Tax Collectors, Zealots, and Flower Guys

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Few of the Scariest Verses in the Bible

"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness."

1 John 2:9

"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him."

1 John 3:14-15

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything."

1 John 3:18-20

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Morality: The Great Divider

There is a group of youth ministers that I know of and a house Church that I have been told about who smoke great amounts of weed on a regular basis. Now, I know the arguments: It is natural, we're in perfect control, blah da blah...
I have also heard about a Bible college student who argued that fondling his girlfriend was permissible and beneficial. I am not quite sure if I know all the arguments for that one, but I'm sure it had something to do with the fact that the Bible only condemns sex. (My answer to him would be, "The other day I blew a guy's arm off and beat him with it, but hey...the Bible only condemns murder.")
Then there are other people who claim much smaller moralities as a part of their regular, spiritual routine. They defiantly claim that communion must be taken every week in order to truly have the life of Christ in them, and this is far more than a routine for them. It is morality--right living. There are also those who state that homosexuality is a sin while others claim it is a natural part of existing for those who practice it. Christian friends of mine get drunk on a regular basis while others shake their head in disbelief at such an action.
There's no way around it. One of the main divisions in the Church today is morality. It hinders the process of unity almost as much as hymnals vs. projection. (perhaps that is dying down, but by golly I'll bet you we could find some Scriptural text to take out of context for each side!)
Could it be that morality is the downfall of unity even though Paul himself laid out distinct moral boundaries while also going to such great lengths in order to stress like-mindedness and being one in spirit?
My dad is a very good man, and he has personal guidelines for being a minister that he practices without question. There are all kinds of people who disagree with his philosophies on marriage, remarriage, leadership, and other issues. I don't care if people agree with Dad's philosophies or not, but personally I respect them. There are, however, people who have gone from friend to foe with my dad because of their differing opinions. All the while Dad tried to present his views as lovingly as possible. Greatest fans to greatest opponents. What are we to do about this? Morality is, indeed, the great divider. We are called to be one, but we are also called to be holy. How could the two ever coexist?
There is no formula. In fact, I am sure that as Jesus ascended into the clouds after his last words on earth, He whispered to himself, " we go," knowing that the Church was going to twist and turn and split and explode. So many of the past and present divisions can be traced back to moral beliefs. However, I do not think that unity without morality has any place in the Kingdom of God, but I think unity only finds its beauty in disagreements. I'll say it again, I believe that unity only finds its beauty in disagreements and differing views. When we reach common ground morally, and learn to exist as one, beauty is found.
DISCLAIMER: I believe whole-heartedly that the Christian faith is not about whatever works for the individual:
"Yeah dude! Let's just exist as one. I'm going to snort crack off this urinal, and you take communion every week! UNITYYYYY! WOOO! SPRING BREAK! WOOOOHOO!!! See ya at Church."
I think there is absolute morality that we all must practice, and I truly do not know how to reach that without division. I do know, though, that if we can reach that and remain unified then we will see something more lovely than the purest sunrise or the most vivid flower. We'll see the wholeness of Christ.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Whom Shall We Love?

