The Bible, You are using it wrong! (Pt.1 Romans Chapter one)

Welcome to the first instalment of the “The Bible, You are using it wrong!‘ a series about the many ways that the scriptures are often used, not only irreverently, but grossly misappropriated to cause more harm than good in the world at large, past and present. Sadly, a lot of the ways the Church has used the scriptures have been antithetical to the ways of Jesus and His Kingdom. Actually we are seeing a great deal of it right now in and around the circumstances involving the Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage between non-heterosexual couples. This post is not about whether homosexuality is “right” or all the obvious implications that come with her stating that her refusal to abide by the law was based on her “religious beliefs” but rather how I have seen so many “Christians” totally misuse scripture to defend Ms.Davis and how they have responded to the LGBTQ community.

In short, Ms.Davis’ supporters use of scripture is nothing new. People throughout all of history have wielded the scriptures for the end goal of abusing the marginalized in society. One of the earliest instances we know of this happening is contained within the Gospel narratives where Jesus spoke some of His most weighty judgments to the Pharisees, aka the religious right, for using the scriptures to abuse, and wound the weak and marginalized in society. For Jesus, and for Christians, using the scriptures in any way that causes harm whether mentally, physically, or spiritually is not only a wrong use of scripture that misses the point, but is considered damnable. If our interpretation and application of the Scriptures do not cause us to love people with a self giving unconditional cruciform love of neighbor then we must abandon the systems by which we are reading and arriving at such interpretations.

SODOM AND GOMORRAH

Throughout this happening I have heard so many “Sodom and Gomorrah” references that I could vomit. This post is not about the misuse of those texts but I felt like I needed to at least take a moment to mention them. I am going to say this a plain as I possibly can… I want you to repeat after me… Sodom and Gomorrah’s “destruction” had NOTHING to do with homosexuality! Nothing! Not even a little bit! So stop using it to dehumanize and “clobber” the people in the LGBTQ community. Not only is it scripturally inaccurate but it looks nothing like Jesus. Now that we have that out of the way…

ROMANS CHAPTER ONE

Romans Chapter One is one of the handful of passages that anyone who is against gay marriage start flinging right out the gate. It was only a few months ago I sat in a service where a pastor felt the need to spend near and hour in this text and the “Wrath of God!’ that is stored up for sinners. He seamlessly blended and inarticulate approach to scripture with your typical southern conservative rhetoric making sure to slam his hand down on the podium a few times while not forgetting to demand an “AMEN!” here and there throughout his discourse. The truth is that Romans Chapter One is not at all even remotely speaking of what we call homosexuality in the present day. Actually a mutual loving relationship between two same sex-persons was not a thing in the time and culture that Paul was writing to in the beginning of his letter to the Church in Rome. Paul is actually describing in vague detail the cultic sex practices that happened in many pagan places of worship. Where men and women would engage in heinous sex acts with temple slaves and young children of the same sex. This is something that the early church would have obviously have seen as abhorrent as well as something our culture also sees as criminal. These were predatory sex acts seen as worship to pagan gods inflicted on slaves and youth. Not mutually loving consensual relationships between two same-sex persons. So already the use of this text to “clobber” the gay marriage debate has absolutely zero footing to stand on.

For a moment let us atleast pretend that Paul was speaking of Homosexuality in the way we understand it in our present day and age. The truth is that even if that were the case, which it isn’t, that our use of these texts to wound the LGBTQ are not only unChist-like but are actually contradictory to the context and intent of Paul’s writing. Bible 101- KEEP READING. See Paul continues on with the real subject at hand in the beginning of chapter two. Unfortunately we often let our chapter headings and verse numbers (which weren’t present in the original documents) do a disservice to the text and our congregations by plucking out a few verses and using them in ways that they were not written. Paul’s whole point comes to focus if we keep reading on rather than stopping at the end of Chapter One and effectively carving what we want out of the text rather than getting down to what Paul was actually saying.

