Are You Serious?

It can be difficult to know who is!

It’s always been a challenge for me to figure out and I suspect others probably wonder  the same about me! Of course at times I wonder how seriously some things actually should be taken. Perhaps it’s because of my analytic nature that I focus so much on details and have a tendency to be more literal in how I understand things. I’m someone who’s quite serious,too much so in fact,who’s trying to interface with a read the fine print “Just Kidding” world.
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This fixation of mine seems to play out most noticeably in my relationships, both personal and professional. I don’t think it’s really so unusual or remarkable in any way,on the contrary! I see this mindset as being rather common hence the familiarity of the phrase in our culture. However,when combined with any sort of OCD or perfectionist tendencies it typically leads to disappointment and frustration on the part of all who’re trying to understand the appropriate roles of the respective parties in any given situation.

Enough setup?

Looking back on my spiritual journey which for me began at age nine or ten it seems to of,almost without fail, follow a distinct pattern. I find myself being drawn into “all things spiritual” until I reach a point where I can’t find answers to my questions or perceive “it” or myself, as somehow being in contradiction or one of us not living up to the associated claims. All of this is based on or evidenced by how I see “God” manifested in the world, in myself,and in other Christian people I know. At times the answers I do find seem to conflict with what’s taught or simply lead to more questions.

Here’s one…

Is Christianity the perfect ideology for people with low self esteem?

The idea of redemption was never hard to sell to me…As a youth I was so full of self loathing that the idea of being someone other than myself or a better version of who I was seemed like an answered prayer! (I’m still rather frustrated on this score) There are times that I think Christianity would be the greatest thing in the world, that it’d be worth screaming from the rooftops about if it simply did what it claims to do! I suppose that yet again I’m just “doing it wrong” but it’s awfully hard for me to conceive of a God who loves us so much and yet Who would make it so complicated or confusing to be redeemed or to get a taste of that victorious life we’re teased with!

In first Corinthians fifteen Paul talks about our faith being in vain. I don’t think I’m taking too great of an interpretive leap here to juxtapose the relevance of his statement to our spiritual lives. To me He seems to be saying that if Christ didn’t walk out of the grave then what we believe is in vain. If we’ve been crucified with Christ,born again and are in truth new creations in Christ which will someday rise just as He did,why are so many of us still dead in our sins?

“Because someday hasn’t come yet dummy and as long as you dwell in this tent of flesh,you’ll fight this battle regardless of how you feel about it”…The Holy Spirit

WOW! He’s in a mood today…

Anyways, my point is that if our new lives in Christ aren’t a miracle of some kind isn’t what we’re believing also in vain? I understand the eternal aspects of this statement but I also have to believe there are significant implications for our here and now lives as well! It is a bit confusing when you read what Paul says in Philippians about his own righteousness.

Philippians 3:9

KJV And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Or verse 12 of Chapter three in which Paul goes on to say…

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

And of course this confusing admission of his own inadequacy.

Romans 7:14-16

KJV For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Obviously Paul saw himself as a work in progress! That he was running a race,not that he had finished one…

There are however ways to know we’re on the right road!

Galatians 5:22

KJV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Certainly I”m not SO arrogant to in any way expect more from myself than Paul did!

Or am I?

Or pigheaded enough to be unforgiving towards myself when God the Father has already seen fit to forgive my many sins…

Surely not!

WHEW! Glad that’s been cleared up…

So, then what am I really so unhappy about or what are my real expectations?

Oh not much…

I once heard an analogy when I was in addiction recovery that related to what’s known as “recovery time” and “clean time”. It served to help distinguish the differences between them. The phrase “clean time” relates to how long someone has gone without using whereas the term “recovery” is an indication of the healing that’s occurred in someones life, of how much of the causative component involved in a persons addictive behaviors have been dealt with. Clean time is also known as “white knuckling it” the idea being that a persons sobriety is a function of their own “self will” and that inevitably it will fail.

Recovery time is so much better because once we understand the reasons we used to begin with we’re much,much less susceptible to their influence. Nothing is quite so liberating to an addict as understanding why it’s not just “okay” to be who they are and sober but how actually fantastic it is! They’ll never go back to using because they understand how much better off they are where they’re at! It’s no longer a struggle to stay sober,because from this new perspective you know that YOU’VE WON! And that you can live in victory over your addiction because you have something that’s SO much better!

That’s what I want from my spiritual life!

I’m tired of white knuckling it!

And I can’t stand the frustration of the failure that comes with it.

Which is what most religion comes down to in my opinion

and I definitely don’t believe in that.

