Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tattoos on the Temple of God

So the question of my wife getting tattooed has came up recently in our house which has lead us to some interesting questions.

Lev. 19:28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (NIV)
Pretty straightforward, no? The trouble is, and one I have wrote about before, is context.  It is so easy for us to take verses of the Bible to beat people over the head with because they are doing something that for some reason doesn't fit with what we feel is proper.  The quote from Leviticus, in context, has more to do with protecting early Hebrews from pagan worship than it does from the temptation of getting a tattoo.  The risk, then, is a matter of legalism.  It is very easy for us to get caught up in Law because it is, well, easy.  We don't have to think or to take chances.  There is a right and a wrong, good and evil, Law and Lawlessness.  But for anyone who has any life experience at all, we know that things aren't that easy, even if we wish they were.  Looking forward to Christ, his teaching was hard to bear, but simple and elegant.  Legalism does more harm than good ans he stripped away tradition and codification and left us with some really simple commands.

Luke 10 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
For some reason this isn't good enough for us, though.  I think our masochistic nature doesn't want it to be this easy.  Trust me, it isn't.  Trying to make the right decisions and walk in the steps of Christ without an absolute, black-and-white law is hard.  You have to try and approach every situation with God in mind.  What does His love mean in this situation?  How should I apply myself to be the light that shines in the darkness.  Attacking people for art on their skin isn't going to bring them to God.  It will alienate them, and as I have asked before, who does that serve?

Now what does this all say about Tattoos?  It says that each person much take each situation and analyze it. You have to ask yourself questions.  Speak to your elders about it.  Get as much information as you can before you decide and if you do go through with it then get something that will do God's creation justice.  I don't follow the line of thinking that a tattoo will mar God's temple if it is done right.  No one in their right mind would consider Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel as a defilement to a house of God, so why does the thought of beautiful art on the body defile it for God?  Again I think it is an artifact of Puritanism that just doesn't serve anyone today and ultimately can push the very people who need to be saved farther away from God.

If you would like to read a little further into the subject, why not start over at Religious Tattoos.  It is a Catholic site, but I think he does nicely quoting from Scripture and showing there is more to the argument than a simple yes or no.  He doesn't claim any authority, other than as a guy "who loves Christ and Tattoos", but then, neither do I.  When in doubt, error on the side of Grace!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Despair Not, Live and be with God.

To my brother's and sister's of Christ: Joe reminded me tonight that the world changes, things move on and in no way is our ability to impact it diminished. Though we don't have to accept the influence of culture, we also can't impact it in a positive way but clinging to a past that is gone. Tomorrow hold your heads high and live the life that Jesus wanted you to. Be a positive and glowing influence without hate or judgement and give grace to those who need it. With the votes today people will still be broken and in pain tomorrow. I know I am no saint but I am still wrong to condemn, though it is so tempting to do so. By hardening ourselves and hiding in the past we will only turn people away from God, and who does that serve? "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:16)

Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

He waxes desperate with imagination.
Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
Have after. To what issue will this come?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.
Nay, let's follow him.

This exchange between Horatio and Marcellus comes from one of the most well known pieces of literature of all time, Shakespeare's Hamlet. 

My last post regarded a single word and it's origin which is of extreme import to Christians and how it's meaning can shift from the original intent.  When pen met paper for the writing of the various books of the Bible I don't think that communion was really ever intended to be Communion.  Perhaps the connotation is subtle, but I think it exists, none the less. 

Today I want to explore a phrase to illustrate that absolute translation has very real risks.  In the above quote, line four reads Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  Now, I think it safe to be said that few of our modern contemporaries wouldn't understand that this is taken to mean a situation of problems of corruption and dictionary.com supports that hypothesis.  However, lets lay our knowledge of English idioms aside and look at this phrase.  Denmark, there is a problem in that country.  Something is foul and if you look at the next line heaven will direct it, then you even get a powerful force behind it.  Now lets assume that a people hundreds or thousands of years from now recovered a fragment of text including just those two lines.  (Yes I know this isn't likely because of how books are printed today, but bear with me.) Wouldn't it stand to reason a populace trying to find themselves could interpret that as a sign that Denmark is directed to be evil from an edict of God?  How easy would it be to rationalize this statement anyway you wanted to in order to hate someone?

The trouble with translating literature is trying to balance the what the text says and what the text means.  Our Bible isn't immune to that either, even though many would try to have you believe that it is.  When you try to get into absolute translation looking to pick out some "truth" that supports whatever you are trying to peddle for faith then you lose the fact that you are reading the Voice of God.  A huge part of reading the Bible is the effort to surrender to listen.  God will direct understanding when we are ready.  Don't force it, enjoy it.  Make it your time to commune with God and enjoy His presence.  If you had to ask me, the Bible isn't a book to be read, it is a book to be conversed with.  Now quit reading my random drivel and start talking with your Bible.  See what happens, I bet you will be surprised.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What's a Word to Do? (Communion)

Keep in mind I am no language expert but I have been poking around with the etymology of the word "communion."  One the biggest issues with translation is that thoughts can't necessarily be easily converted to one language from another.  I think that people who advocate word-for-word translations get lost in trying to find the "Truth" and generally miss the underlying significance of what they are reading.  Of course, conversely, when you translate something thought for thought you tend to get the bias of the translator.  It really makes translating the Bible a slippery slope.

The best scholarly scenario for us would be to learn all of the ancient languages, intimately, that the Bible is written in and try to read from the earliest texts we can.  I don't know about you, but the chances of me accomplishing that feat is nearly nil and even if I did I am learning dead languages through a lens of modern research and I could never hope to fully understand the original idioms that make a language what it is.  Instead I enjoy picking apart certain words from time to time and trying to understand their full context.

  1. an act or instance of sharing
  2. (capitalized) : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ
  3. the act of receiving Communion
  4. (capitalized) the part of a Communion service in which the sacrament is received intimate fellowship or rapport : communication
  5. a body of Christians having a common faith and discipline *the Anglican communion*
Four out of the five of the definitions on Merriam-Webster regard Christ in some form.  That is, to an extent, my point in all of this.  That isn't the origin of the word.  The origin, also from Merriam-Webster is this:

Middle English, from Latin communion-, communio mutual participation, from communisFirst Known Use: 14th century
We can also find this from the Online Etymology Dictionary which lists the venerable Oxford Dictionary as a primary source:
late 14c., from O.Fr. comunion "community, communion" (12c.), from L. communionem (nom. communio) "fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing," used in L.L. ecclesiastical language for "participation in the sacrament," from communis (see common). Used by Augustine, in belief that the word was derived from com- "with, together" + unus "oneness, union."
Mutual "participation", "sharing", "common?"  Are these the words you tend to think of when you hear the word communion?  How about Koinonia, a Greek word?
1: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse      A: the share which one has in anything, participation      B: intercourse, fellowship, intimacy         1: the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic    office)      C: a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship
Now given that the Greek New Testament has something like 20 instances of this word which roots to basically the same thing, it gives you the impression that our Communion should be something larger and smaller, all at the same time.  It isn't just an act, but an invitation to to be in the presence of God but it also more worldly than that.  Communion should be our time to fellowship with our brothers and sisters of Christ.  It is our time to invite the Lord into our presence so that he can be with us while we are with each other.  Give this some thought, take it to your small groups and encourage others to try and expand their joy with being together.  God Bless!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Finally Caught Him

   Do any of you remember this scene from Loony Tunes?  After a series of running through pipes that shrunk both the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote and then made the Road Runner full size again we get blessed with this.  How many of you, at least those who weren't born and raised with faith, feel this way now? I know that I do.  For the first time in my life I have this powerful guiding force and purpose but where do I go from here?  I've accepted Christ, I've found God and yet I'm overwhelmed with the opportunities that it has opened for me.  I know that I was given this gift to write and I'm supposed to use it.  However, I also know that I am called to college age people who are lost.  One of these days I'll find a good way to reach out to them but for the time being I will do what I can with those that I know.  Maybe that is God's way to practice for what is to come!  I want you all to sit and think, maybe just for five minutes, about God's calling for you.  What can you do to help bring light into the darkness and give the gift of God's grace to other people.  Pray, meditate, then let God speak and guide you to the next step of your journey.  Remember, kindness and compassion, that will speak more to people that preaching and condemnation.  Good luck!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who Can Shepherd, When it is We Who Are the Lost Sheep?