The purpose of Romans Chapter One is not so we can have a justifying set of verses for treating the LGBTQ community as if they are sub-human. But rather it is Paul’s way of setting up a climax to correct and teach the Church in Rome. See Paul uses the most awful picture of sin and lawlessness that he can think of, the raping of young kids as worship to  pagan gods, as a means to to show how sinful the Church in Rome had become. He spends several verses emphasizing the “Wrath of God” that will come on those who have committed such crimes against their fellow man. I can not help but imagine that most of the Church at Rome was cheering him on as the letter was being read in their midst.

“Yes they deserve destruction! They are sinners! God’s wrath will come on the wicked!” (I often here these same cries come from many in the american church.)

Well… at least until they rounded the top of the next portion of the text, or what we would call Romans Chapter two. Then I am certain they were not at all to fond of this letter from their beloved Paul.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.(Romans 2:1-5)”

Boy! Does Paul flip it on them or what! See the whole purpose of Chapter One was not to provide them a means of justifying their thirst for the Wrath of God to come on the wicked but rather stood as a “set up” of sorts to reveal to them that by their longing for wrath to come on to sinners they were effectively no different than those who practice predatory rape of children in the pagan temples! He is talking to the Church! He literally just told the people of the Church, who he called “Saints” in Chapter One, that they are as bad off as child molesters because they thirst for wrath! So even if the text was speaking of homosexuality in a consensual loving relationship that we know of today it is still not only wrong, but self-condemning to use the scriptures as a means to judge and condemn those that we think deserve the wrath of God! Paul follows up with a reminder that it is only by God’s kindness, NOT HIS WRATH, that anyone is led to repentance!

If your theology does not lead to a greater love (I am not talking about that figurative crap christians throw around when they say “Hate the sin. Love the Sinner”) for the world around you then it is wrong. Point blank.

Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist!

-R

Advertisements

Thank God the Apostles weren’t American!

“Thank God the Apsotles weren’t American!”

While having what became a rather heated conversation with a gentleman last week this thought flew out of my mouth with more force than what was honestly needed. I had remained rather calm through his whole discourse as he expressed his frustrations of why he could not believe that I would say that the way of Christ could not be reconciled with the violence and bloodshed of War. I suppose the force in my voice was more about me just trying to end the conversation after many failed attempts at diffusing the anger that was boiling inside of him. I can not say I expect much different from most of your “Red-Blooded” American types in way of response to the idea that the Gospel is by it’s very nature a deconstruction of the walls we have built in attempts to seperate “us” and “them.” Loving your enemies is tough, but I can’t truthfully say I even know what that looks like in the face of a real threat and maybe I will not ever have to look an enemy who seeks my harm in the face and express my love for him. But If the circumstance comes, I pray that Holy Spirit in all her glory will enable me to stand in the Spirit of our Messiah with unconditional love for those that seek my harm. Regardless if I ever face that “kind” of enemy or not I know the whole concept is difficult. I mean I can barely love the people that love me! 

So this particular gentlemans response (a war Veteran from, a long line of war Vet’s, with a son with three tours in Afghanistan under his belt) was not at all a shock to me. It does bother me though. It bothers me that we have somehow done our best to repaint Jesus as American. American is not at all synonymous with Christian and despite popular belief it has never been. We are a country built on the cultural genocide of Indegenous people and the backs of African slaves. Our sin has been great in the few hundred years since we have landed on this rock and one of the most disturbing parts of it all is how we not only justified these sins but used God as an opiate to coerce people into believing that It all was Christ-like. This is not a “Christian Nation.” It never has been and any amount of honest research will prove it if you still think it is. The day after the conversation I had with the above mentioned gentleman I saw an article about a gun manufacturer building a new gun called the “Crusader.” The rifle was specifically built as an “Anti-Islamic” weapon. The creator said he wanted to build a gun that would cause “God to strike them dead if they touched it.” The gun is an AR-15 that not only has scripture printed on it but it’s three settings around the safety read “Peace,” “War,” and “God wills it.”

