Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Theology of Worship

I wrote this as part of a written interview and thought i'd share :)
My theology of worship is, in a nutshell, more about a lifestyle and attitude than 30 minutes set aside on a Sunday (or any other day for that matter). First, I believe that worship can be done in any action throughout the day as long as the will and intention is directed toward glorifying God. I read the book “practicing the presence of God” by Brother Lawrence and, while it was somewhat exhaustive, the one line that stuck in my head more than any other was when Brother Lawrence says that for him, he feels as much in the presence of God while picking up a straw from the ground as administering the Holy Eucharist in service. I think that worship is this: having an attitude of reverence and relationship with God in every moment of one’s day. Paul writes to the Church in Corinth and says “So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you --you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31, MSG). The way that I understand this passage is that this is Paul saying not only CAN everything be done to God’s glory, but that we SHOULD do everything, even eating, to God’s glory; this is worship.  This attitude relates to corporate worship in this way: one cannot be a leader of a congregation in worship in any capacity if he/she does not first have a regular habit of worshiping in their personal life and maintain it as a lifestyle. I also believe that this will be evident in the effectiveness of a leader. Worship is not something that can be marginalized to any time frame without sacrificing some of its purpose; that is, a relationship. After all, one would hardly call meeting with their spouse for half an hour a week, a relationship. I do believe, however, that the time spent in corporate worship is a beautiful and beneficial time for all who engage their hearts in an effort to draw especially near to God.

The Dread

Thursday, December 8, 2011

my thoughts on Rick Warren's service event: a reactionary piece.

in reponse to Erik Raymond's "What are we saying when we cancel church services in favor of community service?"

Ok, so first off, I know almost nothing about Erik, so I hope that this does not come off as offensive. Love over everything. Also, I am not necessarily gung-ho for Rick Warren either as I admittedly have not read any of his literature; my position about what I’m going to say is strictly in reaction to the blog (?) that Erik posted here -->

First, I would like to commend Rick Warren on his event; 20,000 people is an amazing number of people acting out God’s love.

In answer to Erik’s “the Good”

I agree that this number of people doing good in their community in the name of Christ is an encouraging thing; so, I only want to add to Erik’s comments here. Acts of service is more than simply an idea in Christianity, but it is indeed what Christ acts out in his ministry. As Christians, we are trying to be like Christ; Bottom line. We are not trying to imitate the religion, Christianity, but the man who started the movement. There is a lot to be learned from our Church history, but this goes in positives and negatives (for example, hospitals set up by the beguines versus the “holy” crusades). We need to remember that the formal church is our family history and in order to be effective, we must imitate the successes by following the heart of Christ instead of simply doing church because it’s what we do.

In answer to Erik’s “the Concern”

First I would like to point out the logic behind your initial concern. The way you have set up the dilemma is as follows:

N = Nebraska game is on
W = Wedding
C = Formal Church Service
S = Acts of Service
~ = negation
H = Holy
> = greater than

If N, then ~W
Therefore, N >W
W is H

 So if all this is true, then the following must also be true

C is H
if S, then ~C
Therefore, S > C

The problem with this logic is that it all hinges on one premise: the commonality that weddings and church services are Holy in some way.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people won’t get the idea that S > C, but I think that this is kind of a Slippery Slope of an idea to ride down since it’s not really based on the necessity of people following this train of thought. One might just as easily say that ~W or N (either you don’t want a weddings or you do want to watch the Nebraska game). It really comes down to just that. Maybe a small group of people will choose to watch the game over having the wedding, but the fact that they still want the wedding eventually is grounds enough to say that N > W is not a deductively necessary conclusion from the first premise (If N, then ~W).

I agree that this is getting exactly at the debate over the mission of the church and I think Erik draws the dichotomy well:

“Are churches primarily called to the ministry of the word and sacrament or the ministry of mercy in the community?”

While I think this is set up well, I think Erik poses a false dichotomy immediately following:

“If the former you prioritize the church gathered. If the latter then this type of thing is easier to do.”

What I mean by this false dichotomy is that there are other options or reactions to the issue that are not being acknowledged here. For example one other reaction might be:

“if the former, you take the word of the gospel to people outside of the formal church and teach them about sacraments in everyday conversation; If the latter then you will drop everything you own materially and devote your life to serving people much like St. Francis did in giving up his birthright.”

What this response poses is a “both/and” approach to the issue. The false dichotomy comes in and says “there are only 2 options”, the both/and comes in and says “but wait, I have a third”. I’m not saying that the both/and is necessarily right; I’m only saying that posing it as a dichotomy, doesn’t really seem to capture the entire issue.

In Christ’s ministry, he often served people and healed them where they were hurting when they were hurting; much like Saddleback Church is doing. He also, however was a pious Jew and made sure to not neglect the traditions that teach us who we are. And finally (and I would say most importantly), Jesus was all about relationships. He didn’t set out to make a religion; if that were the plan, he would have wrote a book or, dare I say it, come as the Messiah that the Jews expected: knight in shining armor, there to slay their oppressors and rule the earthly kingdom of Israel. But this is not Jesus’ method; instead, he starts making friends. That’s it. He goes around and meets people and forms relationships with them and then lets them write about him and tell his story later.

