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Perfect Church (Part 2) – Theocentric

I began this blog a year and a half ago. I started writing part 2 just a week after part 1 and forgot about it. I was going through my saved drafts and found this unfinished thought. So here it is, all pretty and revisited. Please read the first part to get you up to date.

No seriously, go read it.

Really, It won’t fully make sense unless you click here and go back and read it.

Its not that long, just a quick read to get you caught up. Please…

Ok, now that you have read the first installment, read part two starting… now!

What does God want for the church? As we look at the early church we will find church in her purest form. No big budgets, or large auditoriums, and no coffee or doughnuts . I’m not saying these things are wrong for the church. I’m just wondering what the people of the early church did without thousands of dollars in equipment and coffee to get them going. It must have been a boring service.

How did the early church entertain people, keep people interested, and make them feel welcome without these things? Well the answer is pretty simple. They loved…

Misconceptions*

I cringe when I hear people talk about going to a church because they feel good when they leave. That couldn’t be any further from the point.

A little less obvious misconception is the idea that we should go to church to “get fed”. People choose a church because they learn a lot or the church serves some need of theirs well, like childcare, art, business contacts etc. A good thought, but not the reason for church, and definitely not the ultimate goal of the church.

We also hear that people love their church because it is entertaining and they love the music/dramas/videos. OK, I think you know where I’m going by now. I’m sure Paul hired a band and rocked out to some killer worship music before he spoke to the people of Ephesus, or Rome.

I don’t think God’s intention for the church was any of these three things. All three of these things make church a “me first” concept. It wasn’t until our generation that church even considered being entertaining. The church was started to be centered around God or (if you would like me to use big words) theocentric.

At the heart of the church should be connecting with God, doing the work or God, and spreading the  radical love of God. Anything else is extra gravy on the potatoes.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  -Hebrews 10 24-25

In Ephesians Paul explains the purpose of ministry to the church body, he says ministry is meant… 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  -Ephesians 4:12-13

In other words, the church is built to serve. We are a community of believers that “spur” (as the ASV puts it) each other on to love deeper, reach further, and ultimately serve our community, our nation, and our world.

One interesting side note*

Notice in the verses from Ephesians that Paul says it in this order. To equip people for works of service so that they may be built up until we reach unity in faith and knowledge. How do we get to faith and knowledge? First we serve. How does our church grow and build up? First we serve. Paul does not suggest that we study the scriptures so we know enough to serve. He does not suggest that we become a large church so that we can serve. He says to serve to become wiser in the scriptures. He says we serve to grow our church. He says, first we serve.

The perfect church is not “me first”. She is “Christ first”. She is centered around us (the Christ followers) utilizing our gifts, strengths, and passions to love as Christ loved, by serving our community, our nation, and our world. She is theocentric.

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Where is “good”?

Jesus vs Christianity – Jesus Hates Religion

So I found a book that expresses a lot of my thoughts. It is by a Canadian Pastor named Bruxy Cavey. He wrote “The End of Religion” in 2007 and it seems to be very similar to the thoughts I was having. There is also a website from a church in Tulsa, OK that experiments with the idea. Its www.jesushatesreligion.com and there are tons of posts from people around that area and all over posting their opinion on the topic. This seems to be a relatively new idea (at least in the public), but when looking at scripture it seems so obvious. I am going to be pulling things from the messages of the church in Tulsa, the book, and some of my own ideas in an attempt to explain just how irreligious Jesus was/is.

Jesus hates Religion

The opposite is also true…

Religion hates Jesus

First I want to address a common misconception. People immediately get offended because they think Jesus can’t hate. Jesus is love, so how can he hate anything, right? Well, let me correct that notion. There is one thing that Jesus clearly hates. First read Revelation 2: 1-15. Jesus hates the “Nicolaitanes”. It is not known for sure who these people are, but it is for sure that they are people. They have clergy and beliefs, therefore we can deduce that they are a religion or sorts. This doesn’t prove that Jesus hates all religion, but it does prove that Jesus can hate. Therefore saying Jesus hates something is not wrong, otherwise the Bible itself is blasphemous. It also shows that of all the things in the world, the one thing that Jesus definitely hates is a religion.

Next I want to establish a definition for religion. People like to say that if Jesus hates religion or is against it than he is against religious people. NO! That couldn’t be more wrong. Just as the idea of “hate the sin, love the sinner” separates the two you can settle this debate by saying…

“hate the religion, love the religious”

So what is religion? The literal translation means to re-join or re-connect, but that doesn’t help us much. The connotative definition of dictionary.com is, “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.” Here is the key. “a set of beliefs…involving devotional and ritual observances.” A later definition says this, “The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.”

So I point out those definitions to say this. Man has made religion a practice…something you do. A set of rules, ideas, or laws you have to follow to “live right” or get to the ultimate destination of freedom or peace. Jesus broke all these rules by teaching against the ideas of the Eastern Religions and doing away with the laws of the Western ones. When you look at the details of Jesus life you will see how obviously “subversive” his teachings are. You will notice how all the details show that Jesus hated Religion. The point I am trying to make is that if Jesus were alive today he would hate Christianity (what it has become) just as much!

To see this clearly all you have to do is look at the details…

This is from the website from Battle Creek Church in Tulsa, OK

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…

Who are You?

Suffering so soundly
Peacefully fading

Who are You?
Why are You waiting?

Praising the past
Forging the future

Who are You?
Why aren’t You closer?