GOD WILLS IT?! GOD WILLS IT?!

What god? Not the God of Jesus! Not the Christian God who laid down his life rather than pick up the sword! Not the Prince of Peace! Not the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world! Not the God who “WILLS THAT NONE SHOULD PERISH.”  This “god” that “Wills it” is the god of Empire, gun worship, violence, war, islamaphobia, and destruction. This is the god who blesses Cain as he bashes in the skull of His brother, not the Christ who blesses his enemies! This is the god who wants to see us sacrifice our children on his altar of violence. This is the Beast and his Empire. Not the Lamb and His Kingdom. 
This gun manufacturer and the mindset of the minister I had the conversation with the day before are one in the same and are all to common among conservative American Christians.

By the time the conversation arrived at the point where I threw the above “Hail Mary” I had heard the Gospel seemlessly melded with everything it is not. The rejection of foreigners. The support of oppressors. The destruction of lives. The hatred of our brothers. The justifying of murder. The gospel of Atomic bombs and drone strikes, of fear and hate, of bullets and gun rights. As the conversation closed the gentlemans last words to me were “Well why ain’t you a Muslim then!? You sure are tooting their horn!”

*sigh*

I have a long way to go. We have a long way to go. Despite these reoccurring happenings I am confident in the future of the Church. But today more than ever…

I am glad the Apostles were not American because Saul probably would have had a bullet between his eyes before he had the chance to come to know Jesus. 

Before he could become the greatest church planter in all of history!

Before he could write a third of the New Testament! 

Before he could ever have taken the Gospel to the Gentiles who most Americans find their ancestory in. 

Of course it’s all speculative, but just imagine if the early church had not embraced the non-violent ways of the kingdom of God! 

Paul is the rebuttal to anyone who claims the only way to deal with a terrorist is with a bullet. He was living proof that when the church picks up her cross and follows the ways of Jesus that even the most hardened of hearts melt.

It’s okay to not be okay

IMG_2445.PNG

It is Monday and for me it has already been a very long week. I am not sure how your week is going. Maybe it has been great, or maybe not so great. The last month has been a doozy for me and if there is one thing that Holy Spirit in all her infinite wisdom keeps whispering to me in the middle of all the ‘not so great’ it is,

“IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY!”

Read it again.
Say it out loud.
Again, but slowly this time.
Let those words sink into your heart.

IT’S

OKAY

TO

NOT

BE

OKAY!

Now breathe. Like I said, I do not know where you are today or what your life has been like recently but I know for a fact that you or I have no need to pretend like we have it all together. God does not ask that from us. He gives us permission to come to him with all our issues and problems right out in the open. He loves us right where we are, exactly as we are.

That’s good news for a guy like me. I hope that’s good news for you too. Maybe not today but someday when you feel like everything is tearing apart at the seams and you can not bare the weight of it all you will remember that God has given you permission to not be strong and not have it altogether.

-R

Adoption

IMG_2168.PNG
Adoption.

This one little word has plagued my heart the last several days along with being the cause for a great deal of straight up ugly face crying. I do not remember a time that I did not imagine adopting children. My wife shares the same feelings in her heart that I do. We have talked about it a lot since we married four years ago and have thankfully always been on the same page. We want to uphold the gospels care for orphans in the best way we know how.

I want to be a father to the fatherless.

Jordan wants to be a mother to the motherless.

So this week we felt a churning to stop speaking so casually of adoption and begin to look into the process of it all. Honestly, it seems that in many cases the systems in place work against the children a great deal of the time, and I will do you a favor and not even get started on how messed up the system is when it comes to race. I am still highly ignorant of it all but so far my research has shown me some very disturbing things. The money it costs to adopt is absolutely insane. I am not sure how certain people sleep at night knowing they are making a dang good living by the distribution of children. The amount of money that actually goes back into the orphanages, specifically overseas adoptions, is criminal. The powers at be are the powers at be, so what can you do?