To me, this means that the proper reaction to the question “is the church’s primary calling to word and sacrament or mercy in the community?” is “well, what did Jesus do while he was here?” and the answer to that is “Jesus did both”. So I don’t think we can look at what Rick Warren is doing as flexing between two options, but simply exercising the other arm (pardon the work-out metaphor) or being more Christ-like in action.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”                -- Heb. 10:25 (KJV)

I looked up the verse Erik gave in Hebrews and initially, I agree that it appears to say “you must have an assembly of Christians formally”. Upon closer inspection, however, the word used in this verse that gets translated as “forsaking” is Egkataleipo (transliteration) in the Greek which is to say abandon, desert or to leave behind. I hardly think that Rick Warren is encouraging his church to abandon meeting formally all together. Furthermore, in this verse, the word translated as “exhorting” is Parakaleo (transliteration) in the Greek which means to summon, to admonish, to beseech,  to instruct, to teach, to console, to encourage and strengthen, to comfort. To me, this sounds like an interesting way to say “be in relationship with each other more and more as we see the big Day approaching”. It is framing the way Christians should act from a context of teaching, comforting, consoling and strengthening, but implies a sense of someone asking for this to be done. I believe in my core that the people being served on the day that Rick Warren cancels “church” will feel comforted, will be encouraged and strengthened and by this, they will learn what it means to be a Christian. I don’t think they will immediately think to the doctrine of what the church’s calling is, though they (unfortunately) may be shocked that a church is doing this; instead I think they will be attracted to Christ the same way that the marginalized were attracted to Him while he was on earth in human form.

I contend that it is, in fact, good for people to see that the church’s priorities include them. I don’t think that Rick Warren’s actions show that the church doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be doing, but that the bottom line is that Christ is all about people. Saturday would work for something like this also, but by doing it on a Sunday and canceling what people think is the entirety of what it means to be the church, Rick Warren is teaching (Heb. 10:25) his congregation and the people that they touch that there is more to Christianity than filling a pew and this is how to do that part also. Many don’t know how to practice acts of service, so what better way to show them, but to use time that they have already blocked off for God to do God’s work.


I want to say to Erik, that I apologize if my response seems offensive; please believe that there could be nothing farther from the truth. Part of the universal church’s beauty comes in her diversity of opinions.  I only wish to point out that the Great Commandment (Love God and then Love people) fits well within the Great Commission (preaching, teaching and making disciples). Teaching someone something doesn’t necessarily mean instructing; I learned most of what I know about cars by working on my own in the garage with my father-in-law. Making disciples, means making Disciples of Christ; to be a disciple of Christ means to be a pupil or adherent to what Christ was all about. What better way to be a pupil of Christ but to imitate him. Again, I think logically, it’s a far jump to say that this one event that Saddleback Church is having is going to sway people’s opinions on what the mission of the church is (hundreds of years of intentional debate hasn’t even accomplished this) and furthermore, I can’t see a single reason why we have to separate a traditional faith (that is, tradition oriented) from a practical faith (that is, one that is out there living what you say you believe).

As I said in the beginning of my response, Love over everything.

The Dread

Thursday, October 6, 2011

my reaction to "Love Wins"

So, I just got done reading Rob Bell's book "Love Wins". This is one that i had bought a while back and have really wanted to get to, so a couple days ago, i decided that i wasn't going to put it off any more..

Immediately after reading it, i felt inspired. It was kind of one of those "wow. that was a" The interesting thing is that after reading it, I didn't feel like I had learned a lot of doctrine or that i had been instructed. Instead, I felt like I had been challenged to stop and look again at how i actually act as a Christian.
In the book, Rob poses the question "are we going to believe our story about our lives or God's story about our lives?" I think this is the basic question when thinking about Christian living. it's not about the rules and how good or right about things i can be, but instead it is simply "will I live into the person that God says I am, or will i continue to go on being the best person that i can come up with?"
A challenging question to say the least, but so important when one makes the decission to be a disciple of Christ instead of a "Christian" or "small-town church practicioner" as one Pastor Lyman Bowling has said.
Bell is definately a pastor/preacher before he is a theologan. This is seen throughout the book in the form of his passion for the people. He doesn't write with the condescending tone of one who has it "more figured out" than everyone else and then is dutifully enlightening all of us. Instead, he longs to show people how God is, bottom line, Good and loving and because of that and the fact that he is God, Love wins in the end. Bell shoots to open peoples eyes to the misconcepts they may have held about God and the lie that Jesus saves us from an angry God. I love his words in the last chapter: "Love is what God is, love is why Jesus came, and love is why he continues to come, year after year to person after person." God is a pursuant of us which is why Jesus comes. To hold the distortion that God is the punisher and Jesus is the sympathetic one is just not going to work; because, its not the truth.
Immediately after this book came out, there was a lot of stir about what Rob Bell says about Hell. Francis Chan even went all the way out of his way so as to write a book called "erasing hell" as a reaction to Bell's book. I haven't been able to read all of it yet, but I mention this just to say how big a stir this caused. As you can imagine, then, i was anxious to read that particular chapter. When i got to it, however, I was a little let down in that i didn't find anything I didn't already believe to an extent. Bell definately does not claim a universalist stance; in fact, he affirms that Jesus is indeed the ONLY way, truth and life. I cannot really say too much about the details since he never outright says "here is my personal doctrine on hell". because that was not his intention as a pastor. Instead he adds this chapter in order to affirm that "yes, there is a result when you choose against God's will and God's truth about you. That result is exclusion from experiencing God for eternity.
I especially like his chapter about a real heaven in which it is not the fluffy clouds and white robes. I have recently said "Heaven should not be a goal for a Christian unless Heaven is strictly defined as eternal face-to-face experience with the Creator-Father". I think this falls well in line with what Bell is advocating. When we reduce salvation to a ticket in, we miss the point completely.