   Today I had the opportunity to experience a sermon that affect other people more than it did me.  The message was simple, but it is kind of hard to restate.  For me, it was about understanding your gifts and giving them to God.  For others, it was obviously far more than that.  What it did say to me, however, is that my gift is my ministry here and I don't think I've always given it the attention and the grace it needs.
   It is hard, especially in the this day and age, to see the silver lining in everything.  That is one of the things that I fail at most of all.  If I don't watch myself I end up very pessimistic, to the point where I start alienating people.  The news is full of examples of Christians with influence that are doing as much, if not more, harm than good.  Of course, that is just another symptom of our lost and corrupt news media, but it is still enough to taint my perception of my faith.  How do we fix it?  I honestly don't know for sure.  I suppose being conscious of what we do and striving to walk in the tolerance and grace filled footsteps of our Savior.  Thank you to everyone who is still with me despite my failings and thank you to everyone who sticks with in the future, even though I will fail and fail again.  The only advice I have for you today is go out and be kind to others.  Make relationships with people that are so healthy and gentle to make other people jealous.  Show the world through your actions what it really means to follow Christ.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Calling all!

   Hey everyone!  I am sorry it has been over a month since I last posted on here but a new addition to the family can do that to you.  I've had some people tell me, lately, that they are looking for a post so I will try and get this wagon rolling again!

   I try to keep up on the debates and going on in the Christian community so I have more to write about and I see a lot of people using the Bible as a weapon.  To me this just feels wrong.  When I read the Scripture God I learn something from it.  Lessons on how to live, how to love, how to be a better father, how to be a better husband and so on.  Yes, I read the passages where certain groups of people are marginalized but they tend to not stick with me.  In 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV) we read Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Those are the passages that strike me. When I was called to God I knew that I was destined to connect with people who find the barrier to the church insurmountable. I was brought to faith to bring people in who are hopelessly lost but in doing so I have pushed up against a wall of conservatism that criticizes me. I am aware my soul is in jeopardy because I have chosen to dine with the "sinners and tax collectors" but if I am truly to walk in the footsteps of the savior isn't that what I must do? I welcome anyone to come talk to me. Come to church with me. Experience God's love with me. Everyone sins, including me, but that shouldn't preclude us from the Church. Once you get there then it is up to you to struggle with your sins. They are between you and God. We are all here to give advice but we are all flawed. Our minds can't grasp the wholeness of our Lord and therefore only you can ask him if the path you are on is correct. I invite you to come with me and see that not all Churches are like the ones that have hurt you in the past. You might be surprised what you find.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Real Truth


 Oh Biblical inerrancy, how you have distorted your followers.  The Church has reveled in ignorance for far too long.  I have seen attacks on intellectuals and those who are educated, and it is a shame.  Let's face it, not everything in the Bible is accurate.  I'm sorry but it is true.  The world isn't 6,000 years old.  There was never a flood that wiped out mankind.  Those are myths that are taken from other cultures and even earlier religions.  The flood, for example was in The Tale of Gilgamesh which dates to somewhere around the 10th to the 13th century BC which would make it roughly contemporary to the likely time of Moses.  It stands to reason that things change and translations become lost.  When we take the Bible as a literal tool we start to lose sight of what it actually says.  It is kind of a "can't see the forest for the trees" mentality.  Somewhere we have lost sight of the message of love and acceptance in this quest for righteousness.  I suppose it is to be expected since it deals with some of our most prime emotions, but the Bible is all about transcending those emotions, not letting them rule you.  I have been in an embroiled debate lately about Jesus and whether or not he could have sinned. It is obvious that he sinned against the Jewish leadership of the time, hence the crucifixion, but did he commit what we now would call a sin?  I think we tend to forget that Christ wasn't a Christian.  I know it is hard to really accept that for some people.  Jesus, or Yeshua, was a Jew.  He taught a simpler form of Judaism that was taught by the Jewish Elite at that time.  Much like Martin Luther, he didn't want to form a new faith, he wanted to fix the one that was already there!  Unfortunately, sometimes things have to be changed to be fixed.  Christianity is a result of that as was the Protestant Reformation.  My very faith and spiritual inspiration has been questioned, yet who is doing the questioning?  Is this just a temptation?  There are many adversaries in our life.  Some would say that the Enemy puts those blocks in front of us, and maybe that is true.  I do feel that there are very nasty spirits that influence people.  I hope that I am not influenced in my writings but when I write I feel these words come through me from God.  I am being told to question my faith, being told that it is wrong, and who does that?  Not God.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Dawn

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace
Numbers 6:24-26 from NIV

No insights today, no lectures... However, my newest baby girl was born at 8:02am this morning happy and healthy.  Her mother had a very easy labor and is also doing fine.  Today I just wanted to celebrate Tabitha Rose and the beginning of her new journey!  God bless her little soul!  Just a warning, posts might be a little eratic for a couple of weeks! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Random Verse

   Have you ever grabbed your Bible and just let it fall open and read what comes up?  I find it a really interesting exercise that might lead you to verses that you normally wouldn't be interested in.  That is just what I did today which a couple of sections and I thought I would craft a post out of what I read.

   The first verse that really caught my eye was Psalms 5:5:
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all those who do wrong. (NIV)
   I've spent a lot of time writing lately about intolerance and how I feel it is a travesty.  Not surprisingly this verse popped out at me because it really encapsulates how I feel about the whole thing.  I see a lot of press reports about absolute intolerance in today's society and to be honest, it is a continuation of past crimes.  How about a pastor that wants to put gay people in an electrified pen and allowed to die off?  I don't know about you, but that bloody reeks of arrogance to me.  It is also a gross violation of many of the values I have tried to emphasize on here.  God hates all those who do wrong.  Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, you aren't going to manage to get into heaven by treating it with another sin.  Yes, I know the verses in Leviticus and Romans, but here is a hint, if you would drop the arrogant hate filled act you would realize those verses and their meanings are debated (okay, maybe not Leviticus but the Law isn't upheld anymore by most faiths).  If the truth behind them were absolute then their wouldn't be this debate in the first place.  I don't speak for God, though I feel the Spirit speaks through me.  However, I don't see the same God saying, "starve gay people to death," who also said, "love your neighbor as yourself."  People like Charles L. Worley are why people are turning away from God and Christ and if you are driving people from Grace then how much more of a sinner could you be?  Open your eyes people!  Hate fueled by fear is not going to guide you down the narrow path to heaven.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Eleventh Commandment

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy .
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill .
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery .
  8. Thou shalt not steal .
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
   The foundation of God's law.  It is simple and elegant.  I don't know what compelled me to use the King James Version but for some reason it sounded right.  Perhaps it is the poetry that so eloquently elaborates what is said here.  This is the will of God.  I see people get lost in the rest of the Law all the time, trying to justify what they are doing by picking and choosing what parts to use and what not to.  However, this is it! This is the cornerstone upon which righteousness is built.  Without these principals there is chaos and pain.  The land suffers and people wail.  Boil it all down and there you go. 

