Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today In History - Luther!

I absolutely love the passion of Martin Luther and his calling B.S. on the church in his day. One of my favorite movie portrayals is actor Joseph Fiennes in LUTHER which you can watch on DVD. Struggling with what the Official Church taught and did in the name of God really made him angry and passionate, changing the course of religion and birthed Protestantism. I love the word PROTEST in that, makes the rebel in me grin. Read below - then go watch the movie~!

It was on this date, October 31, 1517, that the Protestant Reformation began in Germany, when 31-year-old Martin Luther posted his 95 theses at Wittenberg Cathedral. That document attacked papal abuses and the sale of offices and indulgences by church officials.

Furthermore, Luther argued several other points:

Luther nails his 95 propositions, or theses,
to the door of All Saints Church, Wittenberg.

• that Christian salvation could be achieved through faith alone — "justification by faith," as it was called — yet faith is a gift from God, not a matter of choice.
• a denial of the doctrine of Purgatory, which is mentioned nowhere in the Bible (the doctrine of the Trinity is also missing from the Bible, but that failed to trouble Luther).
• a denial of the Apostolic Succession, so that there is no intermediary between Man and God.
• an affirmation of the scriptures, and not the church hierarchy, as the final source for doctrine.
• an affirmation of the doctrine of Predestination, that those destined for heaven and for hell were chosen by God without regard for their deeds in life.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Flags in the Sanctuary

I "belong" to a mainstream denomination and attend a fairly large church. "Mainstream" does not mean, however, that all of the churches within this denominition are just alike. On the contrary, some are very charismatic while others are a little more conservative while others are somewhere in the middle, and a few are basically on life-support. And with all of the variables of the church at large, you also get the same from the congregant members. Some lean left. Some lean right. Some stand in the middle. Some don't care as long as they can drop their kids off for sunday school and scoot on over to Starbucks.

Recently, and for no apparent reason, someone took the U.S. Flag out of the Sanctuary. For those of you outside of the U.S., it is fairly common for churches to display the U.S. Flag in their sanctuaries alongside the commonly accepted "christian flag" and the denominational flag, or any combination thereof.
This is in no way intended to endorse the over-reaching, all encompassing policies of the US Government. It is not intended to be the focal part of worship nor is it idolatry either. It is not a statement of belief that the United States is a Righteous Christian Nation. It is simply, in our denomination, and our church specifically, a sign of respect for the country that it symbolizes. Respect for a country that allows you to worship when and where you wish. To worship whom and in what manner you wish. To NOT WORSHIP if that is what you wish. To NOT have to display the US Flag or any other symbol if you DO NOT wish.

So back to its removal. It was done innocently enough it appears, but some folks wanted it back in the sanctuary. Some persons went to the Pastor of the church and voiced concern that they did not want it back in the sanctuary. There was, of course, a BM (Big Meeting) and a committee and a vote and now its back.

Yesterday before services, not only was the US Flag displayed - but in protest a Texas A&M Flag and a Mexican Flag were drapped over the balcony by a member. Another member quietly left their seat and removed the flags and spoke with the person who placed them there.
It is all becoming a bit silly.
To be sure, I can worship God without any flags being present. Truth be known, I can worship God without any crosses being displayed (after all, weren't crosses displayed during the crusades? not to mention all those vampires who have been harmed by them...a little humor there), candles being lit, or pews to sit upon. But out of acknowledgement and respect for God for all He has done for us through the Cross we display it prominently. To enhance our worship and acknowledge God is with us, we display an open flame to symbolize the Spirit. To accomodate long winded preachers and the disabled, we provide seating. Out of respect for a country that allows us to worship as we please without fear of arrest and execution, we display the U.S. Flag.
I really don't know why people have to complicate things so much. There being so many things that need our attention more so than this, such as hungry children, adequate health care, and to quote the evangelicals "spreading the good news", what difference does a flag in the sanctuary make?
As for the protestor: I think if he had displayed the Univ. of Texas Flag - it might have went differently for him.... ;) ~npp

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blue Like Jazz and David Gentiles