I could say much more about the book and all the things i liked about it, but I don't find much point. So, I want to leave you with this: Go get the book and read it. it's like sitting in on an amazing sermon. it convicted my heart to evaluate what i think of myself and if i truly live into what i claim i believe about God. Read the book and be challenged to remember that God is, at a base level, love and that in the end, Love Wins.

The Dread

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nicene Creed: beneficial or counter productive?

           The Nicene Creed as the declarative summation of what Christians believe is helpful but only in that definition. When one starts deciding to define a religion, it necessarily means excluding things that do not fit within that definition. The Creed was successful in affirming Christianity in many different theological topics, such as Christianity as a Trinitarian religion, by claiming that Jesus Christ was the “true God of true God” and then claiming to believe in the Holy Spirit. While this was good in giving the early church something to hold on to while culture pulled at them in different religious directions, it effectively shut out anyone that might have a different idea of what God is like such as those conceding to Arian beliefs. Arianism claims that Christ was a subordinate god to the true God who is uncreated and thus was created as the superior God’s tool to create. Furthermore, it holds that the Holy Spirit is another, even more subordinate god to Christ and the Father-God. This tier of god’s is definitely outside of the Nicene Creed; therefore, those who believed this easy-to-swallow version of what God(s) is/are like were in effect excommunicated from the greater Christian body. It is my opinion that this was useful in the sense of saying “we are our own religion with an exacting God-story that we believe is applicable to our lives and includes us”; this is what all religions essentially claim, so to the effect of better establishing Christianity, the Nicene Creed was beneficial. On the other hand, the exclusiveness of such a document is actually working against what Christ was doing and, indeed, commissioned all his followers to do; that is, love all and spread his message of divine love to the world. Jesus never said “make sure you’re more right than everyone else”, he simply lived into what he believed and taught those that were willing to learn what he is really like. Not that it is a bad thing to hold beliefs as a community; instead, I think it more important that we functionally live out the great commission of Christ and spread his love regardless of the detailed diversity of opinions of the nature of God which we can never fully know anyway.
            For Christians today, this means gracefully accepting that not everyone will have the same opinions and beliefs as us. But beyond that understanding, Christians must be ok with this a priori truth to the extent that they can still love and accept those with differing beliefs. I am reminded of an Aristotle quote: “it is the mark of a learned mind to entertain a thought without accepting it”. I would like to believe that most of humanity has evolved enough in thought processes to be able to consider other people’s beliefs without letting them affect our own until we have decided that it is a sound belief to hold. Honestly, I don’t think that any version of Christianity is 100% correct because we are all prone to fault. I do believe, however that being graceful in dealing with disagreement will be more progress forward in expanding the Kingdom of God than trying our best to make sure that we are more right than everyone else. At a very basic level, we’re all going to place all our chips on one theory or another, so I think it is our responsibility to make the best bet we can and inform those who will listen why we think it’s the best bet, but ultimately, let others cast their own lot.
 please feel free to comment.
The Dread

Monday, August 29, 2011

Act Right

            Paul gives more direction on how to live here in Philippians 2:1-18. Recalling Christ’s attitude, he tells the church in Philippi to live as children of God and to hold firm to the word of life. This is the same instruction that we as the universal church of God need to hear on a daily basis; situation to situation.

            Paul begins chapter two with a series of questions in order to ask the church to do him a favor and be wholeheartedly in agreement with each other in love and working toward the same purpose. He asks them to be like Christ in personality by not seeking self glorification, but exhibiting submission to God even at the cost of one’s own life. He says that by submission to God the father, Christ was elevated to the highest place of honor in heaven and that in the same way, we are to submit in order to gain favor in God’s kingdom. Paul goes on to tell the church in Philippi how important it is that they follow his instructions in working hard to show a change in their lives by obeying God in their lives. He admonishes them to do everything with a good attitude so that Christians don’t gain a bad reputation among non-believers and then tells them to stick closely to Jesus so that when he returns, they can all share in the joy that is to be found at that time.
            This passage is important to Christians as a bare-bones version of how to act. We as followers of Christ are supposed to exhibit the same attitude of servant-hood that Christ demonstrated time and time again throughout his time here on earth. We are also called to be an example of that type of person to the world in how we act so that the world can see that we are different. All too often, Christians look exactly like the secular world in the way that we talk and act in public. Paul recognized this as a long-standing problem with humanity which is why he says that it is important to follow his instructions. In the present day, we can also use this as a reminder that everything we do in front of people is a representation of Christ to them. If we act just as quickly angered and self-gratifying as the rest of the world, we won’t be able to claim Christianity as life changing. If we don’t pour our lives out like an offering to God, we cannot say that we are any different and therefore are not children of God.
            When I read this, I’m personally convicted to examine my life and the image I emit in front of coworkers, family and on the internet via social networking. When people look at my life, do they see Jesus working in me or do they see another religion that is restricting and a cause for avoidance? I think that it is our responsibility and should be our longing to resemble Christ so that no one can criticize Christians as unclean, crooked or perverse. This is what God wants for us and this is how we find favor in his sight.
The Dread

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Instruction for them is instruction for us