   Jesus added an eleventh commandment to that list, one that sums up all the Law.  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  (NIV John 13:34)  Nowhere in that list do I see anything about hating another ethnicity.  There is nothing about hating gays.  There is not a word about going to war with Muslims.  I don't see anything about stoning women who have sex out of wedlock.  All I see is a brilliant list of things that any person should strive for.  This, in my opinion, is the cobblestone that paves our way into the glory of Heaven.  Don't get my wrong, there is a lot of other goodness in the Bible as well.  We should give generously, for example, but these eleven things are the pillar of our faith.  Even if you aren't a follower of Christ this list shouldn't be hard for you to understand.  Be kind to one another, love one another, take joy in one another.  Anyone who hates, does not love.  Anyone who hates, defies the eleventh commandment.  Anyone who hates, defies Jesus.  You get to choose where you stand.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Those Pesky Red Letters - Book of Matthew - Part 4

   Thank you for reading part four of my series, Those Pesky Red Letters.  Writing it has been more involved than I thought it would be.  It would probably do you well to go back and check them out.  You can find the start of the series here.  From there you will find links to the various posts in the series.

   In the last post I wrote on the Jesus and his proclamation about obeying the law.  I have been giving it a fair amount of thought and I personally feel that he was referring to the commandments of God and not all of the detailed Law and ritual of the Jews.  Lets take the first section of examples of Law, murder.  You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.'(NIV Matt 5:21)  Here Jesus gives a couple of examples about treating people with respect as well as murder.  This section could really have been titled "Respecting People", but murder is such a vicious subject I think that it clouds the meaning behind this text.  Don't forget that Christ also talks about insulting people here as well.

   When Christ said, When anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement (NIV Matt 5:22) wasn't he telling us to guard the spiritual part of us that compels us to commit crimes?  It is also worth noting that some texts add without cause after brother which is quite important.  When you synthesize it all together you find that Jesus was warning us that our heart controls our actions and that we are in danger when we let that happen.  However, in his infinite wisdom he also concluded that there are times when anger is justified and right.  For us today we have to use the teachings of the Bible to determine the path to follow.  When it doubt open your Bible to Exodus 20 and read.  If what you are planning or thinking are covered anywhere in those commandments then you risk sinning.

   Next Jesus speaks to us about divorce and adultery which are separated in the NIV and I don't think they should be.  In my opinion they are of the same vein and refer to the Seventh Commandment, do not commit adultery.  Again he uses language that shows us that temptation is paramount to action.  If we let our lusts run rampant then they will begin to taint the rest of our lives.  I'm sure we all have stories that illustrate the dangers here.  The issue of divorce is very important as well, and I feel that there is a lot more to that verse than can be literally interpreted.  It goes into woman's rights as children of God and that marriage is a union before Him that isn't to be taken lightly.  When a man signs a piece of paper divorcing his wife God does not acknowledge it and considers the couple to still be wed unless there was sexual infidelity.  When those people find other partners they are adulterating because their union is before God and not the law of men.   I think there is a whole post here that I will get back to one day as God guides my words.

   Now we get to oaths.  Jesus tells us that we are not supposed to swear by things and that to do so comes from Satan.  Simply put, we shouldn't have to boast oaths to be honest and upright.  There should never be a need to swear on anything and if you do they are not yours to use as collateral.  All things belong to God, even the hair on our heads.  I have also read that Jews used the various oaths listed here so that they could break them at will since any oath that didn't carry the name of God wasn't binding.  I am sure that had a part in the teachings as well.  In the end it is simple, really, as long as we are honest and true then everything we say is just and oaths are simply not needed.

   Part five will involve the final concepts and teachings in Matthew 5.  I hope to have it up soon.  Thank you again for reading!  I hope it helps you to find your way in God and if you know anyone else that could use it, please feel free to share!

Part 3 <-Previous Next-> Part 5

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Those Pesky Red Letters - Book of Matthew - Part 3

   Sorry it has been  couple days since I posted but I needed a little time to clear my thoughts and refocus.  Call it writer's block if you will.  Anyway, lets start where we left off, the parable of salt and light (Matthew 5:13).  This is one of those verses where context is huge.  In the age of Christ salt was very valuable.  In fact there were times that Roman soldiers were likely even paid in the mineral!  Therefore, first and foremost, people are the wealth of the earth.  But wait, there is more, isn't there?  Salt is essential for life and the people of Biblical times would have known that.  That is one the reasons it was valuable in the first place.  It also enhances food and makes it taste better.  It isn't hard to see that Jesus was telling the crowd in Matt 5:13 that mankind is important to the world and makes it a better and richer place.

   The other half of this parable is one of my personal favorite verses of the Bible, especially 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)  Doesn't that phrase read volumes to you?  As a people we aren't supposed to hide in a corner, we are supposed to get out and help people.  In fact, if it wasn't for that verse this blog probably wouldn't be here.  When another person looks at what you are doing they should be able to say, "wow, I wish I were that selfless and kind.  I wish I could do good things for people like that."  When you put the two together you get the big picture, don't you.  The first paragraph (5:13) lets us know how important what we do really is.  The second (5:14-16) tells us that people pay attention.  When we do things our actions are shown to the world.  It is important that we make the right choices and show how happy and healthy that lifestyle is.

   Verses 5:17-20 are a bit of a conundrum for me.  There is a commandment here that Jesus himself breaks.  The other issue is that there are parts of the Law of Moses that are hard to apply to society today.  Women aren't likely to sacrifice doves after they menstruate and we probably shouldn't stone a woman if she was raped.  As I understand it, church leaders commonly accept that we are no longer bound by Law.  Even Jesus talks about how the laws given to Moses were written as they were because the people were "hard-hearted".  This section is one of those areas that I think we should pray on.  It would be fun to get some discussion on it going as well.  It might not seem like much, but some of the arguments that are forefront in the media today are really tied to the concept that is written here.  Do we give the people around us grace, forgiveness and a little latitude or do we hold them fast to very strict Biblical Law.  Right now the church is in a grey area somewhere in the middle with different sects leaning more or less towards one extreme.  I think there is a lot of fear of change and that our faith can and will adapt.  Maybe we should quit fighting God and let him guide that change?  My personal feeling is that we should error on the side of hope and compassion and not condemnation.  The next two or three posts will still be in chapter five of Matthew.  As always, thank you for reading and God bless!

Part 2 <-Previous Next-> Part 4

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Those Pesky Red Letters - Book of Matthew - Part 2

  Okay, do me a favor.  Head over to your bookshelf and grab that dusty old tome.  You know, the one with the cross on it?  Once you do flip forward to a book called Matthew and read chapters five, six and seven.  Take your time with them, read them over and over.  Don't worry, I'll wait up for you.  You might also want to catch read the earlier part of this series found, here.

   Done?  Good.  Now it's time to dive into them a little bit.   I don't think that the importance of these scriptures can be overstated.  This is our first true introduction to the teachings of Jesus.  These three chapters will give you context and inspiration for everything else in the Bible.  If you are wondering where you should start.  This is as good of place as any.

   The Beatitudes.  Quoting our friends over at Wikipedia we learn,
  The term Beatitude comes from the Latin adjective beatus which means happy, fortunate, or blissful.
and it really fits.  Verses 3 through 12 give you a great primer regarding what faith in Christ is supposed to be all about.   

   5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
   5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted. (NIV)
   5:5 Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth. (NIV)
   5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled. (NIV)
   5:7 Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God. (NIV)
   5:8 Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God. (NIV)
  5:9  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
   You know, I hate to say it but some of those don't sound like our current old-school Christian leaders, do they?  First and foremost I want to mention that Jesus liked to teach in parables, basically meaning metaphors.  However, this reads more like a prayer to me and I think it is pretty easy to take it as it reads.  The poor in spirit are all of us, really, but I think that it can be made a case that these are sinners.  People who really need God are blessed by him.   People who mourn and are meek, let's rejoice in them.  They mourning need our love and the meek need shelter.   Righteousness is a word that has been corrupted, in my opinion.  From the Biblestudytools lexicon we can get a better feel for the context of the word.  Dikaiosune in the Greek of the Bible means integrity and purity, it goes right into the next verse but it is bigger and more powerful and all encompassing.  I think that it is mentionable that Christ brought this up twice, really emphasizing the part about being pure of heart.  If you can clean your heart of it's sins then the rest of your actions will naturally follow suit.  However, I think it should be said that righteousness isn't self-righteousness nor is it a justification for oppression and violence as it has been used by Western culture for 1800 years.  It is a state of mind and a state of accepting God and trying, to the best of your ability, to emulate Him and His teachings through Christ and the prophets.  The last one, I think we have all felt or done.  I have been on both ends of the spectrum.   

