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Jesus vs Christianity

Irreligious, scandalous, and radical are not three terms used when talking about people you want to be like, but they are the words that describe Jesus of Nazareth. Irreligious?!? Yes, I said it. Jesus did not start Christianity. In fact I think Jesus had no intention of starting any new religion. This is what I am going to be diving into. A new perspective on the life of Jesus that just makes sense when you look at his life with an open heart.

Jesus came to end religion, not start a new one!

Before Jesus came God had tried everything to free us from ourselves. Starting with Adam and Eve. No religion and no laws existed in The Garden. We had one boundary given in order to provide free will (this creates love). Without at least one boundary a true relationship (love) would never exist. And everyone knows our fate. We screwed it up. Then Jesus picked a group/family as a case study for humans. He gave them land boundaries and we screwed that up. He gives them rules to live by, we added rules and broke the ones that existed. He gave them Great Kings to rule them, and we rebelled and picked our own rulers. God only asked for a tent, but we had to build Temples to worship, so He let us. We began making idols and using the Temple for commerce (prostitution, exploitation, etc.) Notice a common theme? All those things we screwed up.

God is smart. He realized we weren’t getting it. We needed something radically simple to get us back to The Garden. He had exhausted all options even letting us choose how we should live. In His Grace He sent Jesus. Jesus flipped everything upside down (physically and metaphorically). Jesus came so we can bypass all the religious processes. God sent Jesus to show us, and teach us love! GRACE!

I’m going to be writing some posts on my take on Jesus’ life and why He came to end religion. This will tell why I think Jesus looks at Christianity and laughs.

Once again, we are screwing it up…

Puttin’ On The Ritz

In Life Group tonight we talked about finances. We spent a little time going over what the Bible has to say about stewardship, responsibility, and money. If you believe in the God of the Bible you should believe that everything we have is Gods. No exceptions, everything we have, everything we worked for, everything we made, everything we’ve been given. ITS ALL HIS!

I will not be spending any more time on that concept, but I could talk for years on it. I am writing to talk about a story that one of the women in the group talked about.

She was talking about going on a vacation when she knew someone who worked at the Ritz Carlton. So they got a great deal and stayed there one night for the experience. She described her feeling as she watched people spend money as if it was free. People paying $80 for a cup of tea and desert like it meant nothing. She talked about her attitude as she questioned why these people could live so extravagantly when so many people are jobless, homeless, and hurting. Its like their concept of money is just ridiculous.

As I listened I was just thinking about how many times I have felt this way. How many times have we looked at what someone else spends their crazy money on and been frustrated at their choices, and their lifestyle. Have you ever done this? Can you relate?

Lets step back and change our perspective. If you are reading this you probably live in America. You have a roof over your head, clean water, and enough food to survive. You probably own a car, or a computer, or a cell phone that costs $50 a month. YOU ARE RICH! Most of the world would walk down your street and be in the Ritz. Why would we spend more money on a phone then 99% of the world gets paid? Seriously! 99% of the world makes less than the average American pays for their cell phone bill! The $2 we would spend for a glass of tea at a restaurant would feed an Ethiopian for two days. Think about that next time you order a $10 mixed drink. The car you drive…if you own your car it makes you wealthier than %90 of the world. If you are lucky enough to make a salary of $35,000 a year then you are in the top %1 of wealth in the world. YES, %1, that is not a typo. YOU ARE RICH!

You live in the Ritz.

Thank God! No matter how hard we work, we don’t deserve it. We are blessed as a people. We have won the lottery by being born in this amazing country. We are in a recession compared to our past, but still in the Ritz compared to our neighbors.

Science, God, Sex, and Trees

Law: Matter cannot be created or destroyed.

Scientists have been at war with religion for a long time. Science is based on Truth. Religion is based on Truth. How can the two co-exist if their Truth is not the same?

They can’t.

Truth is Truth and I am going to use Scientific Law to prove God exists.

First we must define God. God is Life. He always has been and always will be. He is creator. He is God.

So how can I prove God using science. Its actually easy. I don’t know why this has never clicked with me, but here it is. I thought of this in Biology class the other day. We were watching little cells and talking about life and law.

Scientific Law says Life comes from Life. This is a testable, provable, law. It is true in every circumstance and every try. If you take two of the exact environments and try to create life, the only way it will ever happen is if you have a form of life in your environment. You will never have an environment without any trace of life be able to produce life without putting life in it.

I’ll break it down. For people life is created by sex. This is no surprise. Even with genetic breakthroughs we still need some form of life (DNA) to create more life. We can alter DNA, but we can not produce it.