 There is a lot of teaching here in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 from Paul to the church in Corinth. Paul covers three main topics in these verses: a statement of why they are doing what they are doing, a point-of-view adjustment for the letter recipients and finally a note on what the church’s role is in this world.
            So, looking at the three sections in pieces, Paul starts this selection with his statement about what his true motives are. He says that it is their (the church and himself) responsibility to work hard and that God will see how sincere their hearts are in searching. He says that if they seem crazy, it’s only to glorify God and not to draw attention to their own actions. Paul then draws a parallel between the Christian life and the life and death of Jesus. He says that since Christ has died for the entire world, they believe that all Christian believers have died to their old lives and are re-defined as living for Christ. This moves into his second section in which he says that, as Christians, we have to look at our lives as new in nature and in purpose. Living with this perspective on life will keep us from evaluating things from a human perspective. He ends chapter five with a section that functions as a replacement identity for the church in Corinth. He basically says that God’s whole point in sending Jesus was to reconcile people to him; in the same way, Christ is sending us to continue the work he started in bringing God and people back together. He says “we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us” (NLT v. 20).
            This passage was extremely important for the church in Corinth as they were dealing with all types of immorality and non-Christian traditions penetrating the church there; as people who were fairly new converts they were slowly losing their mission focus without a solid Christian leader living among them. This passage gave them a point of reference on how they should be assessing ideologies and traditions that were leaking into their church. This portion of Paul’s letter also gave them a sense of purpose and belonging in that he gives them the title of “Ambassadors for God”; they are the one’s pleading with people to come back to God through accepting Jesus and what he did to bridge the gap between man and God.
            This message is just as applicable in our lives as it was to the church in Corinth. We all too often as materialistic, western Christians forget that evangelism and calling people back to God is a central mission accepted by us when we accepted Christ and that in deciding to become disciples, we are also deciding to make disciples. It is all too easy in this age of communication and technology to forget that we are dead to our materialistic selves and our identity is now in Christ as the continuation of his message of love. Paul also gives a word about directing glory to God and not bragging about how spectacular our ministry is, but rather having a sincere heart for lost people. This charge for this ancient church is the same charge for our church.
            My reaction to this passage was that of a student listening to a teacher. Paul writes in such a direct way (this being a letter) that everything he says is instruction for my life. All we have to do is place his instruction in current day terms and settings which, strangely, is similar to the sinfulness of the church of Corinth. I know I can learn something from Paul and I think that any Christian can also grow by applying Paul’s instruction based on its validity and not on his reputation.
The Dread

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Universal Salvatory Love

In Romans 3:9-20, we see a summation of what the Mosaic Law is now good for under the new covenant of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to the world to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it and make it whole. Therefore, the law is not purposeless after his incarnation, but rather serves a new purpose for believers in Christ.
            The passage starts with a question: are Jews any better than Gentiles? Now, up until Christ’s ministry, the Jews looked down on any Gentile as one who is not of God’s chosen people; because of this prejudice, any Jew hearing this question would immediately say “yes, we are better than Gentile’s, because  we are of God’s chosen people”. In answer to his own posed question, Paul blows their legalistic minds with a radical, Christ-like answer of “No, not at all” (verse 9, NLT). He then goes on to quote a handful of different scriptures from Psalms that all have the general theme that every member of mankind is fallen and sinful. Continuing, he says that the law that was set up by Moses is no longer in place to regulate that sin nor is it there to determine the punishment of sins that everyone is prone to. Instead, the laws are there to reveal to us as humans our great fault and our intense need for a savior. He ends the section in verse 20 by saying that no one can get back on God’s good side by simply following the law; he then sums it up once more with a statement that the law is just a mirror for us to view our faults in.
            This passage is extremely important to the universality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The mark of Christianity, as Jesus set it up, was to be inclusive of every human in the world by way of a common love for God. This universal love is what distinguishes Christianity from every other religion; it is not bound by geographical location or by human blood lines, but it is accepting of anyone and, indeed, everyone. That universality must include the Jews, but the rub here is in that they have worked their entire society and lifestyle around the Mosaic Law. This passage is here to show that Jesus did not come to negate their way of living (in all actuality, Jesus was a pious Jew). Instead, the law can be kept in place and abided by as long as it is regarded only as a tool for self reflection and not the way of salvation in itself.
            This is applicable to our current lives in that we as western Christians tend to get legalistic and exclusive just like the Jews in the times surrounding Jesus’ life. We are bias of newcomers to our churches and we tend to be kind of stuck up. In effect, we are doing what the Pharisees did and using the “rules” that we make up for ourselves to exclude people from the Kingdom of God. Instead, we should take the advice of Paul here and use the righteous lifestyle that was modeled by Jesus as a mirror in which to soberly examine ourselves to gage where we are in becoming more Christ-like.
            My personal reaction to this passage was a burst of excitement. I feel like I belong to a church that really has this concept down and I know from experience that this, unfortunately, is a rarity. In the future, I hope to be in full time ministry of some type and I expect to lean on this verse to keep myself in check when I start feeling “holier than thou”.