   I was hoping to do the Sermon on the Mount all as one post but it is obvious to me now that it is going to be too big for that.  If this small section of it took up this much space then I think God is telling me that there is much more here to say.   The gist of this little section comes down to blessing all of those around you, whether or not you want to.  Give grace to people and try to be a wholesome and upright person.   This is extremely hard to do and you will fail, just as I do, but the more we try the better life is for us and those around us.

Part 1 <-Previous Next-> Part 3 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Those Pesky Red Letters: Book of Matthew - Part 1

   To make each part more easy to digest I am going to try and keep the articles to around 500-800 words or so.  There is no more logical place to start in the New Testament than the Book of Matthew.  Keep in mind that I am going to be quoting from the NIV and though they are generous with allowing quoted material, I would likely be breaking their agreements if I posted every red phrase in the Bible.  I will instead be listing verses for you to look up on your own unless I feel they are really important and then I will post the verse in full.

   The first time we see any red letters in the New Testament is during the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.  John was very humble in the face of Jesus but the Messiah insisted on being baptized anyway.  This verse is Matt 3:15 and is a reference to Jewish law and custom.  Personally I think that it was a way for Jesus to be "credible" to non believers.

   Moving forward to Matt 4:4 Jesus quotes from the Old Testament (Deut 8:3) when he is being tempted to create food by Satan Matt 4:7 (see Deut 6:16) and Matt 4:10 (see Deut 6:13) also fit the same vein.  When I read this I think it is likely a parable about the temptations within ourselves and the importance in denying the lusts of the flesh when coming to God.  The final verse, Matt 4:10 I think is important enough to actually quote Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"  Now keep in mind that the word Satan originally meant enemy or adversary.  When I read that verse I really think the the adversary is myself and I am constantly struggling to keep myself clean and pure in the face of God, which my sinful animistic nature is trying to prevent.  To me it is all about denying that primal side so that we can be good people and make proper, intelligent and Godly decisions.

   4:17 is an interesting verse and one that I can feel will hold much more meaning for me in the time to come.  For now, however, it is like trying to grasp water.  I can feel it but I can never hold it.  On face value, though, it means that heaven is for the repentant and not the proud.  If nothing else, we can take that from it.  4:19 Is the call for Simon-Peter and Andrew to follow Jesus.  I don't think it can be stressed enough that these men gave up their entire lively hood to follow Jesus.  It is a testament to sacrifice that would be a good lesson for us all.  The next time you can't make it to church because of some prior engagement ask yourself if you are living up to the example of the teachers before you.  I don't think you are going to burn in hell if you miss service but it is always wise to self reflect when things come between you and God.  Make sure his Will accepts that and it isn't your will that is driving you.

Introduction <-Previous Next-> Part 2

   Matt 5 is where the teachings really start to come.  The next three chapters are nothing but red letters so I think that they will deserve more words than I have left here.  Now that we are primed to study the words of Jesus Christ lets read our Bibles and pray for the wisdom and guidance that they contain.  God Bless you everyone, I'll be writing part 2 soon!

Those Pesky Read Letters: Introduction

   In the debates I have been reading and watching unfold online lately I have noticed one thing.  People don't like those red letters in their Bible.  Now, maybe you have a version that doesn't have any of those strange red letters so let me tell you what they are.
   You see, over 100 years ago a man by the name of Louis Klopsch (who was also the editor for The Christian Herald) who was inspired by the book of Luke 22:20 "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (NIV)  The first Bible was published in 1900 and it was a success.  Ever since you will find many Bibles labeled "Red-Letter Edition" or some similar vein of semantics.  

   In this series, which I have no idea how long it will be, we are going to explore those Pesky Red Letters and how they pertain to my life and my learning to follow Christ.  I debated if I wanted to do the four Gospels in parallel or one at a time and I finally decided that each book is of such phenomenal importance that they truly deserve their own place.  Again I want to remind everyone that I am in no way a Rabbi, I am just a simple student exploring God's Holy Word.  Please don't take anything I say as an exhaustive treatise on the subject, instead let it inspire you to open your Bibles and read for yourself.  Read those passages, then take notes.  If you would like to debate on my interpretations then please comment!  I hope this series enlightens both myself and anyone who happens upon this blog.

Next -> Part 1

Saturday, May 12, 2012

And I Pray, A Poem

And I pray,

My heavenly father
Forever your name resounds
Forgive your children
For we have lost what once was found

Somehow dogma
replaced faith and grace
We've lost everything
While caught up in the race.

The body is corrupted
By many abuses
But do not worry
There are those who refuse

To stand with those
Who are lying hypocrites
Spilling their bile
While digging ditches

There is a new generation
Born of Christ to carry the Cross
We will stand and deliver
No matter the loss

So pick up your shame
Come to the cause!
Let the dead preach to the dead
And give the living no pause

Freedom from sin
There is no such thing
But all will be forgiven
If you love, only one, the King.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm not scared

   Sometimes I take the title from what I write and other times the title comes to me first and I craft a post around it.  This is one of the latter.  In the last couple of days I've taken a stand against fundamentalism and I firmly expect to be rebuked for it.  I'm not scared.  Jesus was not a Christian.  Period.  He was Christ, but he was a Jew.  Here came this guy who spoke with absolute authority preaching things like "turn the other cheek" and "being a peacemaker" and he downright infuriated other Jews, even to the point that they hammered nails into him and hung him on a cross to die.  I am no messiah, I am not a pastor, I am a humble servant that is learning as I go along but certain truths have struck me from my reading. 
   Perhaps that is because I am an infantile Follower of the Way and I haven't had years of dogma to cloud the Bible.  Maybe it is just inspiration.  I don't know, maybe I'm just plain wrong.  None the less I have stood up and made my voice heard, and I am not alone.  I am discovering just how many of us there are out there.  People who don't let phobias and prejudices rule our lives.  People who can read the scripture and see that salvation doesn't come to us through hate.  It comes through love and joy in God.  There are others out there who feel this, I see them struggle with it but they are scared, and why not?  They are likely to be attacked mercilessly for their views but this isn't the first time a Disciple has been attacked by members of their own faith for a disillusioned opinion, is it?  History is full of them, martyrs, poets, scientists, you name it.  All people who weren't afraid. 
   I am planning a couple of diatribes this weekend, one is about verses in the Bible that we wish would go away and how we emphasize parts of scripture and hide from others.  The other is going to be my interpretation of Romans 14 which I think is an allegory telling us all to accept that each sect of the Body of Christ is different, can be different and we don't need to attack each other.  I also want to write about canonization, especially the closed canons that have lead us to the Bible we have today but I don't know that I'll have enough research in place to get it done yet.  I think the first and last are going to stir up a bit of debate, but thanks be to God for leading me to a church where that debate is encouraged and healthy.  God bless you and thank you for reading my stuff.  People are telling me that I am inspiring their faith and I can ask for no greater praise.  Don't take what I say as Gospel, instead let it guide you to the scripture and other wonderful inspired books and choose for yourself.  No matter what faith you belong to, no matter who you listen to, your faith is yours.  Please do your best to honor it, listen to it and learn it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lets Call it Reality

As I look around me I see a world blanketed by greed, grasping and clenching at each one of us. People reaching for everything around them at the expense of others, taking what they can just to enjoy their own lives without care of those from whom they take. Looking how much we all take from one another to benefit ourselves, from those we care for as well as the advantage we take from those we don’t. Even though we may glance off a smile of thanks that is not what is truth in though, for the truth in thought in our minds truly is one of only satisfaction knowing we got what we wanted and nothing more. You may quam with this theory but in fact it is a reality, look deep in your mind and take a serious thought to what you have gained through life. Granted yes there are things in lives that we have earned and worked hard for but this is not of which I speak of, it is the things in life that we gain as too please the moment in time. Without knowing this to be the action given or taken, the giver gives without hesitation as we are all most times willing to help those around us but most often only on occasion, hence the theory of blanketed greed. This is what this world breeds as is what our governments and medias promote, creating a world of hate racism depression lust and Greed. Never ending sorrow is the destination of this world if this does not change, continued disease starvation and death on many aspects of what each of our lives need for survival. Be it hunger for religion, food, acceptance, love or mercy, this can outcome can only be changed if everyone changes their actions for corruption is everywhere and none can hide from it.