Plants need other plants, cells need other cells, etc. You cannot create a living cell without using another living cell. Therefore Science would support the fact that life has always been. Life can only be created from Life.

So this disproves any “Big Bang Theory” or crazy notion that says a worm hole spit out life from nowhere. Good try Dawkins, but time is proving that you are an idiot so I don’t have to.

God is life. He has always been. We have been created from this life. Therefore He is creator.

Even if we evolved from a single cell, something had to create that single cell. Something that had life had to give that cell life.

So were created from a life that has always been here and will always be here. Sounds familiar to me.

Church Sucks!

Got your attention? Good, now to get my point across…

I will be using the term “Church” in general, so please don’t take this the wrong way. In fact, if you know me at all, you already know I say things a little out of line sometimes. Its always good to push social boundaries, so here it goes.

In my Eastern Religion class we had Show And Tell. The teacher didn’t actually call it that, but that’s exactly what it was. Each person brought an object that makes them feel “spiritual”. We were all asked to share about the object and ourselves. As we went around the room I made a couple observations.

I noticed quickly that I was the minority. I guess I should have expected that, being in an Eastern Religion class there won’t be too many Christians. That’s like being the man in the Woman’s History class or the white person in the African American Studies class. You should expect to be a minority, but I wasn’t quite prepared for it.

I also realized that most of the people in the class had been raised in a Christian household. As part of our intro we weren’t really supposed to tell about our “spirituality”, but it just seemed to come out of everyone as they spoke. I guess I should have seen this coming too. We are in Charlotte, NC and the “Bible Belt” of a country that claims to be predominantly Christian.

So why are all these people my age, who were raised in Christian families no longer Christians? I kept hearing the same reason. I heard it at least four or five times in a class of 22 students.

Church.

The one thing that is supposed to bring us to Christ has turned nearly 1/4 of my class away from Christ. WHAT?

Ok, so its not all bad, right? I’m sure someone in my class was impacted positively by Church. Am I really the only one? Maybe there was someone else, but no one vocalized it.

I walked out of class thinking, “Church sucks!” I have heard many people say that the Church is broken, but this is beyond broken. When something is broken it stops performing the thing it was created to perform. Church has not only stopped performing its intended goal, it is doing the exact opposite.

Church Sucks!

OK, so I know there are good Churches that are not broken. They actually function somewhat like a Church is supposed to, but for every Church that “works” there are four or five others that don’t. Trust me, I have done the math. (Keep in mind that 70% of statistics are made up)

So I think its safe to say it, Church sucks. If there was any other object that only performed its intended job 1 out of 5 times we would say the same thing. If a pitcher only pitches a strike one out of five pitches. They are a bad pitcher. If they only throw in the direction of the batter one our of five pitches…they suck! If a teacher finishes the school year and only 1 out of 5 of their students got any smarter, you might say they are a bad teacher. If the other four students actually left the class dumber than when they came in, they suck!

You get the point.

What if I were to step out of the Eastern Religion class and take a more fair sample of my generation? Would I get the same results? How about going outside the Bible Belt? Does Church impact people differently in other places?

Pardon My French

So I was spending time looking at different ministry’s websites from across the world and I came across a quote. One of my new favorite quotes. It is by Frank Campolo.

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit… What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Are Your Religious? (Part 2)

Proverbs 10:19 The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.

Words have such an impact. When spoken with passion and truth, they can create or destroy relationship, mend or break hearts, and change the world forever.

“I have a dream!”

“We the people…”

“Yes we can!”

Proverbs 10:14 The wise accumulate knowledge—a true treasure; know-it-alls talk too much—a sheer waste.

What’s your favorite food?      Why?

Did you answer the “why” in less than 3 sentences? Probably. When we are sure about something we don’t need to defend our answer. We are confident and secure in our answer.

Are you Religious?     Why?

DEFENDING YOUR FAITH!

Why do we feel we need to defend our faith? Its your faith, just as spaghetti is your favorite food. Be confident and secure in your answer.

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Bill Hybels (Just Walk Across The Room) brings up the point to keep your reason short.

1.Before

2.Christ

3.After

3 Sentences or less. What were you like before Christ? How have you changed?

I used to Defend my faith when asked why I believe. Now I share my faith.

I was shy and reserved, I met Christ and now I love out loud, out spoken, and without reserve!

THAT’S IT!

Be prepared and practice. When someone asks you, “Are you Religious?” feel confident. We all are, right? We are all born with a desire to worship and believe. No one can argue with your story. No one can disprove your testimony. Its your story. Its Truth. Don’t defend your faith, share it. After all, who wouldn’t want Christ?