The Dread

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mercy from a mortal

            Here in Acts 7 we get an abbreviated history of the Israeli people dictated by the apostle Stephan in front of the council of high priests. Though they all know their own people’s history, Stephan lays this out for them so that they can see the big picture mistake they have made.
            The scripture starts out with Stephan being asked if the accusations of blaspheme brought against him were true. Instead of answering yes or no, Stephan begins with his narrative of the history of God’s formerly chosen people. He begins with Abraham since he is acknowledged by these people as the beginning of their blood line and the one whom God made a promise to. He then progresses through the story of Joseph thus explaining how the Hebrew nation ended up in Egypt. Next he works through the well-known story of Moses and the great exodus on to the reception of the Ten Commandments and the wilderness period of the nation. He tapers off his monologue with King David and then his son Solomon building the temple of God and then has a magnificent finale in accusing the Jewish high council of making the same mistakes that their ancestors had made in the persecution of God’s prophets and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact, and possibly due to the fact that Stephan has set up his final accusation in an undeniable manner by laying out their ancestors faults, the council is infuriated. Here Stephan seems to know what is coming next and that they will definitely kill him. He looks up to heaven in an almost movie-like scene and witnesses Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father and submits himself to the stoning that ensues. Like Jesus, however, his last words are in mercy for his murderers and not in anger or cursing.
            This passage is important because it shows us how we as Christian disciples can find the strength to be bold in the face of opposition. This seems kind of an extreme case, but that just goes to show how much more we can be bold in the face of only receiving a status of unpopularity. It also shows how a mere man—Stephan—can find it in himself to be unabashedly merciful as Jesus was, thus giving current Christians hope that we too can find that kind of expression of grace when people persecute us for our beliefs.
            This scripture is applicable for those Christians who may not have been Christ followers their whole lives and may not be able to piece together all of the famous Bible stories such as Joseph and the colorful coat or Moses and the red sea into one cohesive story.  It is important to know the history of the Israelite nation in order to understand why they had such a hard time accepting Jesus as the Christ and why they continue to do so today. Also, as previously stated, current day Christians can draw strength from Stephan’s example of sacrifice regardless of his mere mortal nature.
            My reaction to this scripture is one of awe at the amazing reward that Stephan receives in doing the will of God by accusing the council. His reward is to see Jesus in heaven and then to be brought there to be with him. This sounds morbid, but it is truly the longing of every Christian’s heart to be with Christ in heaven. Stephan was bold and obedient and received that which was rightfully his: eternity with Christ.

The Dread

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Love each other as i have loved you"

            John 17:20-26 is a very brief section of scripture, but a very potent excerpt. In these six verses, we get a glimpse of Jesus’ love for us as believers as well as the Father’s longing to be in relationship with us.
            This passage is simply a prayer that Jesus prays for us; that is, future believers. He makes this absolutely clear when he says in verse one “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me…” (NLT). Jesus, speaking to God the Father, prays that his followers in the future will be able to experience God how he does. Four times in the passage, he makes statements of the permeation of God in himself and vice versa and how he longs that we experience such perfect unity so that the world can know that God loves us. He then marvels at God’s timeless love and how it was before the world began. In his prayer, he continually longs for his disciples to be united the same way that God and himself are united; without conflict, division or strife; only love abounds and no separation. He ends the section by setting himself as the medium between humanity and God and commits to the continuation of this relationship, committing to communicate God’s love through him into us.
            This passage is important to us as Christians in two ways. First, it is confirmation of our standing in respect to God and Jesus. After knowing this prayer was said to God from Jesus, we don’t have to question either of their love. Secondly, we now know that Jesus desires us to follow the relationship template that God and him have set; that all of his followers should love each other and be united in the same way that he and the Father are united. Through this prayer we gain instruction as well as comfort.
            We can apply this instruction when we find ourselves in conflict with a fellow believer. I know that church politics are some of the ugliest arenas to wrestle in, but it is in these struggles we must remember that it is Jesus’ desire that we be unified with each other in love. We can also use this passage in the moments when we feel forgotten by Jesus as we all feel in times of trouble. Jesus thought of us before we were ever believers. He had confidence that his disciples would carry his story on and that you and I would one day hear it and believe. This is a comfort that only the human race can claim and I think that is something special.
            My reaction to this scripture was awe at Jesus remembering me and then a great burden to survey the relationships I hold with other believers. I feel challenged to right any dissension in my life and simply try to be unified in love with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We can do this on any given day with any given person and we shouldn't hesitate to do so.

The Dread

Thursday, July 7, 2011

dealing with temptation

            Here in Luke 4:1-13, we read the classic story of Jesus’ temptation in the dessert after his baptism. Luke writes that the Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness and then sustains him there for forty days while he didn’t eat anything.
            So, in setting up the scene, we just get done seeing Jesus baptized and the Holy Spirit descending on him. The story picks up in verse one as Jesus heads away from the Jordan River and into the wilderness by the direction of the Holy Spirit which has just come upon him. Luke jumps right into the meat of the action as Satan appears to Jesus in his hunger and tries to convince him to change a stone into a loaf of bread. Jesus, despite his hunger, says no and cites Old Testament scripture that speaks about the Israelites wandering in the dessert after their exodus from Egypt. In the scripture cited, the author is talking about how God sustained the Israelites by his own power and not by physical bread; this is what Jesus intends to do in his wilderness experience. Satan then tries to tempt Jesus’ humanity with power and respect, offering him all the kingdoms of the world and says “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them…because they are mine to give…if you will worship me.” (v.6-7). Jesus does not refute Satan’s claim of ownership, but instead cites another verse in Deuteronomy prohibiting the worship of any other gods for fear of the true God wiping the blasphemer from the face of the Earth. Lastly, Satan does something drastic and takes Jesus to the highest point of the Temple and dares him to jump and then uses Psalms 91 out of context and says that God will send angels to save him if he jumps. Jesus once again turns to Deuteronomy where it says “you must not test the Lord your God” (v. 12). This verse in the Old Testament refers to the Israelites complaining about their affliction at Massah. The devil then leaves Jesus.
            In this passage we gain several lessons from Jesus in how to deal with extreme temptation making this scripture extremely important for our Christian day-to-day life. First we see how Jesus, even under extreme circumstances, holds his faith in God and obedience to scripture above his own desires. Jesus was every bit as much human as any of us; because of this, his hunger was real, his desire for power and recognition was real and his longing to be glorified was real. He abstains from food so as not to negate the reason he is out in the wilderness by selfishly abusing his supreme power. He then refuses to take the glory of a king above all earthly kings, regardless of how appealing that is to his ego, because the price is too high; namely, worshiping someone other than the true God. In Satan’s last recorded attempt at thwarting Jesus’ righteousness, he dares him to test to see if God is really there. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Jesus reveals it for the sin that it is. God demands faith and obedience from us and Jesus points that out by citing the verse prohibiting testing God’s faithfulness. This passage also gives us other small insights such as Satan’s ownership of the kingdoms of the world, but the overarching theme in this story is Jesus demonstrating resistance to temptation by way of following the scriptures and staying loyal to God.

