of me
So till I RIP, I’m gonna try to be
Bearing fruit for the glory of my only King

Chorus
Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Religion Sucks.

blanche-monnier

Can you imagine being imprisoned by your family for 25 years?

This is what happened to the daughter of a wealthy Paris family in 1876. The daughter’s name was Blanche Monnier. Due to a romantic relationship the family disapproved of, they forced Monnier to become a prisoner in her bedroom while feeding her scraps of food and giving her no opportunity for sunlight or contact with other people. She deteriorated and only weighed 55 pounds pounds when police found her… on the verge of death. After being rescued, she was driven mad by her imprisonment and spent her life in a mental institution.

This is an incredible parallel for the toxic effects of religion.

Before you get mad, let’s define terms.

Religion is man trying to appease God through special ceremonies, good deeds, and behavior modification.

Flannery O’Connor wrote an excellent and illuminating short story called “Parker’s Back”. One of the fascinating characters in this story is Sarah Ruth. Sarah is a very strict, religious woman. She is described as being bland and a fun-killer. Sarah Ruth stands for religion.

Religion sucks.

1. Religion sucks life out of you.
Religion masquerades as life-giving but grants death to its adherents. Rules, ceremonies, and legalism appeal to people with a conscious tormented by the effects of sin. Rather than granting absolution, religion fuels the fire of shame by forcing condemnation alongside of confession. Grace and mercy are spoken of but rarely practiced, guilt and reproach are the cruel masters which imprison their subjects until they are malnourished and on the verge of death.

2. Religion sucks freedom from you.
As you become enclosed in the windowless room and smell the burning stench of your sin, you realize you have nowhere to run. In an effort to find relief, you become zealous about behavior modification. This is equivalent to scratching the cold brick of your prison cell with fingernails, trying to form a window to the outside world. You seek purification and wholeness but you receive hands which are marred and dripping with blood.

3. Religion sucks God from you.
The cruel irony is your self-imposed bondage comes from a sincere desire to appease God. As you begin to perfect your outward appearance, your body and soul are crippled by guilt. The more you try to change in your own power, the more you realize how worthless you are. This is magnified by the cold and heartless preaching of the man in a robe you hear from every week; a man who has bloodied his hands from scratching at the impenetrable walls of his prison cell longer than you have. God becomes distant, a cruel taskmaster bent on causing you pain. Rather than becoming insane from your imprisonment, you reject God altogether. The very thing that promised a relationship with God left you rejecting him. Religion sucks.

Jesus Saves.

Jesus came to crush the head of this deadly taskmaster.

Jesus came to offer freedom to the captives and shatter the chains of legalism.
Jesus seeks to transform the very core of who you are, offering life in abundance.
Jesus seeks brokenness in order to make it whole.
Jesus seeks sinners so He can provide true healing.
Jesus came so that all who are weary and weighed down with the heavy burden of religion may find rest.
Jesus came so that where sin abounds, grace increases even more.
Jesus came to dispel the myth that God is cruel.

Jesus is the exact image of God revealed to us.

Jesus lived the life you and I couldn’t live… a perfect life.
Jesus died the death you and I deserve to die… a brutal death prefaced by torture.
Jesus resurrected from the dead… showing that he paid the price for all of our sin (past, present, future).

Religion is man seeking God, Christianity is God seeking man. 

You’re a Heretic.

1DHX1JVT3C

It would be very strange to see a person without skin.

Skin plays a vital role in our lives! It protects the rest of our body from outside factors which could destroy it. I have never heard anyone say that their skin holds them back from truly experiencing life… “I just wish I could be free from my skin so that I could live as a skeleton!” If someone said that they would probably end up in a mental institution!

Yet this is the attitude many of us have towards our bodies…

Have you ever heard the statement, “You are not a body with a spirit, you are a spirit with a body”? Well, it’s wrong. Really wrong. In an excellent article called Rallying the Really Human Things by Vigen Guroian, Guoroian makes an incredible observation – “Body and spirit are not two independent realities, as so many modern people – including many Christians – believe, but rather constitute the one person.

You do realize that in Heaven you won’t be a disjointed spirit hovering through space plucking a harp, right? The Bible speaks about a RESURRECTED BODY… it’s still a body!

Now you’re probably thinking I enjoy metaphysical language and this actually has no bearing on your life today… wrong again!

Since both the BODY and the SPIRIT are good, PHYSICAL is GOOD!
Christians tend to take life too seriously. We view religion as a means of punishing our bodies in order to sanctify our spirits. We neglect to laugh, eat good food, and watch funny movies because we are too… spiritual. Guess what – God created our bodies and he called them good! Yes, they have been marred by the effects of sin, but so has everything else! The Gospel redeems us so that we may truly enjoy life… even the physical part of life!

It is okay to read a book just for fun.

It is okay to enjoy a good meal.

It is okay to actually laugh.

It is okay to get lost in the beauty of nature.

It is okay to find pleasure in your spouse.

Quit taking yourself so seriously!

One of the best ways to redeem the physical is by reading a good FICTION book. Fiction books often paint the physical world with vivid imagery and expertise. These authors have discovered the rare ability of truly being present in the world. We Christians have a tendency to disconnect from our imaginations in honor of non-fiction books. If we are going to spend time reading, we want to read something that is TRUE and encourages us to live a more HOLY life. This is all good but FICTION allows you to understand the depth of human nature and the beauty of God’s creation. It is through reading fiction that you increase in your love for neighbor as you experience the emotions and thoughts of someone other than yourself!

Allow yourself to be caught up in the story. Although it seems like a waste of time, it is incredibly practical and beneficial! While you’re at it, enjoy a glass of wine!

(Any religious people mad yet?)

You’re a HERETIC.
When you believe that the spirit is good and the physical is bad, you’re actually a heretic. This false belief comes out of a dangerous teaching known as Gnosticism. This teaching ravaged the early church and misled many from the true faith. Adherents of Gnosticism believed that we are imprisoned by the physical world. In order to escape, we need to discover a special knowledge and become truly spiritual (gnosis is Greek for “to know”).

Somehow this has infiltrated the church in the 21st century. The result is a bunch of lemon-sucking Christians trying to become free of the very thing that makes them human. The irony is that God became a man in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He did not simply “appear” to be human… he really is 100% human and 100% God.

We would do the world a favor if we laugh, enjoy food, read fiction, exercise our imaginations, and embrace the humanness of our bodies… for the glory of God!


What are some other ways we can can redeem the physical world? Let me know by leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you!