Are You Religious? (Part One)

Re-li-gion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

It bothers me when people ask if I’m religious. I usually bite my tongue and want to respond by saying, “Aren’t we all?” Until we really know the Truth of the Universe (never) we will all be “religious”.

When you meet someone who claims to be “non-religious” they are usually basing that on the fact that they don’t go to church or believe in The God of Abraham. I usually follow that type of statement with this questions, “Well then what do you believe?” Because we all believe something, right?

We all believe in something.

We all have a religion.

“NOTHING!”

I rarely get the person who answers this way. They believe in “nothing”. Usually these people are the proudest in their nothingness. They seem to answer with more pride than most Christians. It seems ironic to me that they are proud of nothing.There are generally two things they might mean by this statement.

I don’t care…

I don’t believe in a god…

When the person says, I don’t care. What they really mean is I want to live my life the way I want to live it. We are born with a curiosity of nature. A desire to find a purpose. If someone claims they don’t care. They are either lying or they are covering up. WE ALL CARE! They just don’t want to know, in fear or in conceit. The best selling books of all time are books that explain our existence. The most searched terms on the Internet are “religious” terms (even more than porn). Why? Because we all want to know. We all have this built in curiosity. WE ALL CARE!

When the person is saying, I don’t believe in God. They are saying, I just lied to you. They are just as religious as anyone else. Can they prove that there is no God? Of course not. Then they are the perfect definition of religion. They live their life on a belief that there is no God just as I live my life on a belief that there is a God. Regardless about what they believe created the world, or how they believe the world will end. They believe.

“Aren’t we all?”

We are all religious. It is built into our DNA. We all worship. A person who believes in no God still worships. They can worship knowledge, nature, themselves, etc.

Wor-ship: Reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.

Worship is also built into our DNA. We all regard something as sacred. Usually its what we spend the most money on, what we spend the most time on, what we hold higher than ourselves. It could even be our selves. We put value in a belief. We were born to worship. WE ALL WORSHIP!

TO BE CONTINUED>>>

A Disconnected Generation

CONNECT – verb (used without object) – to become connected; join or unite.

This word has been plaguing me for over a week now. Its like when you hear a word for the first time in your life. You may have been around for decades and never heard it before, but for some reason when you finally hear it, you hear it over and over again. Or when you buy a new car. You love it because its unique and you haven’t seen anyone driving it, but then you start seeing them everywhere you look.

God definitely has a sense of humor. He seems to show me things in ways that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but me. I guess you could say I have a twisted, or maybe a more P.C. term would be unique, sense of humor. God puts things in front of me and and I walk right over them without noticing, but once I find it, I never forget what it was, where it was, and why it was there.

I have been going to a new church for a few months now. I just started back to school and went from being self-employed for almost 3 years to full-time hours in a classroom. I am in a new apartment (since December) in Uptown Charlotte, a little change of scenery from Concord, NC. So I guess you could say I’m in a transition phase in my life. As the country is experiencing “Change” so are Jesalyn and I.

If you haven’t been on a college campus in the last 2 years you probably wouldn’t know this, but the new trend is to wear your ipod. You wear it to class, from class, and sometimes in class. In stead of walking to class with a friend or finding someone to talk to, you look down, put your earbuds in, and walk to class while listening to the newest T-Pain song. If you aren’t listening to your Ipod there is only one thing you could be doing. No, not talking to your friend, or even talking on the phone…texting. It’s said that calling someone is a simple communication and emailing is pseudo-communication, then texting must be the lowest form of communication possible. Its too much to actually find out how someone’s doing, we have to get to the point in 100 characters or less. BTW, if u no “txtin lingo” u dnt need 100 characters…10 will suffice.

In World Religion we were discussing how disconnected we have become. Disconnected from nature, disconnected from each other, and disconnected from God. I couldn’t help but walk out of that class with my head up. Watching everyone walk around with their heads down. It really began to bother me. My mind began to think about the day of a 21st Century American…TV, Video Games, Internet, IM, maybe a phone call or two, between all that we are lucky to get in a genuine hug from a friend, kiss from our family, or an actual conversation lasting longer than this paragraph.

We have reserved areas for trees and nature, and we usually have to drive to get there.

We know people on TV Shows better than we know the person we are watching the show with.

We spend 10 hours a day in artificial lighting and maybe 10 minutes in the sunlight.

What’s the problem?

We are born to connect. We are here for that reason, and that reason only. To unite with God, to unite with each other, and to unite others with God. That’s it! No, really…that’s it!

