The last couple years of our life have been crazy to say the least. A quick rundown: somewhere around 8 jobs, 3 churches (4 small groups), and 4 places to live. Family and friends have overwhelmed us with drama and insanity (an understatement). I guess you could say we were learning to not expect anything. How have we gotten to this point? It all started a couple years ago when I was dreaming of living in NYC. Somehow we got from there to here. I’m back in school and living on an acre of land in suburban Charlotte. Not quite Manhattan, but it is a plan to take us in that direction. A smarter alternative to giving it all up and risking everything to follow my passion. I guess you could say its a 5 year plan with options.
I have never been so satisfied about where I am in life. I’ve been comfortable before; I’ve been excited before; I’ve even been happy, but never quite as content with all the pieces of my life. For the first time in my life I am satisfied. Satisfied with exactly where I am at; satisfied with where my wife is at; satisfied with our jobs, our house, our goals, and our uncertainty.
Where will we be a year from now? I have no idea. I have a goal, a plan, a dream, but not a clue. All I know is I can’t wait to find out. We are here and that’s fine. I guess this is the first time I can say I would be happy in the same house, with these same jobs, and the same family two years from now. That says it all.
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…
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…
You know its coming. You can’t avoid it. You can count on it…
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.
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…
OK…I admit it!
Jes and I were on vacation last year to Myrtle Beach. We went to the dueling piano bar at Broadway at the Beach (because we love Jokers in Mooresville). We finally got a seat up on the railing and the guys broke into a 15 minute Prince concert. We were sitting beside a couple who wasn’t really talking much but looked to be having a good time. As the pianists broke into “Kiss” the guy beside me leaned over and said, “I know my wife loves this crap, but when are they gonna give us something to listen to.” I guess he had not noticed I was singing along with every word. So I leaned back over to him and said, “Real men love Prince.”
Most people that know me know I am not ashamed of what kind of music I listen to. Justin, Prince, Mraz, Buble (I don’t know how to put the accent over the “e”, but if I could, I wouldn’t, because I call him Michael Buble) Where it gets really interesting is when I tell people I mix that in with some T-pain and there’s my playlist.
Several years ago I had a friend ask me a question when we were talking about me putting my faith in Jesus. He said, “How do you listen to Christian music all the time?” It took me back…
I don’t, should I? Should my playlist be Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and in stead of T-Pain should I mix it up with T-Mac?
So here it comes…close to 5 years later I finally have an answer to that question. I know you’re wondering how it took so long, but that’s not the point. The point is, it took God 5 years to get it through my thick head and now I’ve got it.
What is Christian Music? No, really…what makes some music Christian and some not? What makes some Companies Christian and some not? What makes Chick-fil-a a Christian restaurant and McDonald’s Secular? Is it because they aren’t open on Sunday? Is it because the owners are Christians? I know, it must be because they over abuse the term “my pleasure” and that is what God would want from “His” fast food joint.
Sorry about all the sarcasm.
So what classifies music as Secular and Christian? It’s not that the artist is Christian because you can’t tell me that Josh Turner, Bono, and many other “secular” artists are not Christians. It’s not that they sing about God or Jesus, because Carrie Underwood would have had a Christian hit with “Jesus take the wheel” if she released it as a Christian single. There are tons of songs written by Christians singing about Christ that aren’t considered “Christian Music”. I know, it must be the over abuse of the words “love” and “above” and that is what God would want from “His” music, right?
Are Chick-fil-a sandwiches any more Christian than McDonald’s? Is a Cook-out shake any more blessed than a Wendy’s Frosty because they have scripture on the cup? NO!!!! In fact, the idea that Cookout prints scripture on their STYROFOAM CUP is kind of ironic to me.
Ok seriously, no more sarcasm!
So here is what makes some music Christian and some not…It’s self proclaimed. The artist says, “I am playing Christian music.” Does this make it any more “Christian” or any less “Secular” than any other music? NO!!!!
All music is created by God, and therefore it is good. Yes, all music! Not just self proclaimed Christian music. All food was created by God, the chicken and the cow. So next time you pray to God to “bless the food” remember that it is already blessed by God. He created it, blessed it, and it is good.
Are you a Christian?
Is the tree outside my window Christian or Secular? Is the box of mac and cheese in my cabinet Christian or Secular? Is my dog Christian or Secular…the couch…the car…etc. Doesn’t this sound ridiculous! It is! It was all created by God, it is good, but it is not Christian or Secular it just is.
Music just is. We as humans can alter it, manipulate it, change it, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.
Food can be pumped with steroids, flavored, fattened, packaged, and preserved, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.
So are all people Christian people? We were all created by God, right?
We were created by God, but we are different than the music, the food, and the tree. God gave us a soul and a decision. My dogs have no decision to make, they just are. The tree has no decision to make, it just is. We have a decision to make. We can choose to accept the truth and be as we were meant to be, or we can deny it and be apart from God.
We were created by God, we were good. Then we were separated from Him. We have a choice to accept who we are and be “Christian” or deny it and be “Secular”. That’s the difference between music and people.
So my answer, “I am a Christian, but I listen to music, not Christian, not Secular, just Music.”
Tonight, Saturday from 7-8pm at the corner of Trade and Tryon. Check it out!
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.
So if we are born disconnected and we live in a disconnected world, then how can we connect? How is it even possible?
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…
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!
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.
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.
In a time that Josh McDowell calls, “The Last Generation of Christians” how do we reclaim the world for what it is, God’s? It all starts in one place. You may have guessed it from the title.
What is the church? I think the better question is, what should the church be. In today’s society the church is the place where Christians go to “get fed” or to “experience community”. I have been struggling with this for a long time. In fact, this has become my heart’s passion. To find the perfect church.
Many people believe that the perfect church can not be accomplished. Perfection is something we long for, but can never really be achieved. A common misconception is that God is the only thing perfect and nothing else can be. I don’t think any church will ever be exact, without fault or error, but it can be “perfect”.
Let me be clear.
Perfect is simply being as God intended to be. In 2 Samuel it says, “God’s ways are perfect…”. Its overwhelming, when you look at the times in the Bible that the word perfect is used its mostly referring to the will or plan of God, not God himself, but God’s ways or intentions. In Matthew 48 it says, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Matthew knows that no person is flawless, or without error. We all fall short and sin. He is saying we are all to be as God intended us to be.
So get that notion out of your head. Things can be perfect in fact in Genesis 6:9 Noah was referred to as perfect in many translations. Not because he was sinless, or flawless, but because he “walked with God”. We can be perfect. The Church can be perfect. Perfection is a goal that can be reached and it should be our goal. To be as God intended us to be.
So what did God intend for the church? That’s where it gets a little harder. I guess the best thing to do is look at “The Church of Jesus”. No its not a new denomination. I’m referring to the first church. The church that Jesus himself lead. I would think that sense Jesus was fully God that the church he started would be exactly as God intended, correct?
Lets start off with the first objection. Churches didn’t exist during Jesus time. He was a teacher, not a pastor or leader of a church. Sorry to be so blunt, but if you think what Jesus did wasn’t start a church, you are wrong. Jesus spent his adult life teaching the disciples so they could be prepared to go out and make new disciples and so on. Is that not what The Church is? The Great Commission was the first “mission statement”. Jesus sending his Church out into the world to start more Churches.
Lets go ahead and get another thing out of the way. The Church is God’s Bride. So if I refer to The Church as “she” it is not me being politically correct. It is reclaiming the image of The Church from the Bible. She is God’s Bride.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets take a break.