I spent the weekend with my cousins in the Dallas Texas area this weekend, and went to their lakehouse at Lake Texoma to see it and spend some time with them. Our conversations typically turn toward christianity or theology or spirituality at some point in our visits. Last year I bought them the Donald Miller book "Blue Like Jazz" which I had read and knew they would love. They now have this book on display at the Lakehouse for visitors.
Now, I also spend as much time with my best friend journerer rick in the Austin area and his faith community is I have met on a couple of occassions a really cool and neat and gentle journeyer on staff there, David Gentiles, who Rick explains is all that and a bag of chips! He is very influential in his own way in the realm of things, and i think was on staff of a big megachurch at one time.
Anyway, back at the lakehouse, I pick up this book and flip through it and see on the inside cover, (i think this is right) "for David Gentiles". COOL!!!
I didn't know there was a connection between Miller and Gentiles. and then I got this really great feeling that a book i really like is written by a cool guy who puts David Gentiles name in it who is on staff with my bestest friend Rick and how I am somehow in this loop of great spiritual souls.... and I got a great feeling about that.
It was all about the connectedness to something...something larger than me...something with value and meaning for others...something real... and it just left me feeling very special indeed. Because most of my life I have felt like an outsider - looking in on what appears to be some reality most get and i can't seem to grasp. My reality looks a lot different from that world and I often wondered what was wrong with me. I was actually brought up "believing that Jesus mattered and that doing unto others was the right thing" to actually do and not lip service. then along comes Ricky D, David Gentiles, Donald Miller, just too name a few, Michael Yacconelli is another, and there are more of us out here. And I feel affirmed.
It was just a neat thing and I wanted to share.
ps - the lakehouse was formerly owned by a journeyer as well. Small world.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

games we play II

I failed to mention in the last post that it is unfair to play mindgames with unarmed people. Just a disclaimer.
Games. They suck. Especially when it matters. Like with family. Church. Friendship.
Many of us have had these games played on us. Or maybe its played with us. Like chess pieces. Some are important, some expendable.
And it is really difficult to be real with people because they are so insecure. Think about it, most people are comfortable with some sort of defense mechanism whether it be socio-economic, intelligence, status, possessions - anything that defines them as superior, different or at least distant from the rest. Its protective.
Have you ever had anyone be real with you? does it freak you out? is it uncomfortable because they might get to know you. Relationships become real and meaningful and are therefore valuable and take more time and effort. Do you prefer Roberts Rules of Order over open and honest dialogue. Being real means being honest, stripping titles and pretense and addressing issues.
Its difficult for most to separate their title from their humanity. You see it in war where you become callous. It happens in law enforcement. It happens in marriages.
So you have to play the games. Follow some preset rules. Try to figure out your partner. Your place in life. No, your place in THEIR life.
Being real, honest and truthful is threatening. It places people above all else. It provides no excuses for our behavior. No escape route. It makes YOU responsible to one another. It is what Jesus would want.

The Games We Play...

Strip Poker, naked twister, Truth or Dare, chicken, Trivia, Sudoku, just too name a few. But that's not exactly what this post is about.
I have worked, lets say, for a variety of places, in one respect or another. My longest tenure was in a place where it was kind of scary, full of brutality, and just a lost world. to succeed there, one must "adapt" to certain norms and subculture thougt process. To promote, you had to play "THE GAME".
Many of you know of what I speak. Its the carrot and the stick game. Or the its my ball so you play by my rules. No matter the ethics.
and yes...I don't play well with others. Its not because I don't want to play, its just the rules are silly. So I left that job. Was looking for one when i got it, so i did I started looking again... found one... found another ... found yet another.
So I land somewhere I am comfortable. Told 'em at the hiring I am not a yes man, and I don't back up or bend over either. (its an expression). Was very honest with them. they hired me. Its been okay. Until now..
There is a possible promotion. yes - the motherload had been presented. more money for me and my family. So - ENTER GAME TIME! So here is a series of hoops to jump through "to prove you really deserve it". I don't like the approach but I figure its clean honest expectations and I do them.
The game gets harder. I am set up for failure. It works. Big meeting. Not sure now. Blah blah blah. I am asked "do you really want it?" and more carrot stick game.
I answer honestly. I'm just not sure I do want it.
They are silent.
Hadn't occurred to them I might tire of the game and take my marbles home. Shucks.
Now they are left with, oh lets see, no options and no one else qualified...and the one that is qualified, namely me, might back out.
The game changes. A new meeting. Clarification. It was all just a test to see how i respond to pressure. They really want me to promote because I can do the best at the job.
W.O.R.K. It's a four letter word for a reason.
You just gotta love those games we play.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

environmental awareness blog day?