your wife, your husband, your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your best friend, the guy or girl you have really enjoyed getting to know who works in the next cubicle, the guy who works in the other cubicle who talks to loud, the person who gives you a gift, the person who takes one away, the gas station attendant, the bad waitress, the rude cashier, the redneck who checks you out as you walk down the street, the girl you fantasize about, your ex who broke up with you, your ex you broke up with, your ex's boyfriend or girlfriend, the friend who hurt you, the friend who hurt you so bad you couldn't recover, the person who stole from you, the person who is giving you unwanted advice, the person who gossips about you, the rich and arrogant, the poor and clingy, the person who's name you never remember, the person who you are more talented than, the person who hurts the name of Christianity, the homosexual, the one who says, "God hates fags." the one who hinders your cutting edge ministry, your next door neighbor who talks to much, the neighbor on the other side who doesn't wave back, the teacher who is unfair, the dork you just got done making fun of, the person you always joke because you are actually jealous of, the guy who got your job, the woman who is skinnier and prettier, the woman who is fatter and uglier, the lazy person who never gets a job but always asks for money, the spoiled kid who treats you like a pee-on, the fire and brimstone preacher, the weak preacher who never has a point, the minister with an ego the size of Montana, the person who beat you, who abused you, who verbally destroyed you, The person who always talks about himself, the person who never lets you get to know them, the one who goes up every Sunday with a prayer need, the one who cries at every opportunity, the one who is so thick they are never moved, The boss who just fired you, the last person you remember cussing you out, the last person you remember cussing out, whoever interrupts you today, the cynical, the overly happy, the loud youth group kid who always wears Christian T-shirts and has no idea about the "real world", the Goth kid who sits in the corner desperate for attention, the kid who touches you too much, the one who never lets you touch them, the last person who embarrassed you publicly, the last person who bad-mouthed one of your family members, the murderer on TV, the celebrity on TV, the democrat, the republican, the conservative, the liberal, the Church of Christ, the Baptist, the Church of God, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Non-denominational, the person who opposes every point of your doctrine, The man who said "God is dead," The man who said, "I am God," and killed his followers, the kid on your hall that always says awkward things, The person who always laughs too hard at himself, The person who sucks the very energy out of you when they are around, feminists, chauvinists, Blacks, Whites, Chinese, Mexicans, Canadians, Arabs, Taliban members, Terrorists, the guy who broke into your house, the person who is suing you, the cop who pulled you over, the person who tailgated you, the hippie, the yuppie, the mountain man, the artsy fartsy, the thug, the cowboy, the disrespectful teenager, the suck-up, The know-it-all, the person who causes problems every Sunday and you don't talk to because you are afraid of trouble, the person who makes a B-line towards you that you try to avoid, the fake acting Christian who seems to always make a show of their spirituality, the person who runs too much on emotion, the person who runs too much on intellect, the overly organized and anal, the sloppy, The person you have asked nicely for such and such a million times, the guy who you feel considers you a "less than," the person who hurt one of your friends, The one who breaks all the rules, the one you have walked past a million times but never got to know, the one who would hurt your popularity to talk to, who would put you outside your comfort zone to strike up a conversation with, the person who hates you, who embarrasses you, who slanders your name, who has made false accusations about you, who confines you, who knows less than you, who knows more than you, the person who acts just like you and it allows you to see right through them, the person who is nothing like you and you can't understand, dorky Christians, nominal Christians, outsiders of the faith who are kind to you, outsiders of the faith who look down on you, Humans.

To love is to be for someone. I was talking to my friend, Bill, about this the other day, and we both came to the conclusion that God's command to love was much more than us being able to say, "Yeah...I love that person." Love is an action that we carry out for others. We push them towards their success, (unless that success is against God's nature. However, success may be the abundant life that Christ promised), towards a fulfilled life. We do something that makes them genuinely smile. Love is something we mean from the depths of our hearts. There are those on that list that I have "loved," that is if love is defined by "not hating." However, there are people on that list that I have not benefited in anyway, and I have even kept them from a more fulfilled life. If I am to love these people, I will actively pursue them; because Jesus is deep inside of me wanting to walk up to them and say, "You have worth." I know Jesus lives in me, but sometimes I picture Him clawing to get out, in order to express love to the person I just ignored. Whom shall I love? Anyone with a soul destined for eternity.

Monday, October 16, 2006 the topic...

I just received a copy of a show I played at New City cafe. You can hear my newer music here:

or you can click on the link below. Thanks.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Pits

You may know the story of Joseph from your flannel graph in Sunday school. He was his father's favorite son, and his dad showed him that special love by giving him the multi-colored dream coat. His brothers absolutely hated him as a result of this unbalanced love. Also, there were the dreams. He dreamt that his brothers' sheaves were bowing down to his in the field; and the sun, moon, and stars revolved around him in praise and adoration. Then, for some reason outside my comprehension he felt it would be a good idea to fill his brothers in on this humble dreams.
"Today I dreamt that I guys...notsamuch." I think if I were one of the brothers, I would have had a bitter taste in my mouth as well.
One day Jacob sends Joseph to go check on his brothers while they are working in the fields. Genesis 37:18 picks up with their conversation about the approaching Joseph.