I honestly do not know. Can the system change? I truly hope so. I spent much time yesterday praying that it could and plan on spending more doing the same thing. All the facts about children needing to be adopted are crippling. I am not going to spend any time getting into all of them here because weeping while on the job is frowned upon when you are a security guard. All the facts aside the love we have received is more than enough reason for us to want to pursue this adventure.

People have already asked us why would we consider adoption over having more biological children and my response has been “How can we not adopt?.” This is not just some kind of alternative option for building our family, or even merely some moral obligation. Not adopting is not an option for us because we can not imagine any other response to the love that has been given to us. We have been adopted. We were called loved and beautiful by our biological parents and our savior. So many children live life void of this love and it keeps us up at night. So the only option for us is to adopt. It is as simple as that.

Adoption is a lengthy process and there are several things we have to do before we could even begin the process of being considered but we are wanting to begin to take intentional steps in that direction right now so in the years ahead we will be able to welcome the blessing of a new child into our home.

I ask that you would pray for our family.

Pray for all the right doors to open.

Pray for us to b able to have the opportunity to be able to be a catalyst that can give a life to a child that she would not have had the chance to have.

Pray that the system will change.

Pray for the orphaned.

Pray about what you can do.

Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist.

-R

Nagasaki and New-Jerusalem

IMG_2085-0.PNG
A few days ago I felt compelled to read through some of the stories from the survivors of the bombings that took place on Japan during WW2. This led to me reading even more specifically on the bombing that took place on the city of Nagasaki. The result was a gallon of tears and several twitter post about the horrors that took place that day. The horrors that my “Christian Nation” had unleashed on thousands of innocent people; Men, women, and children incinerated in a blink of an eye, literally wiped off the map.

A little research will show you that not only was the war over in terms of Japan’s defeat before the bombing, but also that they were chaotically trying to find a way to surrender honorably. We refused them the chance because we had a point to make. America had to show Japan, Russia, and the rest of the world who was boss and we intended to do so in a big way. The bombings were not our “ace in the hole” to win the war, they were planned from the beginning to be an instrument that would permanently engrave fear into the heart of the nations. During the war the cities of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Niigata, Kokura, and Kyoto were designated as off-limits to the fire bombings that had burned down more than 60 mostly civilian cities during the first half of 1945. Those five cities were left relatively undamaged so as to serve the greater purpose of being potential targets for America’s official testing of the monster that was birthed from The Manhattan Project.

The actions the American Government are not at all surprising. If history has taught us one thing it has to be that all great(I use that term more condescendingly than not) empires do whatever it takes to ensure they stay on top. We have countless examples; Babylon, Persia, Rome, and Nazi Germany to merely state a few. The bombing of Japan was our way of solidifying our place as the militaristic power house of the world. I can not even begin to explain how conflicted the circumstances of our past as a nation affects me. How am I, a follower of a nonviolent backwoods rabbi named Jesus, supposed to live as a citizen in the very same structure that He spent His life subverting and opposing? I reap the benefits of an Empire that claims Christianity as it’s civil religion, but actually bows down to The Beast. I hear your arguments on just war, the need for military, and our Second Amendment rights. I really do, but I can not get past the fact that our applications and justification for such things end in the untold deaths of thousands while we try and tie a nice little Jesus-Ribbon on top of it. Truth is no matter how we want to package it we can not escape how very Anti-Christ it all is. Still no convinced? Well let’s talk about Nagasaki.