In Genesis God created Adam and Eve. The Garden and everything in it was blessed, in total connection with God and each other. That’s why they were here. To be with God and with each other. Adam and Eve experienced a connection with God which in turn connected them to everything He made. Then it went down hill… They chose to be disconnected. They become ashamed and covered themselves. They were disconnected from God, which disconnected them from nature, and then each other.

NOW, we live in a DISCONNECTED world.

In Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” he points out that this could be why babies cry. The first thing we experience in life is being severed. We feel alone for the first time and we weep.

Separation…Disconnection…Loneliness.

So if we are born disconnected and we live in a disconnected world, then how can we connect? How is it even possible?

JESUS!

When God sent Himself to Earth as Jesus He was connecting us. He was sending us a cable that will plug us back into Him, nature, and each other. And here’s the best part. We already have this cable…all we have to do is plug it in. This is what makes it so amazing. In every other belief or “religion” we have to do something to earn the cable. We will never be truly connected unless we get it ourselves. The Bible says that we are already connected. God has done it for us! All we have to do is…

LOOK UP!

The letter to the Ephesians says that there is, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and IN ALL.”

And in Hebrews, it’s says God is the one “for whom and through whom everything exists.”

Do you see God in the grass you walk on? Do you see God in the person you are sitting next to? The God of The Universe, the creator of EVERYTHING! If you saw Him in that person, do you think you would put down the ipod a minute and talk to Him? Do you think you would open your eyes, look up, and see what He has done/is doing around you?

So that day after we talked about connecting in my World Religion class I put away my Ipod and walked with my head up. I came home from school and decided to connect with God by reading. I picked up the Rob Bell book I was reading months ago and started from my bookmark that was on page 36 of “Sex God” which starts, “We’re disconnected from the Earth and we know it.” I kept reading in amazement as Bell goes on to talk about connecting with ourselves, the earth, and each other. I then started thinking about connection, realizing the church we are now a part of is Connection Church and the small group study we are doing is called, Just Walk Across The Room, about connecting with other people in your life. It was right there in front of me. I had walked right over it without noticing.

I guess you can say God started laughing.

Are you connected? Yes, you already are! You just have to realize it. God has already connected you and all you have to do is look up. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, or who you are. He is already above ALL and in ALL! He has already given you the cable…just plug it in!

Soul = Sponge

Today at church Jerel spoke about stress. He had a bucket of sand and a rock on stage. He talked about Matthew 7:24-30. To build our lives on God is like building our house’s foundation on a rock. To build it on anything else is like building our house on sand.

That is not what this blog is about.

Relating this parable to stress Jerel used the analogy of a sponge. How do you find out what a sponge is full of? You squeeze it. When we are stressed we are under pressure. When we are under pressure we are like a sponge. Whatever we have on the inside comes out. You really find out what you are made of. If you have built your life on God you will see it come out when you are under stress. What a great analogy!

This got me thinking. Our souls are a lot like a sponge. Not just in this way, but in a lot of ways.

1. You see our true character when we are under pressure/stressed.

I already mentioned this, but want to make sure it is emphasized. When you are under pressure to get a project done on time, do you cheat or work harder? When you are stressed about money, do you get angry, blame others, or trust God to provide? How about when you are in a fight with your spouse…you get the point. When we are pushed to our limits our soul is exposed. Do we flow with goodness, joy, and love, or is that when the anger, deceit, and sin prevail?

2. We absorb what is closest to us.

What do you surround yourself with? What/who do you watch, listen to, and hang around with? These things define who you are. Why do companies spend billions of dollars on advertising. Not because you will see a commercial and immediately run out an buy what they are selling (unless you are my wife and mother). They spend huge money on repetition and prime ad spots so it will slowly sink into your soul. So next time you think of the Panthers you hear, “Gotta Wanna Needa Getta Have a Bojangles” and can taste the chicken. Or the next time you feel a little sad you know you need those new shoes because those women sure looked happy in Cosmo.

In the same respect. You become like the people that are around you. If you hang out with negative people you soak up their attitude and begin to see their point of view. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” It also works the other way around. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

So just as a sponge soaks up whatever it is near, our souls soak up our surroundings. So be careful where you set your sponge.

3. If we are not moved or used for a while we become stale.

Our soul is designed to take a beating. To be squeezed, shaped, and molded. We need to be careful that we are allowing it to be filled with the right things, but even the right things, if not used as intended, are pointless. If we just sit around and read the Bible, pray, and worship all day it means nothing if we don’t do what we were intended to do. A sponge is intended to clean. If we use it once and then set it on the counter and never use it again it will become stale. Just the same, if we do all the right things and don’t serve God and build relationships then our soul is being wasted. It is becoming stale.