            We can apply this to our lives as a template for acting under the pressure of temptation. Jesus leaned on scripture for a route to take when his own flesh told him to do what was wrong. In the same way, when we’re under pressure to do the questionable, we can turn to scripture for black and white direction. As humans, we don’t think clearly when we’re in pressurized situations so we need those instructions in order to stay faithful to God.

            As I read this scripture, I am caught up in the supernatural situations such as Satan showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in an instant and Satan zipping Jesus to the top of the Temple which was far from where he was. To me this gives testament to Satan’s power, but also the power of scripture in refuting the illusions of temptation. Sin only has as much power as we allow and Jesus shows us by his actions that, with scripture in hand, head and heart, we don’t have to give sin any power.

Friday, July 1, 2011

be a Mirror not a Blanket

I've wrestled with this topic in the past and it reminds me of a science class i had that explained how light particles work. the short version is this: if they hit a mirror, they will bounce and head somewhere else, but if they hit a fabric, they get absorbed. As Christians, it is our job to be mirrors, not fabric for the light of Christ.

            Here in Mark 10:35-45, we get to catch a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is like in a negative sense. Jesus takes the time to explain to his bumbling companions how unlike a man-run world God’s kingdom is.
            At the beginning of this passage, Jesus is approached by James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They pose a seemingly innocent request with huge implications. They ask Jesus to save them a seat in God’s kingdom on his right and his left for them. This seems a little audacious to me as well as to the other disciples when they heard this in verse 41. Jesus, however, receives their request gracefully as a parent receives the request of a 5 year old to drive the family car. He acknowledges their ignorance and says “you don’t know what you’re asking. Are you willing to do what I have to do?” Now, Jesus knew what “cup” it was he was going to have to drink and that it would be supernaturally difficult, but the brothers had no idea, so naturally, they emphatically said “yes!” Jesus seems to consider here in verse 39 because he then says “you will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering.” I’m guessing he is referring to the persecution they would endure after his resurrection and ascension.  Finally, Jesus explains that in the Kingdom of God, it is to be different. That, if one wants to be the first among his brothers, he must assume the role of a servant because that is actually what Jesus did when he came to earth. I think all Christians will agree that Jesus is, in every way, number one in God’s kingdom and he did in fact do the most slavish thing: death for the sins of the unworthy world.
            This passage is important to Christian discipleship because it is the core of how Christians are to interact with our world. With non-believers, we are called upon to be servants to people who don’t deserve it and probably won’t acknowledge the sacrifice we might have to make for their benefit. It is our job to become servants in this physical life and by doing such, become greater in the Kingdom of God. This passage also speaks on how we are to interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus knew the other disciples were indignant because of James and John’s request so he acted quickly to cut off any dissention among his followers. He shows them that the goal isn’t to become the greatest by men’s standard, but to strive to be greater by God’s standard by way of becoming lowly by men’s standard. He basically says that it’s not worth arguing and fighting among yourselves for the top spot because the only way you’ll get that top spot is by assuming the lowest spot in your day to day lives.
            While this seems absolutely against our nature, Jesus’ lesson here applies directly to our lives. So many times we want to out-shine others at our work places, schools and in our social arenas by making ourselves look better; by trying to take that “right hand seat”.  Nevertheless, Jesus says that if you really want to be great in the eyes of the one person that ultimately matters, you have got to put yourself last in your social life. Servant-hood is not something that comes naturally to humans. We are hard wired for survival and getting an edge on everyone around us. Even the most passive people I know have some facet of their life that they are secretly competitive in. It’s in our human, sin-nature. But God calls his followers to act in their new, redeemed nature and let go of our fleshly yearning for glory and instead submit ourselves to others in order to gain true glory through being more like Jesus.
            My initial reaction to this passage was indignation along with the other disciples, but the more I mulled it over, the more I identified areas in my life that I try to outshine others for selfish reasons. This scripture is definitely a daily challenge to me to remain humble and check the reasons I do what I do at work, with my family and in my social life. God can only be glorified through us if we’re not taking the glory for ourselves.