NAGASAKI

I already stated about how the bombing on Nagasaki was simply about making a point despite having already won the war. Maybe you can still stomach that. Maybe that does not at all make you question about how we are such a great “Christian nation.” Maybe, like I heard this week, that you just see Nagasaki as the all to evident “collateral damage” of war. Well Nagasaki has a history that needs to be told. A history as the most prominent Christian center in all of Japan. From 1600-1850 Christianity was considered capital offense in Japan and anyone who professed Christ became subject to torture and death. Many of those who had committed their lives to the Gospel were even crucified. After decades of intense persecution it seemed that the the Japanese government had made Christianity a thing of the past. However after an offshore island was finally opened up for trade with America in the mid-nineteenth century it was discovered that Japan was home to thousands of baptized Christians who had been living out their faith right under the nose of the Japanese government. This discovery led to another attempt at a purge of the Christian faith that eventually ended after much international pressure and allowed for the Church to crawl out of the catacombs of secret faith for the first time in centuries.

In 1917 St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in Nagasaki and by the time of WW2 was home to 12,000 baptized believers. To say the church was thriving would be an understatement. The Church had endured so much under Japanese persecution and still had yet to falter in spreading the Gospel of Jesus. The Japanese government was no longer a threat to the cause of Christ in Japan, but we were. At 11:02a.m. during morning mass hundreds of congregants at St. Mary’s cathedral were turned to ash. That day 6,000 of the 12,000 member church lost their lives. The total reached 8,500 in the wake of the bombing. What 250 years of intense persecution could not do to the Christian church in Japan, we did in a total of nine seconds. Our “Christian Nation” crippled the Christian faith in Japan in nine-whole-seconds with a bomb dropped from a plane by professing Christian soldiers directly above (you guessed it) St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Church building became the bullseye for the plutonium bomb, named “Fat Man”, because it was the only structure visible through the cloudy sky at 31,000ft up.

A “Christian nation” order a plane full of Christian soldiers to drop a monster on top of the most populated Christian area of Japan to prove to the world that the U.S.A. was not a force to be reckoned with. After all we are “one nation under God” right? I wonder if it was in the God of Jesus Christ that we “trusted” to guide that bomb above St. Mary’s Cathedral, or maybe it was Mars, the God of War? The most Anti-Christ thing a nation can do is to convince Kingdom people that it is their God-given-responsibility to kill in the name of a nation. I hope my point is beginning to become more clear.

EMPIRE & KINGDOM

See, The Empire drops bombs on Nagasaki.

The Kingdom of God rebuilds the ruins.

The Empire throws masses in Auschwitz.

The Kingdom snatches the masses from the fire.

The Empire says “Eye for an Eye.”

The Kingdom of God says “Turn the other cheek.”

The Empire builds walls and creates division.

The Kingdom of God tears down walls and creates unity.

The Empire levels city’s and decimates nations.

The Kingdom of God builds cities and restores nations.

The Empire enslaves people.

The Kingdom of God liberates slaves.

The Empire rejects the foreigner.

The Kingdom of God welcomes them home.

The Empire destroys it’s enemies.

The Kingdom of God forgives it’s enemies.

The Empire achieves “peace” by the sword.

The Kingdom of God achieves Peace by self-giving love.

The Empire builds Babylon.

The Kingdom of God builds The New Jerusalem.

Which one would you say the great ol’ U.S.A. looks more like? I know how I would answer that question, but I am still learning how to live a life that will be a seed in the soil of Babylon. A seed that will eventually see the beauty of New Jerusalem burst to life right here, in America, in the empire. Please do not take my words in this post as disrespect for those that have died for this country. I can not tell you how bad my heart aches for their loss. If opposing war and embracing the Peaceable Kingdom of Jesus is disrespectful then I suppose that is what I am, but in all honesty the only way I know how to truly give reverence to those who have suffered in the face of war is to live a life trying to make sure no one else has to suffer.

So how do we, citizens of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, live in such a way that we see the Kingdom of God burst to life right here, right now?