Make sense? It does to me. See, sponges are made to be pliable and fit into hard spaces without breaking. They are designed to be tough and delicate. Sound familiar? Our souls are designed to bend, but not break. They can be put through difficult situations, but will always be strong enough to make it through. Even if our soul is filled with good things, if we don’t use it, it becomes stale, breaks easy, and sour. Just like our soul. We have to use it regularly or he good things we put in it go to waste.

4. Most importantly a sponge is made to clean the things around it.

How do we effect our surroundings? If we are clean ourselves then we should make the world around us a better place to live. We should use our gifts to make our neighborhood/world better. Just like a sponge. If we are not clean we just smear the filth around and are not really serving the purpose we are meant to serve.

But there is nothing like a clean kitchen freshly scrubbed down by a clean sponge. That’s the kitchen I want to live in.

Questioning God? (Intro)

I have had this idea for the last several years. It all started when I went through a depression in my life. The more I read the Bible searching for a cure for my depression, the more angry I became. It was if my efforts to understand what the Bible was telling me was bringing more questions and not solving the problem I had. I struggled for months with the idea that I was becoming angry with God.

My brain was telling me something like this…Why won’t He answer me? How could I be angry with God? I must be a terrible person to question Him. I don’t get angry over anything, but I am pissed off at God…that just doesn’t make any sense. I must really be depressed.

For most of you who know me, you know that I don’t get angry. I am a very laid back guy except when it comes to sports and politics. I don’t rattle easily and I DON’T GET UPSET WITH ANYONE. So for me to be angry at the person who is love, the person that created me, blessed me, and was allowing me to live, just didn’t make sense to me.

It wasn’t until I actually expressed my anger to God that I started realizing that this was his purpose all along. He was teaching me not to accept what I had been taught my entire life. Get mad, ask questions, and dig deeper. Don’t just be Mr. Nice Guy who knows all the right answers. Speak up and tell me how you feel. I had found the true meaning to a verse i had been staring at for months.

A friend of mine called me and brought this verse to my attention:

Psalm 13: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer.”

I read this verse several times during my depression and always saw the statement of anger. David seemed angry and i was angry. I identified with David and realized it was okay to be angry.

So I had this idea. To help people realize its okay to be angry at God. I wanted to write about my experiences. To let others know it doesn’t make you a bad person. To hopefully get other people to see past their “depression” and realize it is healthy. My conclusion would be to show that not only is it healthy, but God craves us to want more from him, to cry out to him, and to wrestle with our situations and not just accept them.

Fast forward a few years…

I’m reading Velvet Elvis. I believe it is Rob Bell’s first book. (Don’t ask me what its about because so far he has presented so many ideas and thoughts that I can’t remember half of them.) Somewhere towards the beginning he introduced a new idea (to me) and used Psalm 13 as an example.

QUESTION*

He is making the point that questioning sets us free. God wants us to question Him. In fact, the “great” people of the Bible all questioned God when He chose them.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham is told by God what He is going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham says, “Will not the ruler of the Earth do right?”

When the angels tell Mary she will give birth to the Messiah she says, “But how can this be? I’m a virgin!”

For two chapters Moses tries to convince God that He has the wrong man. God almost seems to get more confident in his decision the more Moses questions.

And David, In Psalm 13, questions God repeatedly.

Its almost as if God chooses the people who don’t just accept what they are told. Why would that be? The idea itself even raises more questions.

Here’s the point…

QUESTION*

Don’t just accept. It has taken God several years to explain to me that the purpose of my life, the Bible, and my experiences are not to teach people to accept Christianity. I am to teach people to question it. To question life, the Bible, and their experiences. I think this is the role of all spirtual leaders. That is what Jesus did. He rarely gave a direct answer to questions about God. Even God himself usually answered with a statement that lead to more questions. Like when Moses asks God for his name, God replies, “I am”. Now that is a definitive answer, isn’t it?  This is what teachers and leaders have been missing. God is making sure I don’t miss this.

So from here…

I don’t know about the rest of the book yet, but at this point if I learn nothing else from it, the point he makes in the introduction is worth the time spent reading. This is where God has been calling me. This has been His Work to get me to the point where I am today.

Jesalyn and I are in a huge transitional phase in our lives. What started as pursuing a selfish dream of mine has now evolved into pursuing The Truth. Pursuing God’s will for my life. And this is it.

This will be the purpose for my new blog, my life, and for the new direction God is sending Jes and me. To continue to get closer to the Truth by questioning and getting others to question along with me. I really appreciate all the support from friends and family we have been receiving the last couple months. I am so excited about what God has in the future and I hope all of you will be with us on this journey.

With Love,

Mike

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