"But they say him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 'Here's comes that dreamer' they said to each other. 'Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him.' When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. 'Let's not take his life,' he said. 'Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him.' Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father."
This is where I see so many of my Christian brothers and sisters in the Church today. Do you see the first few steps of this process? First, they attack Joseph's identity--his God given identity. "Here comes that dreamer." Joseph was a master of dreams, and he would go on years later to use this gift for God's glory. However, the brothers saw it as something worth criticizing. Secondly, they had a lessened view of Joseph and who he was. Therefore, they saw his life as having less worth than their own, and it was this attitude which led to a murder attempt. Third, we see Reuben choosing life for his brother while the rest chose death, showing us that acting out our hatred is a conscious decision, not something uncontrollable.
"So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe--the richly ornamented robe he was wearing--and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it."
So far they have criticized his identity, lessened the value of his life, and made the conscious decision against him, but now--now--they have allowed their attitude to manifest itself as an outward expression now visible to Joseph.
Those around us who we just can't take--whose gifts we are jealous of, who are more successful than we, whose personalities clash with ours, who have put us in unfair positions on purpose or accidentally--will feel our attitude express through our gossip, stabbing remarks, or fleeting glances. How often I have stripped someone of all they are worth, their self respect and their confidence all without raising a single finger but rather by merely using words.
We call insults "put downs," because that is exactly what we are doing. Just as the brothers, motivated out of selfish arrogance, lower Joseph into his own confined pit, we are constantly fighting for a few extra inches above one another. When was the last time you buried someone deep into the pit of your cynicism, pride, and bitterness all the while elevating yourself higher?
Jesus tells a story of another kind of pit:
He says in the last days, he's going to come back and separate the sheep from the goats (I'm not totally sure why they've been in one heard to begin with), and He'll turn to the sheep on his right and say, "Well done! Come on into the Kingdom, for I was sick, hungry, needy, naked, and in prison; and you met all my needs."
Then He'll turn to the goats and say, "I don't even know you, for I was sick, hungry, needy, naked, and in prison; but you met none of my needs."
The goats will ask, "When did we see you in these situations, Lord?"
And Jesus will reply, "Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me."
Then the goats will be condemned to a pit of agony and punishment.
I think the reason the goats got away with being with the sheep for so long, is that they more or less blended in with the herd. They simply got to reap all the benefits of living with the sheep, but they were never, ever sheep no matter how long they were in their midst. Jesus knew, though, and He could not, would not be fooled.
Also, I wonder why Jesus did not ask, "How was your quiet time, tithing, minutes in prayer, or how cutting edge was your ministry?" He simply asked, "How well did you love?"
I think some of us truly think we are sheep, because we've been traveling with them so long, but we still gossip, slander, and get into our own selfish lives. Jesus will know the difference, and if we have no answer for how we loved, the punishment is severe.
If we spend our lives evaluating others as having less worth than ourselves, confining others into their own pits of "worthlessness," and not lifting people out of their dungeons, we will find ourselves in our own pits of punishment and destruction in the last days.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Besides, My Arms Aren't All That Heavy

I have been blessed with many good friends. Some of which I have links to their blogs on the right hand side of the screen. I'm friends with quiet people, loud people, intellectual people, funny people, needy people, and stable people. However, there is one friendship that stands apart from the others, and that is my friendship with none other than Charlie Ketchen.
Charlie and I have a special friendship that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. Stopping short of becoming his hit man, there is little I wouldn't do for the guy. I do a pretty crappy job of staying in touch, though, and I would like to do better. But that's just it. I know we'll pick up right where we left off.
Charlie and I met when we were both freshmen in Bible College. There was a "Say-goodbye-to- your-kids-because-they-will-never-be-your-little-boy-again" church service on Sunday morning in the campus chapel, and we were picked at random to help serve communion. So I got paired up with this guy who looked like he stepped out of Farmtown, USA (Francisville, IN), and our duty was to pass the trays from one side of the pew to the other. I had no idea who this kid was, but as the solemn communion music played and parents cried and people prayed, our eyes caught from across the row. Suddenly, we couldn't take it anymore. The laughter was forcing its way out like a cracked dam. There was no reason to laugh, but we did. We did hard. So hard, that our parents suddenly realized that they were dropping us off to meet our doom with one another. That was the beginning.
We have a lot of good memories which usually consisted of us running from whoever was getting us in trouble, but we have other memories as well. We have memories of pain and trial that we had to face alone. There were burdens that we couldn't carry for each other even though we would have if possible. There were broken moments when we would lend listening ears to each other's pain. It was during those times that Charlie reminded me a lot of Moses' friends in Exodus 17.

The Israelites were at war with the Amalekites, and Joshua was leading the charge. However, they received quiet a beating unless Moses, their fearless leader, would raise his arms to the sky. Have you ever seen how long you could go without lowering your arms? It is horribly painful, especially when your arms only weigh .0001 lbs. (which in and of itself is about a tenth of my total body weight). Moses just couldn't keep them up no matter how much he wanted the victory, so that's where Aaron and Hur stepped in. They held his arms for him, so the victory could belong to Yahweh.
That's what Charlie did for me on numerous occasions, and that's what many of my other friends have done as well. I hope that I have done the same for them. Sometimes all they could do was ask, "What can we do for you in this situation?" Even though they didn't know how to help, they did a darn good job of holding up.
We talk so much about being unified in terms of race, politics, generations, styles, and on and on. However, sometimes I forget about unity when it comes to my dearest of friends. I let their arms fall, and I neglect them as a result of taking them for granted. I forget to let them know that they are deeply loved and appreciated as well as the significance and vitality of unity between friends. If we can't be unified with the people we laugh with and consider dear to us, then we can't really be unified with anyone else, can we? That's where it starts.
So friends, I'm here to hold up your arms even if I may be 1/16 of your size, and I appreciate all the times you were there told hold up mine. I'm here, and the unity is deeply appreciated.