Beginnings: A series of Midrashim through the book of Genesis

IMG_2015-0.PNG

The last couple of weeks I have been working on several Midrashim spanning the book of Genesis that I hope can be recorded in a spoken word type fashion. I thought it would be an interesting approach to explore some of the deeper themes that lie between the lines of the scriptures with this project. For those that are lost, in short, Midrash is the Jewish Rabbinical tool to express the meaning of parts of scripture that exist between the lines of the text, essentially to dig up what is beneath the surface of the words. This was often done through story telling and literary reenactment and is the approach I am taking as well. I hope people will be blessed by this project when it is finished. For now I have the first two almost “finished”. I am rarely ever satisfied but I do hope to at least get this to a place where I feel like it can be enriching an enjoyable! These are the concepts and texts I plan to do so far;

Creation/Adam
(The coming to life and the looking to the age to come.)

Cain/Abel
(Cain founding empire on his brothers blood.)

Abram/Isaac
(Tension between Isaac and his father after the sacrifice incident.)

Sarai/Hagar
(Hagar’s rejection and redemption.)

Jacob/Esau
(Jacob’s struggle with fear.)

Pharaoh/Moses
(The battle between Pharaoh’s fear of Yahweh but his refusal to submit.)

I wanted to give you a rough idea of what to expect so I have put the unfinished Midrash about Cain/Abel below! Hope you enjoy!

***

WHERE IS YOUR BROTHER?

(Those words must have sounded like thunder to Cain and he knew the creator knew the answer and it was like an excellerant to his rage. Those words felt like accusations to the heart of the self condemning son of the proto man.)

“Am I his keeper, Lord? The shepherd of his soul?”

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? I HEAR THE CONTENTION ROLL OFF YOUR TONGUE IN WAVES OF UNWARRENTED RAGE.

“I spilled the blood of my fathers son. That boy needed to learn to keep better care of his herds. This was my land. The ground I tilled and sowed. This is the dirt where I built my home! My home! He could have had all the fields of the earth but he brought those damn sheep to where he knew they did not belong.
My field.
My land.
My home.

I HEAR HIS BLOOD
CRY OUT FROM THE RED SOAKED EARTH!

“I labored by the sweat of my brow for thorns and thistles; the ground producing what you commanded and you still would not accept it!? So what was I supposed to do? Lord….
The fruit of my labor was not enough… It was blood that you wanted and blood I gave to you. Surely my brothers blood is more acceptable than that of filthy herd animals? Surely lord, surely! his favorable, innocent, sinless blood is more desirable than a goat!

CAIN, YOU WERE ALWAYS ACCEPTED JUST BLIND. I NEVER ONCE COMMAND THAT YOU SHOULD GIVE ME SACRAFICE. I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT BLOOD; JUSTICE AND LOVE, UNITY AND TRANQUILITY, BUT NEVER BLOOD.

(The Creator Wept)

YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THIS PLACE BECAUSE THE GROUND ACHES FOR VENGENCE AND YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO LIVE LIFE AS A FUGITIVE. YOU ARE DESTENINED TO ROAM SON, BUT I WILL PROTECT YOU AND LET NO HARM OVER TAKE YOU!

(Grace only fueled the rage in his heart.)

“You placed this mark on my brow to show me your mercy but it will always be nothing more than a sign that you reject me. My Father traveled east of Eden… Not far enough! I’ll travel farther but I won’t wander!
I won’t God!
I won’t!
I’ll build a city because I don’t need your protection. I’ll build walls of stone and watch brick and morter become a god all on their own.”

From Temple, To Table

IMG_1936.PNG

The Temple

Exclusive

Hierarchy

A series of dividers

A veil

Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies

Only Priest’s were permitted to enter into the inner court.

Only Men were able to enter the outer court.

The court for females existed outside of the area where all the temple work was done.

The Gentiles were only allowed outside the temple. And there was a barricade around the temple which read,

“Jews only. Any Gentiles who go beyond the point will be responsible for their own death.”

No eunuchs were allowed

No unclean

No sick

No lepers

No disfigured

Separation, separation, separation

The Table

Inclusive

A nations of priests

No longer any dividers

The veil has been ripped away

Jesus our High Priest has entered the Holy of Holies once and for all!