What I do believe in is love.

And it’s transformative power!

So what I want is a personal encounter with it, or Him…

1 John 4:8

KJV He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

After all that I’ve been through…

all that I’ve seen and done.

I have to be honest enough to say I don’t have it!

which gives me the perfect opportunity to end this post using my title and the likely reaction to it by some!

Are You Serious?

Into The Mystic?

Would it surprise you at all if I told you how thankful I am to have the limited amount of intelligence I posses? On my better days I’m a person to whom humility comes easily and who harbors few if any misgivings about his place in the grand scheme of things. I suspect it was a product of his own similar revelation and his subsequent observations of me that my father once said,

“Son, you don’t have to be really smart in this world if you have smart people around you”

His words stung a little then but now serve as a confirmation to me of a blessing that has in may ways characterized my life and that’s helped me to be more comfortable in the many supporting roles I’ve played since.

Genesis 3:22

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever

Knowledge can actually be a curse, look what happened to Adam after he “got smart” via the fruit of the forbidden tree! I think God is saddened by what’s happened, it’s as if He understands what a burden it is to know, to understand, and that as a result man will now be held responsible to choose good over evil…

Can you not see how much better off Adam was before just being

“dumb and happy” ?

In a recent post I wrote about our freedom in Christ and how Christians have allowed a spirit of fear and deception to keep them from experiencing any possible benefit or blessing from things like yoga,the martial arts, or even performances by theatrical magicians and I still believe that. I understand dancing is now considered “okay” as well…However, when it comes to things like Christians practicing Transcendental Meditation or being involved with any other altered consciousness producing practices I think you’re on very shaky ground and through your own freewill are in danger of coming under their mastery and of being in an idolatrous relationship. It’s more likely to be a person who’s real god is intelligentsia who comes to see themselves as some sort of “mystic” Christian. People who because of their vanity, pride and egocentric perspective have moved out to form a new Christian elite of  super apostles enabled to be our metaphysical snake handlers, qualified by Christ no doubt to handle things that would cause the rest of us to stumble…

After all, they’re the Most Holy People of God!

I write about things that are personal to me and this topic is certainly no exception. I struggle with my own rebellious folly but thankfully I’m not smart or creative enough to come up with the necessary lies and perverted logic which would allow me to continue in it’s pursuit. No, I’m a real amateur compared to people like Thomas Merton who laid the groundwork that “enlightened” generations of free thinking people! People who are, both then and now, spiritually seeking and who because the church was asleep at the wheel or busy organizing a bingo game somewhere were left without a proper challenge to this heresy which seemed to meet that need . I’ve noticed that people refer to him as a spiritual visionary. A so called Christian mystic who sought to bring together all of the worlds major faiths and traditions. Sounds good right but there’s so much more! I believe that in the very near future it’s going to be people such as Merton who will be the new age metaphysical apologists for the anti-christ and his one world religion!

When I first began thinking of writing on this subject I wondered if there were any real or legitimate examples of what could be considered Christian mystics. What about John of Patmos the writer of the final book of the bible Revelation?  St. John of The Cross who’s writings so many Christians find inspiration and comfort in? And in conclusion I think the answer has to be yes! But I don’t think they’re the pretentious, self-important, whack jobs that are attempting to pass themselves off as such today!

But what do I know? I’m just dumb and happy!

Look At Yourself…

I don’t know any perfect people.

I’d even go so far as to say that I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least a few issue’s that they’re working out, myself included of course. The same goes for people I don’t know, be they Christian or Atheist, rich or poor, even if you’re the Pope or the Dali llama it really doesn’t matter! All of us share the same gene pool, and there below our fancy Latin taxonomic name I think it should say in parenthesis…

One common approach used by those who feel compelled to address this greatest of all truths as a spiritual problem or sickness is to engage in various forms of self medication. To, by the use of ritualistic practices, behaviors or good works, overcome or compensate for their bad or evil nature with good or righteous acts. For Christian people this sometimes means regular church attendance or being involved with some personal ministry or outreach effort that their church supports.

One thing I’ve noticed about volunteer work in the church is that there’s usually far more people who’re willing to sign on to do high profile activities such as taking meals to homeless people or visiting the sick than there are who are willing to work at the church.

There are certainly exceptions, but usually they have to pay people to come in and do the cleaning, lawn care, and other more mundane tasks that are essential to the function and care of the church whereas outreach ministries provide their participants with an immediate “this looks AND feels good for me”  pay off.

I do understand that in the body of Christ there’s a place for everyone to serve and I’m a huge fan of doing so but have you ever wondered why people who consider themselves to be servants all seem to be gifted the same way?