By. Sir Sprouts McGee

Regardless of controversy I have still decided to post this poem, my words!

Thank you Sprout, you need to continue to write my friend.


I will hold the hand of the Muslim, the Jew and the Hindu. I will task with the Shinto, the Buddhist or even the Atheist provided that we walk into the light and grace the human race with love and justice, compassion and peace. The time is at hand that we stop this useless self destruction and hatred for one another. If we have the same goals then why is it so hard for us to unite? Why can't we set aside those years of fear and abuse so we can bring the light of our goodness to the darkest corners of the globe? The gay marriage debate has illustrated how skewed our priorities are. People starve, women are raped, children are murdered yet there is this endless diatribe of filth coming from both sides. You want equality? Let's first look at ourselves. All of us. The pathetic injustices in this Nation pale in comparison to other parts of the world. If we continue to bicker, to fight and waste our energy then nothing will ever be solved. I may sound like some leftist hippie but the truth hurts, and trust me it when I tell you that it hurts me most of all.

A Challenge

   This just popped into my mind... Satan literally means adversary and God is love.  By that thought wouldn't Satan be hate?  How then do we get to justify hating groups of people?  The history of the fundamentalist church and hate have entwined themselves far too many times in the past.  Now we have a Pope who upset because his predecessor apologized for the plethora of sins that the Catholic Church has committed?  Where did we go so horribly wrong?  We are letting our "Father's" shape the voice of the one, true God.  A revelation is at hand!  To continue to grow, to continue to be the body of Christ we need to first walk in his footsteps.  Christ didn't change the world because he hated people.  He changed it because he swallowed his pride and walked with those that the mainstream Faith hated.  I ask you all now, do you walk with Christ in Love, or that other guy... by refusing to embrace people.

To Kill an Appetite Feed It Nothing.

   I had a diatribe ready to go on gay marriage since it is the big topic of the moment but it has all kind of evaporated away.  God called on me to fast this morning and so here I am.  Those of you that know me know that I struggle with food more than anything else and lately it has began to take me over.  It probably seems odd but I can get to a point where everything seems second to it.  It is a classic addiction. 

   First of all, I am happy right now.  I feel fulfilled and my faith is first and foremost today.  I am planning on dedicating the day to God and prayer as well as learning and growing in my faith.  Everything else is getting pushed to the side so that I can focus today.  It is a shame that I have to work but with the baby coming that is a hard obligation for me to break.  The good news is that I can still listen to the Bible and sermons on my phone while I go about my daily tasks.  Tonight will be about learning and research.  This is the first time in a long time that I feel like I am not being ruled by my lust for food.  I have given control to God and the weight that has been lifted off of my shoulders is immense.  That sense of helplessness is gone.  I am not a slave today.

   If you have issues in your life perhaps a fast should be a consideration for you.  If doesn't have to be food, either.  Sex, caffeine, TV, shopping, anything that could be a condition that is conditioning you to a way of life makes for a good fast.  Try it, give yourself to the Spirit and see how you feel.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You Can't Always Get What You Want....

   Jealousy.  I wish I could say that I have a controversial stance that I could take... but I don't.  None the less, lets talk a bit about it and wrap it up.

   This is a subject that I wrestle with, though recently I have gotten a little better at it.  Since I work on the lower end of the pay grade in medical I have naturally gained a number of friends that have far more means than I do.  It has always frustrated me to see what they can get and what I can't.  The trouble is, and I am now starting to see this, those things aren't making them happy.  They get so riled up in the pursuit of what they don't have that they forget to enjoy what they do.  I know one guy, a great friend all in all, that works himself to death so he can change his life.  He could honestly afford to do so without killing himself but that need for stuff won't let him lower his lifestyle and enjoy his opportunities.  I know another that tries to run away all the time, avoiding responsibilities while spending way too much time in the bottom of a bottle.  All because he has let the need for success override his need for contentment.  Now with some clarity it is easy to see why that life is dangerous.

   Andy Stanley wrote that we should celebrate others to cure jealousy.  When I read it I decided to put it to the test and he is right.  When you make a conscious and concerted effort to congratulate people on their successes it takes the fire out of your envy.  I was really amazed at how well it works.  I'm not perfect, mind you, and that guy who is driving my Ford Raptor around town gets to me now and then but the simple act of telling someone that you are impressed with their accomplishments is such a great tool in moving forward.  You can't love your neighbor and hate them for what they have all at the same time.  To truly love you have to be happy for one another when fortune strikes.  What it all comes down to is enjoying what is already here and trusting that God will give you the opportunities that you need, even though that might not be the ones you want.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thanks everyone

   From the Darkness, Light just hit 500 views.  I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for reading and responding!

The Lamp

   This popped into my head last night while reading Luke, I thought I would share.

Luke 8:16 "No-one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. (NIV)

   Faith is like a lamp.  We are the flame on top.  We can burn bright, flicker or even be snuffed out.  Sometimes it can be relit after many years of storage.  Now, the wick is Christ.  He gives us the ability to burn.  Without it, the flame has no source and though it can burn it can easily run out of control becoming destructive and not a source of joy.  Fire is a source of life but without control and purpose it can be the bringer of pain and death.  The oil is the Holy Spirit.  The wick channels it and gives it to the flame.  In the same way Christ gives us a way to channel the Holy Spirit.  When you put the three together they work in harmony, making the flame light the darkness.   Now you might ask, "but where is God?"  Who do you think is holding the lamp up high, so it lights the way?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Harmonious Inquisition

   Ah, music, how do I love thee?  I learned what "every good boy does fine" and "face" meant before I really knew how to read them out of a book.  Music has always been a huge deal for me and it is rare that if I don't have a song playing that there isn't one in my head.  When I found Jesus, my music tastes were in for a kick in the nether regions.  To be honest, I still haven't figured them out.  Luckily there are bands like, Skillet, As I Lay Dying, August Burns Red and Demonhunter to name just a few that can keep me sane while I wrestle with one of the hardest subjects for me.

   Now Christ said it isn't what goes into a person that defiles them, it's what comes out.  Of course he was speaking of food but I found more depth in that scripture that relates to other things.  The trouble is, I feel what I hear.  I can almost see much dancing around, I can feel the crescendos bringing my energy levels up and then crashing them down.  The words can move me, though not as often.  I gave up true Satan embracing death metal like Deicide years ago, but that would have been an easy one.  What about Lamb of God?  Phenominal band, lyrics that are politically based but usually don't attack God, maybe some of the hypocrits that follow him, but not God.  With that said, they are named Lamb of God because a church wouldn't let them play with their previous name, Burn the Priest.  There is, most likely, a problem here somewhere. 

   Then there are musical art bands like Meshuggah.  Not very much in the way of Christ, but not against it either.  Most of the lyrics are fairly abstract.  My vote here? "Maybe," and that is the problem.  I have a lot of "maybe's."  There have been a lot of subjects that are taking much of my energy right now and I haven't had time to pray over this to the extent I would like to.  For the time being I am erring on the side of grace.  I have come so far and grown so much but I don't know that I want to risk slipping because of a song that pumps up my adrenaline.  I would love to hear other peoples opinions and how they dealt with them.  I think a little debate on this subject would do me a lof of good.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Not What I Expected: Tithing and the Poor Family Part 2

   Wow!  The response, both positive and negative, from my post on tithing has been overwhelming.  I've had support, dissension, dissension from supporters and support from those most vocally criticizing my article.  First and foremost I want to give my deepest thanks to my wife, my father-in-law Dan, Pastor Jon and Bryon McCoy for their insight and wisdom.  Even though things got heated it was a great learning tool for me and I hope that people who read it gained insight as well.  Since the last post was, um, engaging I thought I would continue the theme.