The Dread

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matthew 20:1-16

ok, so i have to analyse some scripture for a class i'm taking and i thought it would be good fodder to share. enjoy!
            Looking here at Matthew 20:1-16 shows us a strange parable told by Jesus about a vineyard owner and a day of service under him. This passage is a metaphor for how God works and what is within his rights as God above all.
            The parable goes something along the lines of this: There is this vineyard owner who hires his help by the day. One morning he sets out to find workers for the day and finds some in the city. He tells them that he’ll pay a full day’s wages to come work for the whole day. They agree and go to work. 3 more times, noon, three o’clock and five o’clock, the owner does the same thing and tells them that he will pay them whatever is appropriate at the end of the day. When the day’s work is over, all the workers are called by the foreman to be paid. The owner pays the last-hired workers first and gives them a full day’s pay. He then works his way toward the men who were hired first. Against logic, however, he only pays them one days worth of pay (the same as the guys who probably only worked a few hours). Naturally, they start complaining, but the owner rebukes them and says “Isn’t it my money to pay out how I see fit? What do you care if I want to be super nice to others? I paid you what I said I would.”
            This passage is extremely important because it gives us, as followers of the Judeo-Christian God, some insight on how he operates his “vineyard” that we live and work in. Basically it tells that God is all-powerful and that everything belongs to him to do with as he pleases. Therefore, we should not be envious or feel indignant when we have worked harder than others but receive a smaller blessing than they receive. Every breath we take is a blessing and for that alone, God is doing more than he is obligated to do, so we should be content that he is holding up his end of the bargain toward us.
            This parable helps people cope in the times in life when things get hard. It reminds us to remain humble and grateful for what we have. As Americans, we tend to get spoiled and somewhere along the line, we pick up this idea that we’re owed something by someone. This is simply untrue as God is the only one deserving of anything and we are extravagantly and obscenely blessed here in America. I know I can apply this parable to my life when looking at the success of friends and coworkers and learn from it to just be happy for God’s favor on their life because they are no more and no less deserving than me.
            Upon first reading this scripture (though I’ve heard it many times), I immediately started trying to assign meaning to every character. Vineyard owner is God, foreman is Jesus when he returns and workers are God’s followers. But then I stopped myself and thought “though some of these meanings may be true, what is the point of this scripture?” Truly, I think that the point behind the parable is gratitude and humility. This is what we as readers and believers should take from this scripture.
Thanks for reading!
Peace, The Dread

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Not everyone alive is living

ok, so i know you probably read this title and instantly thought "ya, i can agree with that". This is exactly why i've decided to write a blog about this topic.

we hear in pop culture all the time from every one; actor interviews, movie themes and pop songs are all obliged to put this idea out there, but i'm curious as to what message exactly they are putting out. See, secular world views like to say that most people who are alive are not living "the life." this is usually in referance to the money and fame, or in some cases the promescuity of being able to "have" (for lack of a better term) any person that one might desire whether that be romantically, sexually, or for any onther exploitation. see this view holds simply that being fully alive and living the life all consist of finding the utmost comfort, excitement or extravagence in the world. Now i know, self-righteously, we'd all like to say "thats not me. wow, those people are horrible", but don't we all do this on some level or another? i mean, growing up in our consumer driven, self-gratifying North American culture, we are simply conditioned from a very young age to seek what it is that we want to be happy. I'll be the first to say that i struggled with this for a long time and in the process hurt many people who didn't deserve it. there was a time in my life that i would have done just about anything to get famous in music. Thankfully, i never got the opportunity to start down that road because i think that i would have ended up a worse mess than i did. Money, fame and sex will be fun for a season, but cannot fullfill which is exactly why we see so many "has-beens" in culture end up in rehab, VH1 and several other life-wreck collection plates.
From a Christian perspective, it is a much brighter long term picture. This is due to the completely different basis for understanding happiness. Happiness is a passing emotion that is great, however not sustaining and can not compare to joy which is a lasting, sustaining life theme. Love in this sense is not the fleeting sex scandals, nor the over-romanticised excursions between a lead actor and his supporting lady who end up divorced in a month. it is real, raw love that is so un-bridled, it calls for sacrafice and hurt and grinding out the problems issues and mess until the end. it goes without saying that i still believe in the institution of marriage though most of our culture seems to given up on that idea. Christianity speaks to that longing for money and fame, but responds with two things: 1. Jehovah Jirah and 2. humility. as far as money goes, we are called to rely on God to be our provider. now THAT is a rush if i've ever had one: wondering how we're gonna make this month's bills happen and then getting to the end of the month and seeing that you have a little left over. God will always provide for his children. and then humility as a calling card for the christian life. this doesn't seek to glorify self, but to lift up others in community. God blesses that, because it is imitation of his son, Jesus. Christ calls us to live life abundantly, but this doesn't mean getting caught in the ebb and flow of pop culture's mission for comfort. this means being truely counter-culture and seeking the joy of living in humility and life in God's perfect will where he is your provider. we are called to love God and love his creation, specifically, people. If you really want fullfillment and lasting comfort, than be a dare devil, live on the edge and be radically different from pop culture by living the christian life.

the dread

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is love? or rather, How is love?

Hello all! I just wanted to share a little bit about the thoughts i've had this week.

This week is what is called "Builders in Ministry" week at my college (Southwestern College). Some of the lecture topics were Christ-led leadership, organizational leadership and many other themes aimed at...well, Builders in ministry. This really has gotten my brain ticking on what it means to be called into ministry as i feel i am and where does it leave me in the grand scheme of things.

First, what does it mean to be "called". I feel like the word "called" is a nice churchy term we come up with to say something extremely personal and profound that most people don't think about. That is, it is not hearing an audible voice and, no, my cell didn't ring. God didn't get on the nations fastest network and shoot me a text. To be called is to feel a distinct, unquestionable impression from The Holy Spirit as to what it is i am to use my gifts and talents for in ministry (because we're all called into ministry of one type or another). So when i sit back and evaluate those things in my life, i come up with a picture of what it is that God has blessed me with.
I want to be slightly more specific than the obvious things like living in America and attending a private Christian College and having a family and a roof over my head, food on my table and means of transportation. I want to talk about the gifts and talents that i have.
In an effort to not sound conciented, however, i will stay kinda vague...if that makes sense....specifically vague. I have done music all my life and i really feel like God has given me an unexplainable love for people. Now while these two things might be a red flag for anyone looking in on the outside (hey, you pastoral tendencies) for me, that was just not an option.
I have found when you are moderately good at anything at all, it is easy to try and steal the glory. I like how i said it in conversation with my wife: "God calls us to be mirrors of his glory; reflecting his love to the world and the peoples praise back at God as opposed to being fabric that absorbs light and only reflects a color based on its make up." this is what true christianity is. being Jesus to the world by following what he called the two greatest commandments: Love God and Love People.