Call me cynical or whatever but it’s hard for me not to see it as strange, it’s as though what they’re really wanting is for themselves to be glorified by these works instead of God.


Over the past several years I’ve been on both sides of things. I’ve been the person in need and I’ve been the one who was in a position to give. I’ve been helped, and helped others as well. I’ve also been confused by people who would help you as long as by doing so they looked like a hero but then, when it was a much smaller matter where perhaps just a word from them asking after me and my situation would’ve meant a great deal they suddenly seemed rather indifferent.

I can still recall how struck I was by my own feelings when after volunteering with a local outreach ministry I found myself filling out insurance forms so people could get medicines at no cost from pharmaceutical companies. Within a couple of weeks I began to dislike doing it because of how boring and confusing it was at times. I began to feel uninspired, wishing I could be involved in some other aspect of the ministry that I might find more interesting.

I remember thinking… “this just isn’t my area of spiritual gifting!” I continued to show up and tried to do my best. It sounds bad to say it but when I eventually became financially unable to continue making the hour long drive in twice a week I was actually sort of glad.

These scenario’s are just small examples of what I think it means to look into your own heart and see how self centered and prideful each of us are. Of how desperately each of us are in need a Savior, and how amazing the grace of God which is extended to each of us through His Son Jesus is!
To me, the most remarkable part of this story is how faithful God has been to me. How He’s shown me through untold small miracles how much I mean to Him. How is it then that I can turn away from what could’ve been an opportunity to share Christ’s love with someone else through simple things or grow weary in serving God because I don’t think it’s a good fit for me? Things like spending time with people you may find repugnant but who God has put on your heart, or perhaps doing boring, tedious things you may not actually like to do.
Who knows, maybe if by our doing these things in a selfless manor hoping for some privilege to share Christ through it we might just find our real place of service. We all want to find our purpose in Gods kingdom and play our part in His great plan. For some it’s to be center stage with the white hot spot light and Gods anointment on them, and for others it’s to work in the background in a supporting role of some kind.
What most of us don’t realize is that it’s only through our trusting God and being willing to do whatever He calls us to do in whatever circumstances we find ourselves that we’ll ever truly find our way. There comes a point where we have to stop looking at ourselves and start looking only to Him as the source of everything! We don’t look down, or back, or anywhere else but to Him! That’s when the power of the Lord our God will be seen in a mighty way in our lives and in the lives of those who we’re seeking to serve in His name!

After A Fashion…

Chasing after fashion trends is something we Americans do like no one else! We go to great lengths to express our status and identity through any number of vehicles such as cars, clothing, and even our religion! One flagrant example of this fashion victim mentality I’ve noticed is the practice of young adolescent males wearing their jeans pulled down over their boxer shorts…

“What’s the harm in it”  I protested to myself…don’t you remember? You certainly had your share of “youthful quirks” that were certainly much worse!  Recently I’ve began to notice I felt the same about other fashion statements I saw happening around me and so I started digging for the common element ‘d offence. In my attempt to sort out my feelings regarding the latest hip-hop urban dress styles, the first thing I made note of was that I didn’t really care that the young black men did it. I realized that my annoyance instead had to do with the young white adolescents who were doing it. Upon further analysis I surmised that my feelings were a product of my disappointment with a people who because of some cultural funk deficit became imitators of those who they perceived to be flush with the fashion.

I decided to look up the root word of fashion which I understood to be “fash” and upon doing so was gratified to discover that it’s definition (please click the link) quite accurately described the overall effect all of this fashion had on me. Although it may not technically be the root of the word fashion I found myself intrigued at the insightful comparison’s it’s definition invited, I’m yet to be fully convinced there isn’t an actual connection between them somewhere.

How curious it is to me that the key to the success of any fashion trend lies in it’s ability to evoke strong and yet divergent reactions in people. It hardly matters if that reaction is one of love or hate, the only reaction it can’t abide is one of indifference. Controversy is critical to fashion! I can’t think of any truly great iconic fashion trend that didn’t divide people. Remember long hair? How about “mini and micro” short skirts? Another curiosity is that it’s typically young people who’re the most fertile ground for cultivating these phenomenon however I suspect that regardless of a persons age theres still an element of rebellion at the core of these behaviors.

Even the lack of what’s typically considered fashion is a fashion. Amish people wear clothes that they make themselves that are mostly blue and black, do they have to do that? No! They make pretty good money around here, and so I’m pretty sure they could afford to buy well made modest clothing but they simply choose not to, at least in part I believe,  so that they stand out from other people. All of this is done in the name of their religious beliefs and customs.