   In my home-schooled days before college I found myself fascinated by philosophy, and some of that thinking guides me to this day.  I am analytical and I enjoy discussion and thought relevant to a subject.  Learning is my primary passion in life and, at least in my opinion, philosophical thought is one of the best ways to handle subjects that empirical thought falls short on.  I read a book once, the title of which has escaped me, but the thing I remember was that it spoke of a three-part process for learning.  First was the "thesis" which I will consider my previous post.  Secondly you have to analyze it from the opposing point of view, this is the "antithesis".  After you have explored both, only then can you bring them together and form a "synthesis".  This will be my antithesis.


   Two weekends ago my daughter came up to me, upset because she doesn't have enough money to sponsor a tiger with the World Wildlife Fund.  She has been at it all spring and feels very passionate about helping animals.  She is also eight.  This child could get herself all sorts of toys with that $100 dollars but instead she is choosing to work this summer and give it all to charity.  Here I am struggling with a few bucks going here and there and my daughter wants to give everything she has, just so she can help an animal she will never know.  It is humbling, to say the least.

   My first reaction when she told me was to talk her out of it.  Isn't that a shame?  Here is a child trying to do a completely selfless act and her father wants her not to do it.  I got ready to arm myself, and started vetting the WWF but they seem to do what they say they are going to do for the most part.  That money may only symbolically go to a tiger but it still goes to aid animals all over the world.  Even if I told her that she would still want to give, yet I didn't feel any generosity.

   I grew up poor, there were times in my life that my family ate dried onion soup mix for weeks because it was all we could afford.  I've worked hard and though I still fall near the poverty line it is only because of the sacrifices my wife and I are making for her education.  It has been rough at times, and we owe people a lot for the generosity and giving that we've received.  Now isn't a great time for me to be generous, but maybe that makes it the best time to be.  I know that is a contradiction, but think about it.  If I give now when it hurts then when I am in a better position to give I won't feel as saddened to give more.  Instead I'll be joyous because there is more I can do.  Isn't it odd that in our lives we are always trying to teach people and end up learning more than we give?

   When you apply this to tithing... actually, no.  I am not going to use that word.  The New Testament isn't about law and requirement as much as it is about joy and hope.  Lets just call it giving.  I think that above word carries a connotation of requirement.  To me it feels like something you see in the opulence of Rome and the Catholic Church.  I guess for some reason I find that word oppresive.  So, giving, when we give without reservation it does feel good.  It is nice to know someone sleeps better tonight because of our generosity.  That is the true meaning of giving.  Taking what we don't need and bolstering those who do.  That doesn't have to be money or even material things, I think, though a warm meal or saving someone's house from the bank could mean more than anything else.  Some people just need you to give time, others maybe just need love and understanding.  It is all about asking God for the wisdom in every situation that there is need and how to give what is necessary without regard for yourself.  In Romans it is said that "love is the fulfillment of the law,"  but giving is part of love, so giving is part of the law.  That is what is all boils down to.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


  I can't say that I'm surprised that I stirred up a bit of a hornets nest with my position on tithing.  Looking back I probably could have been gentler but I certainly felt that it needed to be said.  I have had discussions with people on both sides of the isles and it has given me perspective.  Perhaps my faith was too young for that topic, maybe I am too naive.  I still hold firm that tithing has nothing to do with giving to your church.  It is an act between you and God.  There are so many ways to give and pour out what you have to those in need, it's a shame that it has become a platform to make money.  I have a feeling this is going to be a long week for me but it will be worth it.  I think I will dedicate this week to prayer on the subject.  All I can do is continue to let God guide my hands when I type.  God bless all of you, thank you for reading, may the Spirit guide you as it is guiding me.

Monday, April 30, 2012

NAE on Ethics

  Today the NAE posted the findings that most church leaders never sign formal codes-of-ethics.  Honestly, this is something that has never crossed my mind but now that I have heard mention it kind of intrigues me.  Think about it, these are people whom we look to for ethical guidance and they themselves are not bound to an ethical standard.  I suppose that isn't true, they are bound to the Word which is the ultimate ethical writing but as I have seen and even wrote on we can't always agree on what those ethics are.  This world has Christian denominations that range from ridiculously liberal to frighteningly conservative.  I think I tend to fall closer to the first category but lets face it, there has been a lot of evil done in the name of Christ.  Maybe some kind of standard in ethics wouldn't be such a bad idea.  If they drafted something up I would be very interested to see what ministers thought of such a thing.

Put Out The Fire

   What can I say, I enjoy a little reporting now and then.  A couple of days ago Christian leaders condemned the burning of Qu'rans.  A move I back 100%.  We can't claim to have a faith of peace, love and forgiveness if we are destroying the things that make other people happy.

"Real Christians don't burn Qu'rans," said Leith Anderson, NAE President. "Our Christian faith calls us to respect and love."
   Brilliant is that phrase, simply brilliant.  Those two sentences sum up what I have been trying to stress better than I can convey.  The New Testament is a book of kindness, forgiveness and tolerance.  I think that all too often people let their own prejudices cloud their judgement and then people suffer.  My hat is off to the NAE.  Hopefully pastors take heed and spread the word in their churches and we can see if the world can become a better place.

Not what I expected, tithing and the poor family

   This weeks sermon was on greed, from Andy Stanley's book Enemies of the Heart.  From talking to my wife and other church members I think it didn't come across right, however.  I hate to say it but church left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth this week, and I wasn't alone.  The message to give is important and a strong one but when it is virtually demanded that you tithe before you pay your power bill, I have trouble getting behind that.  Times have changed, I'm afraid, and this is something that is struggling to adapt.
   I write this blog, which is my version of ministry.  I love it and the responses I get from people.  I will admit that I get excited when I see that people read it and even more so when they comment.  I feel that this is how God is telling me to make an impact on the world.  However, I don't ask for money.  I have thought about monetizing but I haven't.  It just doesn't feel right to try and live on God's word.  I have a job, it pays my bills and a little more now and then but I am hardly much above the poverty line.  A full 10% would cripple my family and what I am trying to do for couples outside of this blog. 

   Contextually tithing came as a way for the Levite clan to have an inheritance, which they were not given by God.  In exchange for taking care of the Tabernacle they were to receive 1/10 of the crops and animals raised by the other Jews.  I am over simplifying that a bit, but you get the idea.  Today, there are so many ways to raise money that I have to wonder if a traditional tithe is even necessary anymore.  I firmly believe in serving the church and making sure they can pay their bills and such, but I can't do it by sacrificing my families security in the process.  The church is supposed to be generous as well.  I don't see them paying our bills, I don't see them supporting the widow when her husband dies.  I found that more than a bit irritating. 

  Do I think you shouldn't give?  No, absolutely not.  I think you should give with all your heart, but when is it time to receive?  I was told to trust in God and he will take care of me and I suppose that is true.  However, I am trusting in God when He tells me that I can't sacrifice my room and board to satisfy an ancient tradition.  I spent well over ten percent of my salary this last check on biblical things.  I bought a new book to help with our "couples" outreach to help young and old relationships find God together.  I bought Kat a new audio version of the NIV Bible.  I bought Alex a new book of Bible stories.  All of this things I have acquired to help spread the Word of God in the ways he tells me.  The fact that I still managed to find twenty bucks for the offering plate I think is commendable.  It could actually mean me not eating breakfast or lunch this week, but now I feel like I am being asked for more.  I hope this is a trend that isn't going to continue as I don't feel like this is God's work. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Response to the NAE Pastoral Letter on Marriage

  This is a response to the NAE Pastoral Letter on Marriage.