No longer division between gender

No longer division in race

All who are sick

All who are “unclean”

All who are broken

All who are disfigured

All are welcome!

All are beckoned!

All those who are thirsty to come and drink!

All those without money and suffering lack are to come and feast on the Bread of Life.

The table is open to EVERYONE. Even if they do not fit in our neat little boxes.

Jesus saw the end of the temple as the beginning of the Kingdom of God. The Table is the subversion of all of our systems, formulas, and boxes. The Table is the reorientation of the world into the Kingdom of Christ. The fall of the Temple was an end to a system of injustice that would never heal wounds and make people new. Sadly, I so often see the Church reverting back to the old system. Building new temples where inequality and prejudice reign supreme. People are excluded based on gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and many other barriers we have built, barriers that are killing people.

A church down the road from my house has championed a sign for weeks that says,

“WHAT GOD CALLS ABOMINATION, SO DO WE.”

Who are we to rebuild what God has torn down? Does Paul not talk about that? I know he does. Let us not transgress God by building a system of exclusion that is literally responsible for an outrageous number of deaths, all because of our political opinions. We find ourselves in the lot of the Pharisees who were literally trying to shut the gates of the Kingdom in the faces of all who did not fit their molds.

When we rebuild temples,

When we exclude the “least of these”,

When Church becomes about our political agenda rather than the politics of the Kingdom,

When we refuse to let women teach,

When we perpetuate the divide between our “church” and that “black church” down the road,

When we neglect the poor, the sick, the orphaned,

When we build fences that say “only white faithful tithing republicans may enter(or whatever else).”,

We heap up blood on our hands and have fallen away from the true faith.
We can do better Beloved! We have to! I am learning more and more the magnitude of what it means to pray “forgive us OUR trespasses.”

THE LORD DECLARES THE TEMPLES WE HAVE BUILT BE BROUGHT TO RUIN.

Capture

IMG_1938.PNG
For the season of Lent I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone.

40 days without the distraction of all the craziness that is social media.

It was a fantastic decision, and one that taught me a lot. Strangely even though I knew those apps were not on my phone anymore I still would habitually scroll to where the apps were as if I was going to open them up. Endless scrolling through social media was so engraved in my brain that for forty days I would unconsciously try and pull up the deleted apps. Honestly, that is a little scary to me because it revealed how much of myself is dedicated to wasting time on my little distraction device. I realized that my phone has, in so many ways, captured me. I think my wife may even argue that it consumes me. It is unsettling. After Lent I reinstalled those apps and was convinced that I would not return to wasting so much precious time staring at the blue hue of a screen. I was wrong. Very, very, wrong.

It seems simple and truthfully ridiculous to think an inanimate object could take captive so much of our time, but it happens. IT HAPPENS A LOT! The average American spends two-hours a day in apps on smart devices. TWO WHOLE HOURS! That is 730hrs a year, or just shy of one month spent staring aimlessly into various smart phone apps every year. (I do not even want to see how this pairs up with TV usage.) Studies show that we check our smartphones around 160 times a day, I can testify to that!

I could write a mile long list of the benefits, and all around pros, of having smartphones/tablets. They are useful tools for so many things. For me It allows me to e connected with family an friends that I rarely have the chance to see, I love sharing stories trough social media, I am an avid reader so Kindle is one of my best friends, and I write 99% of my blogs on my phone(I am doing it right now!) These are just a few things on my list for why I love this technology, but the thing I love most about it is that it enables me to capture moments. Moments with my wife, moments of my son, celebrations, victories, losses, and so much more that the generations before us had no ability to capture in such detail, we are able to literally point, click, and share it with the world. On the inverse I love being able to see other people’s moments, especially those that I rarely get to share in-person-moments with. So please do not think I am demonizing technology because I truly believe it is a great tool when we use it to capture and share life.

I can think of a ten mile long list of things that would serve me much better to spend two hours a day doing rather than being on the phone. It is so easily to just let ourselves be distracted and then blame our mountain of an endless to-do list on being to “busy”. It makes it all so palatable.