i've picked up from the discussions this week that people want leaders and this world is in a sorry lack of them. Shouldn't we as the church be the ones to go out and do just that? Love on People. Now you may say "Dread, man, i just can't do that. i mean, you haven't met my co-workers!" and truely you are right: you (and i) DO NOT possess the power within ourselves to love on the unloveable which is why the first commandment has to happen before the second. One has no other option but to love God in order to discover what it is like to love someone who is absolutly unworthy of love. Namely, ourselves. Only after knowing this kind of love can one, in turn, love those that hate us. This is no small feat, but if we can start pulling the layers of fabric that cover the mirrors of our lives off, we will learn better how to reflect the love of our God.

Well, i don't feel like i went where i wanted with this, but i feel like i said what i needed to. have a great day! Love God, Love people.

The Dread

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thaaaa Music!!!!

Ok, so i'm hi-jacking a practice room here at Southwestern College in order to write this blog which is appropriate due to the topic of this blog.
So i wanna start by sharing a little bit about me and my musical history if you will. Growing up, my dad was a member of a Tejano band..if you don't know what that is, its that mexican music you here bangin out of the trunks of 40-something year old mexicans everywhere haha..aaaanyway, this was a bizarre way to really be introduced to music since it has very little in common with what we know music as now. The other of my earliest music influences was white, protestant "contemporary" (whatever that means) Christian music. Now i appreciate both of these beginnings because, from the start, i've had an increadable diverse music background. As i went through school, i started playing drums in 5th grade and from there got exposed to traditional orchestral/band music as well as jazz and all of its cousin's.
All this said to give you an idea of how much music has been a part of my life...and now, i miss it.
i don't miss it like i never hear music anymore, but like i just don't have the time to do it as much as i wish i could. on top of that, when i do find those moments (like now for instance) i don't have anyone to jam with.
Then, i thought "how does this translate into my spiritual life?" I suppose we are, to an extent, God's music and he misses us. but we can't place the blame on him for not having time to engage..we can only look at ourselves as the ever-elusive music that God wants back. i don't know about you, but for me, when i hear amazing music, i am just blessed and i think when God hears from us, it just completly blesses his heart. so this blog doesn't have an insanely revalatory point, it is merely a note to say "Be that music!" This is how i plan on coping with my limited music time in my life. I simply choose to be God's music at every chance i get and play the ultimate jam with my life in order to glorify God. i encourage you to do the same.

The Dread

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Loneliness of Busy

Have you ever just felt like life is just an on-going movie and someone lost the pause button? I've been thinking about this..well, not this specific analogy, but just how rushed i feel sometimes. Maybe it's just the time in my life that i'm in, or maybe its the demands i place on myself, but i found that for all the things i have on my plate (i.e. school, work, family, band commitments etc..) i find myself occasionally lonely. now this isn't the type of lonely thats like "no one loves me and my  name is Eeyor" this kind of lonely is the type that just hangs out in the background and makes me wish life were simpler.
I have to admit that that most, if not all, of the commitments and time demands i have are completely self-inflicted, however i wonder how i got like this.
As far back as i can remember i've always been the type of person to just stay  busy. In school i did band (drumline on top of that, which usually was more involved), choir, school plays, forensics/debate...and the list could go on and on. In college i had/have a child so i'm constantly balancing family time with school and the ever-important work. I think (and i doubt any red-blooded American would argue with) that America as a whole is so caught up in staying busy that no one looks up from what they're doing to realise that we've lost something.
Now you may be looking around the room. "i think i have my cell phone, car keys, wallet...nope! haven't lost anything". This isn't exactly what i mean. i think God intended us to have "quiet time"; a concept that seems to have disappeared shortly after pre-school. in Mathew 4 as well as several other places (garden of gathseminy and others) in the Bible, Jesus himself found it important to get away from the hectic, noisy crowed to seek solitude and quiet. Now if Jesus felt the need to get away back then when people weren't baraged with a storm of media, expectations and...well, busieness (sp?)...then, i think it's safe to say that today it is all the more important.
Jesus did this not just to have some quiet but to hear from God..his father..our father. This is something i really struggle with and as of late have been trying to do better at. you see, we are so good at doing what is known as "prayers of petition"...we ask God for things all the time (dang, lost my keys again...) this turns the creater of the universe into nothing more than (to borrow the phrase from a book i read) a cosmic vending machine; there to give you whatever you want when you want it as long as you use the right currancy (right prayer, if you will.) I believe in God wanting an authentic relationship with you and I. this means a 2 way street; he wants to hear, but he also wants to talk to us. I've personally taken upon myself as a challenge to try and spend sometime in prayer simply listening to God and i have to say its been an experience that i'd recomend to anyone and everyone. My personal struggle is not in finding the time to be quiet, but in simply letting the quiet BE quiet and accepting the fellowship with God and the self discovery therein.
To conclude, i would just say that if you're reading this, you obviously have a little time on your hands. why not let that time be used up by the one who created you in an authentic, 2-way conversation of love? and if you don't have the time right now, i'd seriously recomend finding that pause button in order to find the most fullfilling fellowship out there. more than family, more than friends. Find God.

The Dread