To see Charlie--the rock, the arm holder, the hero--click below:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Daddy, Chase Away the Zombies

I know a family, or I guess you could call it a family. They have at one time or another all lived under the same roof, so I suppose that is enough to qualify them for the title. The parents got a divorce a few years back, and the wife is working over time on her second affair at the current moment. The husband was exceptionally gifted in the skill of sarcasm and practiced it frequently on his wife and children. The oldest son is sort of a "live in a van down by the river" kind of guy while the second oldest is currently in rehab. The youngest son is in prison for cold blooded murder, and the youngest daughter is who knows where. Their's is the family of America.
Here are just two statistics out of kabillions having to do with the family. The website I got these from are down below:

"Children of all ages experience abuse and neglect, but the youngest children are most vulnerable. Children younger than 1 year old accounted for 41 percent of all abuse-related deaths reported in 2002; three-quarters (76 percent) of those killed were younger than 4." 1

"In 2001, there were 42 children and young persons who were brought to the Juvenile Court for Care and Protection Orders, and this rose by 62% to 68 in 2003. " 2

Jesus and the apostle Paul talk a great deal about the unity and connection of family as well as the mysterious connection between husband and wife in sex. Paul talks about husbands and wives loving and submitting, and pretty much falling all over themselves in humility for one another. God in the Old Testament talks about children honoring their parents, and, even though He commands "children," there really isn't an age limit placed on this law.

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about how many people are walking through their everyday lives in such great amounts of pain, agony, and loss. I went to a Christian high school and a Bible College. I have lived in a pleasant little bubble most of my years where everyone, for the most part, appeared to be managing just fine (or at least pretended to be, because that was, perhaps, the only way to exist in such a bubble). However, over the past few months I began working at my home Church, and I have started interacting with the everyday man and woman. It didn't take long to realize that many of these people were mere shells of human beings. They are only flesh and bones, but they lack life and joy and true connection.
I see more and more people looking like the Night of the Living Dead, where each person who was originally created with laughter, motives, vision, and meaning is caught and killed. However, their bodies continue to thrive, but none of these bodies have any connection with other bodies. They live in their own private death wandering the country side. I suddenly screamed and ran out of Church the other day, because I realized I was sitting three chairs down from one.

Here's where I'm going with all this:
The family has self-destructed in America. Husbands beat kids. Wives neglect their children, and siblings physically and/or sexually abuse their brothers and sisters. However, in the Bible, God refers to Himself as a protecting Father or a caring mother and Jesus as an intimate brother. Also, He refers to Himself as a pursuing, romantic lover--the knight in white armor. The only problem with these examples is that its no longer a safe analogy to make. Fathers are scary and mothers annoying while brothers are intimidating. The reason people are walking around like the living dead is because the family has broken down. There are no longer any analogies to help them understand God, so they see Him as the equivolent of their hateful, earthly father.
If God is against you just like Mom and Dad or just like your spouse, there is no longer any reason or purpose to hang in there. Give up, and wander the country side. It's all you have to do, if God is, indeed, like the average modern day parent.

Unity in the Church starts with unity in the family. The health of society as a whole and as individuals starts in the family. The journey of every man looking for God starts where? in the family. "Unity" is not a Church word, but a household word. Therefore, Husbands, love your wives and give them a reason to respect you. Wives, give your husbands the respect they will then deserve. Children, honor your father and mother, and find God in your unity today. May we fulfill the analogy this very day.



Wednesday, September 06, 2006


"We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." 1 Corinthians 8: 1b-3.

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

So, does that mean the man who simply writes about loving others and posts his writings on the internet for all to see but fails in love is actually a hypocrite? Merely puffed up?



I would rather be ignorant and loving than knowledgeable and full of air. Therefore, if you must fail your test, lose your job, put off writing your sermon or even paying the bills, miss a game, get out of bed when your sick, or even hold back in telling all the wonderful insights you have in order to truely love someone from down deep in your soul, and let them see a glimpse of Christ then let it be. The reward itself will be in the letting go and in the freely loving.

Slow down. Minimize this window right now, and tell the person closest to you that you love them--that they are truely important and beautiful. Go...right now...seriously, go. Do we hesitate because the person closest to us is not beautiful in our eyes? Well, the Jesus in you (if he is truely in you) wants them to know that they are, indeed, lovely.

Just conversing about it will puff up, but practicing it will provide a true connection with God.