What about people who have incorporated Jewish traditions such as the observance of the festivals etc…into their Christian expression of faith? This is another topic I have feelings about similar to the other’s I’ve mentioned. In my research regarding this matter I talked to Jews, messianic Jews or Judeo-Christians and “Christians” who perhaps see themselves as being more Jewish than Christian, to gain their insights. I read some of the works of Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) who wrote some very specific homilies which I saw as being both enlightening and freightening. I was directed to the works of Stan Telchin, who somehow managed to inspire practically every Messianic Jewish Leader in this country to band together against him and the ideas expressed in his book entitled,

“Some Messianic Jews say: ‘Messianic Judaism is not Christianity.'”

A Loving Call To Unity

Starting with the title it was a bit confusing to me, But it seemed to clear quickly. Here’s an excerpt from the forward.

“It is true that if one is a Jew,then he or she cannot be a Gentile. And if one is a Gentile, he or she cannot be a Jew. But you can certainly be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. This is what I am!”

I think that somehow the answer to all my questions and the explanation of the root cause of my feelings on the subject lie within this statement.  Could it be that my unsettled feelings have to do with my perception of Christians who seemed more concerned with being “Torah observant” than they are with being Christ centered? I’ve no doubt that this is a far more complex issue than is the juxtaposition of someones trousers and their undergarments, but in another way perhaps it’s not. None of us can be what we aren’t, but whether the goal is simply to be cool posing as someone other than yourself, or to have a relationship with our heavenly Father, in either case theres no need for any act! All of us have the same access to the Father through Christ and we’re definitely not fooling Him! The most important thing that any of us can do is to know who we are in Christ instead of trying to be something other than we truly are or being someone else that’s an imitation, that’s merely…

After a fashion!

The Problem…

In some ways it’s the height of comical irony that a culture such as ours so steeped in the worship and reverence of love could have it so wrong…

but it does.

It’s often confused with sex, perhaps as a result of the perception that it’s somehow inherently explained by the misleading commonly used expression

“make love”.

Sadly, many settle for the red-headed step-child of love “attention” primarily because we don’t really know the difference. Children, both young and old, act out in bad behaviors that are really just cries for help or for “love”.

It’s sometimes described as a feeling, but that’s kind of like saying Gods creation is God and then worshiping “it” instead of Him. We’re told that love is a choice, which is true, but how does that help us to make loving choices? We’re inundated with a constant flow of dis-functional concepts and examples from every possible source! Through the song lyrics that brainwash us daily all the way back to the fairytale stories that were read to us as children.

I feel very comfortable in saying that all of the most screwed up things that you and I have done in our lives are directly related to our misunderstanding of God and of love, and our search for both.

Almost invariably, mans search for love and his quest for the understanding of it are motivated only by his selfish desires to marshal it’s great power for his own purposes. Man has become a master at peddling illusions and perpetrating lies on his fellow man in order to get what he wants. One is seen as being successful in this life by demonstrating an ability to manipulate others and more importantly to convince themselves that it’s love that they’re offering. None of which would be possible apart from the basic ignorance about the true nature of love that’s so prevalent. We’re like blind people feeling around in the dark who are stung, bitten and burned as a result of working through a process of elimination hoping to find the real thing.

As unfortunate as ignorance is,there’s still cause for hope in that ignorance can be dealt with through simple knowledge. Whats most unfortunate are those of us who have allowed fear to take hold of our spirits. In acting out of fear we acknowledge our own personal insufficiency by believing that we are the source of our limited provision. We’ve been taught to look out for number one which is of course ourselves because if we don’t who will? certainly not a benevolent God, afterall, everyone knows that God helps those who help themselves right?. But in truth, God helps or comes to save those who absolutely cannot help or save themselves!

And that’s exactly the work I believe God is wanting to use His church to accomplish!

God Is Love!

As His representatives and ambassadors, disciples and followers, evangelist’s and ministers, church members and children, shouldn’t we have, based on our personal relationship with Jesus, a much greater familiarity with love than those who don’t or who aren’t any of those things?

Love is the answer!

Perhaps we as the church have forgotten that. We live in the midst of a world full of people who are crying out for answers, are we prepared to give them? Shouldn’t we be the ones teaching the world about love?  This world is a vineyard ripe for harvest, and the only real preparation necessary for us as Christians is to truly receive that love and those answers first ourselves! How can we say that we know the Lord, or that we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, and then stand idly by in the presence of so much need in our own assigned area’s of mission field earth?