I guess we don't have enough ideas of our own so we had 'suggested' blog topic of environmental issues. So I'll bite and be a follower:
I love nature - I am not a tree hugger.
I believe in conservation - I don't believe in limiting the amount of toilet paper I use.
We should be good stewards of what God has given us - and realize that God has given it to us.
I don't really believe in Global Warming - I do believe in irresponsible behavior that negatively impacts our environment. I remember as a kid that it was the impending ice age again and it had me scared to death. Didn't happen. Then it was all the planets were going to aline for the first time in ump-teen years and the gravatational pull would pull the planet apart. Again, didn't happen.
I think there are a lot more "do as i say" ers than there are "do as I do" ers.
I remember a commercial from the 70s, when I was a kid, of an Native American (Indian for you older folks) alongside a highway when a motorist throws trash out of their car, and a huge ol' teardrop rolls down his face. That image is still with me.
Then I transpose that image with Jesus standing on the street, or in the corporate office, or god help us in the church office, as we discard one of his little children like so much trash on the side of the road. And a big 'ol tear goes down his cheek as well.
Being good stewards is more than just with our environment. It is also with our relationships. So many times I have seen that taken for granted. People used as commodoties and then discarded after their usefullness is over. and it makes me sick.
so the next time someone asks you what you think about the environment, ask them what they think of their neighbor. It kinda goes hand in hand, because everything you do or your neighbor does has an impact. Whether relational or environmental.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


I was having lunch today with a guy I have met through business. I don't really know him much except we have had a couple of phone exchanges about job stuff, but during each call some reason the topic of "church" comes up. He is struggling with the internal crap that is going on in his church, a First Baptist church of a small town, and what his response to all of this should be. He is a deacon in this church, with all the legalism that entails - and he isn't liking it. It being the politics. He hasn't come right and and said this - but he is questioning whether the actions of the church (they don't like their pastor(s) and have tried to remove them and this church has split once already and know one is coming anymore and they want to vote on this and that and .....) Whew! I can see he is in some pain over this. It is odd he has picked me to talk to about it because he has no idea who I am or my feelings on this stuff. I talk to him about the difference in "churchianity v christianity", in how churches have taken to following Paul (which is why many churches are dysfunctional)more than they follow Jesus. And how in recent years I have rejected much of the bullshit in my own denomination, and many others that are hung up with processes and programs. He is listening with deep interest and saying, "hell, I thought I was all alone in questioning this shit". I said nope, there are lots of us out here.
This man is on a journey.He is becoming a seeker. I can see the questioning beginning which is a first step to getting healthy. He said he doesn't even know if going to church is important anymore. It may not be if its not healthy. What's the point anyway if the focus is on the "church" itself and not those it serves. This shouldn't be a revelation to anyone - but somehow along the years we have distorted what church is. Crazy.
I also get a call this week fishing around to see if I would be interested in a Youth Pastor position at my church. Yes, the same church I tried to inform 3 years ago when they were looking the last time and now they are doing it all over again since it has fallen apart. I said are you crazy? and they responded with "well I know it probably wouldn't work since you aren't a yes man and butt heads with the Sr. Pastor already". Damn right. But, secretly, I would love to do that. Ministry is my passion. Even with all its crap - I still feel called to be a Pastor. I remember hearing once that God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. Its a curse. I love Michael Yaconneli's description in "Messy Spirituality" of his struggles with his own feelings of inadequacy and illegitimacy since he wasn't officially a seminary graduate nor was he officially ordained anywhere most of his life. But God called Bullshit on that. He has reached more people with his authenticity than all the seminary graduated PhDs and their qualifications that I have ran into. Amazing. God can where people can't. What a concept.
So I hope this fellow listens to that inner voice that is telling him there is a better way. A better path. He is becoming one of us. A seeker.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jesus loves me this I know...

Just what in the hell don't people understand about this preschool theology anyway? I am so irritated right now I could drink lite beer!

I allowed my daughter to attend a "function" sponsored by a coalition of Baptist churches in the area (mainly because her friends were going)and she just came home a few minutes ago. We had the typical parent/teenager conversation. Me - "how was it?". Her - "fine". So I had to ask, and I wish I hadn't. I ask "Say any prayers of salvation?" and she looks at me funny and asks what that is. I say its the little prayer where you accept Jesus into your heart...blah blah blah. She said "yes", like she was surprised I knew about this. I then ask "did you have to go down to the front" and she responds "we all did".
I am getting irritated at this point. I am irritated because I know all the play calls in this game. Right out of the Baptist handbook on how to save people in three easy lessons. She, of course, doesn't understand why I am asking and goes into teenage defense mode. I back off. But before I leave I ask her if the speaker said anything close to "do you know where you are going if you were to die tonight or get struck by lightening when you leave here..." and she looked at me like I was a reading her mind. She said sorta. She said he said something like that and then talked about his "friend" in college who just happened to accept Jesus one night at such a function and then got killed in a car accident coming home from it.
Coincidental! I think not.
The children's verse goes like this: Jesus loves me this I know... I love my children and they love me back. I don't scare them into it, its all relational and unconditional. I ain't gonna love them more or less if they fail to say the right thing to me.
And neither is God. God loves you regardless. Get over it. And if you were brought up with this fear factor theology approach to salvation, please get some help.
PS - you can't save anyone by the way. Jesus did that over 2000 years ago on a cross. If you can top that - good luck. ~npp