Struggle so silent
Fighting the night

Tomorrow so dark
Yesterdays bright

Suffering so soundly
Peacefully fading

Who are You?
Why aren’t you saving?

Where were you,
When I created the sun?

Heart so broken
Mind so young

Who am I?
Where have I been?

Laying in bed
Right next to him

Suffering so soundly
His soul in hand

Waiting and waiting
For his life to begin

Where were you,
When his life was laid?

His soul is mine
I’ve already saved!

Death, Taxes, and an Abacus

You know its coming. You can’t avoid it. You can count on it…

DEATH!

Sooner or later, we all will die. Do we really live like it? Look around you. Does anything you see go with you? Will it mean anything when that day comes?

I don’t care what religion you are. I don’t care what you believe or who you believe in. It is obvious, when you are gone, nothing goes with you. Some old religions (Egyptian and some indigenous religions) believe you can come back to your wealth and riches, but your modern day religions realize that once you pass, all your stuff stays here.

Matthew 6 19-21 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

We will die. We will loose everything we have here on Earth. Why do we hold so tight to those things that don’t matter? They seem so important, don’t they.

I want to share an illustration with you that will put a little perspective on things (I stole this from Jim White, the Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church).

I want you to imagine a string pulled tight that runs through the room where you are sitting. It doesn’t stop there, it goes right through the walls and goes out as far as you can see. It keeps going, pulled tight, even as the earth curves it keeps going out into space. Right through the universe and never stops. Now pull out a fine tipped pen and make a mark on that string. You can barely see it, especially if you step back and look at the string from a distance. That mark is your life in the scope of eternity.

Why do we care so much about things that don’t matter. We are conditioned to. When we sinned the first time,what did we do? We were ashamed. We covered up with a fig leaf.

Genesis 3:7 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they
realized they were naked so they sewed fig leaves together and they
made coverings for themselves.”

Jerel mentioned this verse in church last weekend and I noticed something I had never noticed. The Bible states that shame and fear were introduced when this happened, but I think something else is underneath.

What apple?

A common misconception is that Adam ate an apple. Actually, most scholars think it was a fig. That was the common fruit of the area and time. There are also other reason’s, but I’m not going to get into that.

What did they cover up with? Where did they look to cover up their shame and insecurities…not God. They turned back to the fruit that got them there in the first place and covered with a fig leaf. If shame and fear entered the world first, materialism followed almost immediately.

Why do we spend money on name brand clothing? Why do we need the best car or the coolest gadget? It covers our insecurities. It masks our shame. In stead of looking to God for humility and security, we look to the leaf, the dress, the shoes, the ipod, the car.

What is your leaf? What do you cover up with?

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t go with you. Look away from the tree. Look to God…

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!

Right or Wrong?

Don’t you just love when your parents used the excuse, “Because I said so!”. Is that really a valid reason? Is that enough to make you change your action? What about moral decisions? Do you ever wonder why we are supposed to tell the truth, love our neighbor, choose life? It’s not “Because I said so” or because He said so. Most people believe we (as Christians) are supposed to do something because the Bible says, “Thou shalt not…”. I want to challenge that thought.

Let me ask you a question…

Are we supposed to tell the truth, because the Bible says so, or does the Bible say so, because we are supposed to tell the truth?

When I was first asked this question I was sure that we do what the Bible says because the Bible says to do it. The Bible is God’s Word, right? I mean, isn’t the Bible an instruction manual for our life. Haven’t we heard that over and over.

Side-note: That is a horrible metaphor. When do you read your instruction manual for your toaster? Never, unless there is something wrong with it. Are we supposed to read the Bible only when something is wrong with our lives? NO!

Because the Bible says so, is that really enough? Its not enough if our parents tell us, “Because I said so!” So why should it be enough for the Bible to say so? Next time you are faced with a moral decision I want you to choose your decision not because of what you were taught, or told to do, or even because of the consequences that might prevail. I want you to make your decision not because the Bible says, “Thou shalt not…” but because you know it is morally right!

So How do we know why something is right or wrong? Let me answer this with a series of other questions.

1. Is there anything God can’t do?

Ask this question to 95% of Christians and they will get it wrong. YES! There are plenty of things God can’t do. God can’t lie, die, hate, etc. Why can’t he do these things? Because they are against the nature of God. God is absolute and cannot contradict Himself. So God can never lie because He is The Truth. He is not partially truth or the sum of all his natures. He is 100% truth. He is all love. He cannot hate because God is 100% Love.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. – 1 John 4:16

No, this is not another blog. Let me keep questioning and I will get to the point.

2. How do we define Love?

1 Corinthians: 13 helps by describing what love is and isn’t. There are also other verses that help us come to the description as making the security, welfare, and happiness of another person as important as your own or simply, to protect and provide. So when God gives us guidelines to live by he is doing it out of love. He is protecting and providing for us. He has to, it is his nature.

3. Why does God give us guidelines?

Because he wants to protect and provide for us. That is why he says, “Thou shalt not…” Its not because he wants to limit our lives, its actually the oposite. He wants us to be the best we can be so we can experience the most joy possible. God is Love!

So why does the Bible say so? It says so, because God loves us and wants us to be free. Next time you are faced with a moral decision, know not only what to do, but why you are doing it. This will be a huge tool next time you are faced with a moral decision that you don’t know what to do.

 

Credit for this blog goes to Josh McDowell. I am not smart enough to come up with all this on my own. Right from Wrong and Why True Love Waits are great sources on this subject. Also Josh.org has great information and other sources.

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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