The letter is set up in a numbered sections and I think I will address them as such.  I didn't post the full text of the letter here but you should have no trouble using the link up above.

1.  I tend to agree with most of this statement.  I worry, though, that the exclusionary language in here could go right back to the same alienating edicts that have scarred the Body of Christ.  We don't need to agree with everything that people do, nor do we need to support immoral behavior but we also need to be really careful how we preach that.  I think it is important that we make people feel welcome with us, not afraid of our retribution.

2.  I've said it before and I'll reiterate it here.  I have no problem with gay marriage.  I know a number of gays and lesbians that I would consider far more Godly than many of the Christians I have dealt with over the years.  If they find a church that condones their marriage and a pastor that will officiate it, who are we to discriminate? We do the Bible a disservice if we forget that it was written in the words of an ancient people no matter how divinely it was inspired.  If they feel that God has brought them together then the only judge they should face is the Almighty Himself.

3.  I have to agree.  We are given this freedom in this Nation to disagree with anyone whom we see fit.  However, is it not right to respect their rights of freedom as well?  I think it is great to voice our opinions but if we do it in such a way that people go away upset and hurt are we not violating the commandment to love thy neighbor?  There is a line to walk here and I think we need to be very cognizant to walk carefully.  Christ said, "turn the other cheek," not, "preemptive strike."  Don't forget, also, that none of us really follow the Bible verbatim any more.  If you cringe at that let me ask you this --- if your sister, daughter or friend was raped in the country side do you think it correct that the rapist can pay 50 pieces of silver and marry her?  How about in Roman's where it says you have to honor your leaders because they are appointed by God.  Does that mean you support Hitler, or any other dictator?  How many of you have criticized our President?  Why is it okay to try and shove one "sin" down someone's throat when we ignore dozens of others in our life?

4.  I am not a pastor and the closest thing I do to ministry is this blog, which I suppose qualifies in some way.  I never claim to speak with authority but I do try to voice what God tells me when I pray to the best of my ability.  Now, no language of humanity can accurately convey what resonates through me so I can be wrong and freely admit that it might be so.  I think it is best for me to refer this answer to the second statement.  I think sex is best left inside a loving marriage, but what is that?  No where in the Bible did I read how a marriage is preformed.  In fact there are times that it seemed they were spontaneous events.  If two people dedicate themselves to each other in healthy ways then I see no harm in relationships that don't fit a traditional norm.  I think they should all be healthy in the eyes of God, but how they arrive at that point is up to them and not me.

5.  Again I agree.  I am much happier in God than Government.  Even though Paul beseeches us to listen to and respect our leaders as God appointed, I can't help but to criticize.  God didn't grant us reasoning levels of intellect so that we would end up sheep to whatever ridiculous cause someone in power comes up with.  God granted us wisdom so we can analyze our behaviors and make the best decisions.  If something seems wrong to you then you should clear your mind and pray about it.  Listen to the Holy Spirit and I bet it will teach you peace and tolerance.  Love is far more important that judgement.  We should leave that to our Heavenly Father, I think He is far more capable than we.

In closing I think that the letter was well written and shows a certain modern viewpoint that the Body of Christ can benefit from immensely.  With the Catholic church withdrawing itself and becoming very strict and traditional again I think that we stand in a wonderful position to shine our light as a beacon to all people and make them feel welcome.  Let us go forth and be a positive influence and bring joy not oppression.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I sat
Darkness surrounds
A light I found
A flicker
A pin prick
Sat on a candlestick
I beheld
Other flames around
We joined and grew
Finding fuel to renew
Until the darkness
Feel away
And revealed
My savior today

A Proclamation

  I will start with an apology.  Every person whom I have judged, whom I have wronged.  If you read this, I am sorry.  I stumbled across a documentary a couple of years ago by the name of God, Save Me From Your Followers and I have had the urge to watch it again and give my thoughts.  Considering the fact I spent the latter half of the show with tears in my eyes I can tell you it's message is profound and hits home.  Do you want to know why I feared Christ?  Watch this video.

   I have heard nothing but hate from Christians.  I worked with a pastor that wanted to exterminate Muslims.  I have seen the news stories of gay men dragged to death behind cars.  We have ignored slaves, used faith to belittle races, attack religions.  We have Crusaded, killed, raped, maimed and butchered in the name of Christ. I went to a Metallica concert with a zealot who condemned me to hell.  God dammit people, Christ would be appalled!  The man who ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, who took water from a Samaritan... Who died to save us... Do you think he would condone that?  What right do we have to judge?  Who are we to condemn?  Who in the hell do we think we are?  We are supposed to be humble!  To love one another!  Yet we writhe in the filth of liars and cheats.  We have become the voice of something far more evil than we claim to try and save against.

   This Christian is done with it.  I am done with sneering at homeless people.  From entertaining homophobia.  From using the name of Christ as a reason to judge or stand above anyone!  I am humble in the face of God and I am his servant and I can honestly tell you that when I think of people who are sacrificing themselves like Jesus did. I can't think of a single Right Wing fundamentalist!!  How about some names for you, the Dalai Lama, Bono, Nelson Mandela, the list goes on and on, yet I see the right coveting and growing fat off the word of God.  It is disgusting.  God has commanded me to come to his side and I tell you now, "if you are in need, if you are repressed, enslaved, impoverished or otherwise crushed under the yoke of oppression. I will stand by you and for you in the eyes of God."  I don't care who you are, who you marry, who you love, or your God above.  I am here, now and until I die, to make sure justice and the love of God are shown to all men and women equally.

   I write this as a challenge to Christian and secular people alike.  It is time to understand we are the same.  We have the same goals, the same purpose.  The only thing dividing us is the will of those who wish our oppression.  Think about it.  Derisiveness sells, and it sells well.  We are being used as pawns in a game of money and power even though we want the same things.  Faith should be a force to unite mankind and bring love and generosity into the world, not as a reason to wage war and scream at each other on national Television.  We have become what is hated in the eyes of God.  It is time we put aside our differences and grow up.  The world aches with centuries of hate and violence.  Enough is enough, it is time to try and put it back together.  If you have the courage I hope you join me in spreading the love of God.  Do not preach, do not judge, do not criticize.  Accept your neighbor and love him as you would love Christ.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Winds of Change

   I have been reading comments on USA Today's religious news site today and it irritates me to read the comments on there.  I find it is interesting that people are more vehemently opposed to religious thought than many of our brothers and sisters support it.  I guess it goes to show you the power of the enemy whom I was under the influence of a mere few months ago.  The venom that people show is downright violent.  Unfortunately, some of what they say is true.  Look at the changes in the Catholic church right now.  I fear we are on the cusp of darkness once again.  Jesus taught a level of tolerance that just doesn't exist in the conservative doctrine that I have been reading.  Be strong, brothers and sisters.  Remember that "Love your neighbor" is the most important commandment of all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Uplifting

   I have been feeling really spiritual today.  When I woke up this morning I could sense that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach coming over me.  You see, depression is something I have fought with since I was a teenager and I have been medicated off and on since my 20's.  This morning I asked God to grant me the Holy Spirit to see if it might pull me up, and it did.  The side effect is that God has been urging me to spread Faith today and I have been trying to oblige.  Instead of writing about whatever my latest revelation has been, I think I just want to ask you all to share in His glory today!  Stop and say, "thank you, God, for giving me what I need to live and thrive in the body of Christ.  I will try and give up my selfishness so that I can truly be a beacon to others and guide them from the darkness.  Hold my hand, oh Lord, and teach me to love and to be a loving person.  Let me die from this life everyday and be reborn in Christ that I may serve and never give the Enemy a foothold.  Let others draw inspiration from my righteousness without me becoming self righteous.  I know that I fail, oh Lord, and that I am weak but your spirit gives me the strength to continue.  Praise Jesus in all of his eternal glory. Amen."  It is a glorious day, my brothers and sisters!  Don't let your voices be silent!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


While listening to Caleb Quaye at church today this popped into my head.