We utter things like “I just wish there were more hours in a day.”

Or response to “How are you?” Is “You know me just busy as always.”

First, 24 hours is more than enough time in the day. If we need more God would have given you more. So suck it up.

Secondly, this is not how life is suppose to be. Running around like a chicken with your head cut off is unhealthy on all accounts. Truth be told this is probably a cop out, but on the off chance you are always busy then I suggest you take a step back and honestly evaluate how you spend you time. Rest is essential.

For me most the term “busy” means I am being unproductive/lazy (probably staring at my phone) and need a scapegoat for explaining why the grass in my yard is a foot high, or why I have yet to finish a book that I started on over a year ago all so I can sleep a little better at night. I do not know the steps it am going to take to make sure I am not wasting precious time yet, but they are coming.

Get busy capturing moments and sharing life, but be careful to not let this little distraction device capture you. We only get one time around and we need to make the most of it. Our famines, friends, and communities need us to make the most of it. Life is happening an will continue to do so with or without us.

Sincerely,
A guy who is trying to figure out how to divorce his phone….

PS.

Here is a link to an article on how smart devices are messing with our brains. LINK

People are not Projects

IMG_1842.PNG
I am not sure if there is anything more egotistical and self centered than the idea that people are projects to be worked on. As if people are not on your level and it’s your job to make sure they get what you “have”. I have been so guilty of this in my life. Viewing relationships as if I was providing some valuable resource that determines the level of success or progress in someone else’s life.

I do not say this as to diminish what someone is able to bring to the table in a given relationship. I believe with every fiber of my being that it is in community that we discover or true selves. We need relationships because people draw out things in us that we can not bring to the surface by our own means. You have many valuable things to offer the people around you, so do I, but the problem is when we approach community with the mindset of superiority. Friendships become experiments, people become projects, as we lose all since of mutual relation. It becomes about what we can do for people verses valuing said people and growing together and sometimes what we think people can do for us.

I can honestly say the habit of treating people like projects was much more prominent in my life when I was a pastor. Maybe that is even where it started? I am not sure exactly when it started but I definitely can recognize it the most in that season of my life. I assume it started out with good intentions, (What is it they say about good intentions again? Something like the path to Hell is paved with them? Haha!) but ended up in a very unhealthy and damaging place.

I am still learning to get out of the way.

Still learning how to be a friend.

A husband.

A Dad.

A Disciple.

I am reminded of something Paul says in the beginning of his epistle to the church in Rome,

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutuallyencouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

This is the backbone of ecclesiology.

This is the backbone for life giving relationships.

It is not about what someone can do for us.

It is not about what we can do for someone else.

It is about sharing life; the good, the bad, and everything in between. So let’s get busy enjoying each other, and mutually building life together.

Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist.
-Ryan

The Church doesn’t need you to fix it

IMG_1846.PNG
(I should start by saying the barrel of this post is pointed straight at myself)

The Church, boy is she something!

Wild
Amazing
Frantic
Beautiful
Scattered
Gathered
Broken
Growing

She has been around for all most two millennia and she is not going anywhere anytime soon. She has her problems. Okay, okay the church has….. well… LOTS of problems, but what thing on earth involving humankind does not have it’s problems?

She will endure, better yet She will abide.

So stop worrying about it. It’s not your job to fix every little problem. We get so worried about how to DO church. How to bring people in. How to be relevant. How to engage and market and most of the time it all just comes out wanting. So stop trying to make the church your project. Stop doing church. Church is not something you DO. It is something you are. The church needs you to BE the church.

Just breathe and BE.

Stop trying to fix the church (you couldn’t even if you tried) Jesus was clear that not even the gates of Gehenna would prevail against the Kingdom of God and I believe you can take that promise to the bank.

So buckle up and enjoy the ride. The church was here long before you and I and I have no doubt that it will be here long after we are gone.

Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist.
-Ryan