We’ve been given the perfect example of what love is in Christ.

I don’t think there’s any way that I personally could ever be thankful enough for what He did for me. If I really mean that, then what does it mean?

We need more than a “revival” what we need is a revolution! A love revolution…

And since love is an action word, a “verb”, that means we need to shift our focus away from merely talking about it week in and week out to one of making some thoughtful plans to implement it in some way scratch that, every way possible! I’m not talking about some token “feel good” project that doesn’t require much from us. What I’m suggesting here is that we work in earnest the great harvest that’s been prepared before us! Just as Christ held nothing back on our behalf, How can we do any less?

We can make the most of the opportunity before us by bringing everything we have to bear on this Kingdom battle for the souls of those around us who our Heavenly Father dearly loves!

Or we can listen to fear…

It’s a choice each of us has to make,there is no way to “abstain”

We can either choose to live in love or be imprisoned by fear.

We can choose to serve the One True God and His Kingdom…

Or be a slave to the one who opposed Him and who is also our enemy.

Is that a problem?


The “Real” Jesus

When asked about his taste in music, Ray Charles was once quoted as saying,

“There’s only two kinds of music, those kinds being good and bad”

and that’s a statement to which I wholeheartedly agree!

I’m not a big fan of most Christian music, sadly, like so many endeavors which are labeled as “Christian” it seems as though the quality of the products produced are lower than those of their secular counterparts. When people talk about books, music, movies or whatever which are produced by Christians inevitably you’ll hear their work patronized with statement’s such as

“It was pretty good, for a Christian writer,musician,comedian,etc…”

As if there’s an unspoken but well understood lower standard involved.

And that’s messed up…

I consider myself to be a fairly typical person, but then again perhaps I’m just caught up in my own “delusions of adequacy.”  I think perhaps a case could be made either way regarding me, but I digress. When I meet people I hope they notice something different about me, I would hope that they would perhaps feel loved in some way! I don’t wear a crucifix outside of my shirt for people to see or have a WWJD wrist bracelet on. If I’ve never met you before, I probably won’t ask you where you attend church within the first ten minutes of a conversation. Some people stress about sharing the gospel or “witnessing” as it’s called, but sometimes the most “Christ-like” thing we can do is just to listen to people.

When people meet me I don’t want them to see a stereotype, I want them to meet the real me.

I am a Christian, but I’m not “Ned Flanders”…(nothing against Ned)

I think that Jesus was a very real person!

Not only in a physical sense but also in terms of how He related to people out of a genuine love for them.

Throughout the bible Jesus’ personality is displayed in many ways. Some of my favorite examples are from His various confrontation’s with the scribes and pharisee’s. This one in particular speaks to me of His sense of humor in dealing with them.

Matthew 9:5

For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?

Jesus perceives their thoughts accusing Him of blasphemy after His forgiveness of sins. I can imagine Him being somewhat confounded by their attitudes, but His reaction is to love and teach them.  He begins by turning the question back on them by asking “whether is easier” which is actually rhetorical in that He knows they can’t truthfully say or do either. Jesus seems to be seeking counsel from these great scholars of the law while simultaneously proving Himself to be God and them to be fools!

Jesus, you crack me up!

Another of the more prevalent stereotypes of Christian people has to do with the idea that all of them are pacifists. The perception is of them being people who would never raise their voice in anger or resort to violence under any circumstances.  It doesn’t say in John’s gospel what if anything might of happened to Jesus that day as He traveled to Jerusalem to observe the passover but apparently,

“He was in no mood”

to discover what was going on in the temple that day…

John 2:14-15

14And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

15And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

During his lifetime here on earth Jesus was a real man with real feelings just like each of us! He had a sense of humor, He could feel pain and sorrow, He could even become angry! It’s a comfort to me to know that being a Christian doesn’t mean we should be always happy or always be serious and sad like the stereotypes portray. I just want to be the person God intended me to be, no more and certainly no less! Helping people do just that is something Jesus was very good at, He brought comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comforted!

I think that it’s so important for Christian people to be “real”, and to not be perceived as being out of touch with the very real struggles that people they might meet are going through. Jesus had great compassion for people who were stuck in the “miry clay” of sin. He understood the temptation’s of this world and the depravity of mans soul that drives him to do something, even if it’s wrong, to fill that void in his heart. He didn’t judge people for having the need which I feel is a critical first step that’s necessary for people to be comfortable enough with us and to trust us enough to actually confide in us about the sin and spiritual needs in their lives so that we might have a “real” opportunity to share the real Jesus with them!