Walk in the image of God
Hold His hand
Be one in His eyes
Let His ears behold your praises
And let yours hear His voice

I hope you find it inspired.  Walk with Christ everyone!

Couples Mentoring

  Well lately my wife and I have been feeling the Holy Spirit guide us into a new adventure and last night we decided we want to work on mentoring couples.  You see, Kat and I have been through a lot in our short time together and no matter what the enemy threw at us we just got closer together, and more importantly, it brought us into the body of Christ. Neither of us have the knowledge to call it "ministry" nor do we have the education to be called "councilors."  What we do have, however, is a lot of life knowledge that we are ready to share with anyone and everyone that needs help.  We haven't quite decided how to share what we know but I'm sure God will show us a way.  We're both going to try and get into a couples oriented small group next year, or even lead one if needs be.  I am going to try and dedicate time on here to advice for couples and scripture to help couples come together.  If you, or anyone you know, are having relationship problems, or just want to grow as a couple in Christ email me at TheOhgrr@gmail.com and let me know.  We will be happy to answer and address questions.  If you are worried about privacy I will quote every question anonymously and use assumed names to protect anyone involved.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Love Jesus, Love People

  Normally small group is confidential but I think Jon will forgive me if I use a quote from him in this post.  During one of our discussions he mentioned that the Bible boils down to two things, love Jesus and love people.  I was surprised at how that simple little statement resonated with me.  If you don't have those, you have nothing and conversely you can get lost in Laws and details.  It was kind of a happy moment for me and I have tried to embrace that concept everyday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Responding to Yesterday's Post

I would most certainly agree that the Old Testament (really the whole Bible) needs to be read with a historian's lens, however, I disagree with the idea that God's word is flexible. It's our interpretation that is limited and confined to our own understanding, NOT God's word. The principals and truth that weave through the entire Bible are timeless and not up for debate. I say this based upon a vast amount of research in trying to do things my way ;) It's painful. I suppose what I'm trying to say here is this: confined to the idea that Adam and Eve were the first two people on earth and that the earth is only a few thousand years old - yes, most certainly seems to be a story teaching us (to the best of the culture's time) of the "sin nature" (I like to think of it as innate selfishness) of man. Stories in the bible such as these may indeed have been the best way to reach the culture of the time. Obviously if the bible were to start talking about molecular structures and evolution* of man it would have completely bypassed the entire culture's understanding. *(come on people, look at the evidence out there slapping you in the face - I'm not saying we came from monkeys, but we certainly haven't always been built the way we are today)HOWEVER, the principals and guidelines for living a fulfilling and peaceful existence are NOT flexible or up for any debate. I don't say this because I think I'm right - I say this because I KNOW I have been wrong SO MANY TIMES (and continue to be)!

Kurt: There's a really good chance that this is precisely what you were saying, it just struck a chord when I read that and I wanted to see if indeed we were on the same page. And I totally agree about the laws in Leviticus - one of the most frustrating things is when some crazy Bible Nazi wants to quote laws from the old testament that they want to choose to uphold (and use to condemn others), but they omit these sorts of laws - Stoning your children at the gates of the city for disobeying or selling them into slavery (although life would be much more peaceful), or wearing mixed fabrics, the list goes on.... All in all, I'm very happy to watch your spiritual life unfold in front of me :) I can't express to you the amount of freedom you have found (which I seem to discover more and more of in my life). I'm excited to watch your journey and am grateful to be a part of it. Keep up the good work, and God Bless.
  The above is a response to the post I wrote yesterday and I felt that it brought up some points that I wanted to adress here.  I think that there is a certain semantic issue where we are not seeing eye to eye, though in truth, we probably are.  When I mentioned that the Bible is flexible. I meant it, and here is why.

  I think I want to start with Romans 13:1 (NET)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment,  and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
  The Epistle of Romans is considered one of the most inspired books of the Bible, without a doubt. Martin Luther even went so far as to say, "most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul" in his treatise, The Adoration of the Sacrament.  If you don't let the Bible be flexible then think of the leaders you have to condone simply because they have power.  Without the flexibility of judgement we would have to interpret the Holocaust as righteous because Hitler was a man of power.  I just can't do that. 

  Now, where I think our opinions actually do match up, is that the Bible is written in the languages of man.  How many times have you tried to describe what you are feeling only to never find the right words?  My wife and I argued, the other day, that I don't talk to her about church anymore.  I told her that there was no way I can describe to her how I was feeling because I don't know words to quantify it.  The English language consists of over 200,000 words (according to Oxford) and I probably know around a quarter of them, which is actually a fairly large vocabulary.  Even with that I have no idea how to describe the feelings I have in church.  I think the Bible suffers because of this.  Not only was it written by historical peoples without the understanding needed to grasp some of its concepts, it was also written in languages that can't come close to giving full meaning to it's verses.

   This leads me to believe that the Bible isn't the "Word" of God... it is the "Voice" of God.  The difference is minute and semantic but, in my opinion it means everything.  The Bible lets God talk to you through it.  "Voice" denotes something more active and engaging where "Word" is something written and done, in other words present versus past tense.  If you look at the Bible as God's conversation with you then it will be like any other discussion, meaning it adapts and flows and changes as the subjects come and go.  You and I can read the same passages and even if our interpretations of them are outwardly the same they will always differ minutely within our souls.  If the Bible was absolute then there would be no interpretation of it.  I think Christians have faltered because they have issues adapting, the read the Word but they don't listen to the Voice and mankind has suffered for it.  As you said, there are absolutes such as being loving and kind and accepting and revering the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit but those are generalities that open the gate for us to learn the specifics.  Yes, there are absolutes in the Bible but for thousands of years people have been trying to decide which parts are absolute and which are metaphor.  I feel like I am starting to ramble, probably because I don't quite have the skills with the English language to express exactly what I am thinking but I hope this all makes sense.  Thank you for your response, it really made me stop and think about some things.  God Bless!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Old Testament

   I finally finished my reading of the Old Testament this week and I'm pretty close to finishing the New Testament as well.   I am not entirely certain how to feel about it, to be honest.  First and foremost I think it needs to be said that to read it you have to put a certain amount of context into it since it was written a long time ago.  Times were different, words were different, meanings were different.  Entire social conventions would never survive today but were the norm at that time.  I did find it insightful and it put a certain context on my new testament readings.  However, there were a few texts that really struck me.

   Oddly enough I really enjoyed the book of Job which is a story I really thought I wouldn't be into as well as Ecclesiastes.  I think that it needs to be said that the former is more of a play or poem than fact, but the meaning behind it is powerful and poignant.  At least at this point, I am a believer in the metaphorical power of the Bible more than trying to adapt a literal translation of it.  Stories like Adam and Eve to me are less about creation and more about the inherent wickedness of man.  I think that a lot of harm has been done to Faith simply because people are too stubborn to adapt.  God's word is flexible and vast and certainly doesn't have to be taken verbatim for it to be a positive power in your life.  If that makes your skin crawl just look at Levitical Law.  Women don't sacrifice doves after they menstruate any more and I don't think a few silver and a marriage is going to take care of your daughter getting raped on a country road.  Times have surely changed and who are we to pick and choose what Laws we will follow just because some make us more comfortable than others.  Let's let Christ be our guide and even though he spoke of the Law and professed it he also emphasized that we must be tolerant and caring.  He told us not to be judgemental and to support the less fortunate.  I'm kind of getting worked up to some more serious subjects that have always irritated me about Christians.  Even know, from the other side, they still do -- Perhaps even more than before.

  As always be Blessed and be tolerant and love thy neighbor.  As it is said in Romans that this command trumps all others, and even more than that, it is the root of all other commandments, let us let out judgements fall away from us and look upon our fellows regardless of creed, race, preference, tattoos, piercings or whatever else they may have that strikes you odd and embrace them as the neighbors they are.  Please share this on Facebook if you agree and give me a +1 on Google.  If you don't please post a response so we can discuss openly our thoughts and views!