Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Personal Jesus

by Johnny Cash

Your own, personal, Jesus
someone to hear your prayers,
someone who cares
Your own, personal, Jesus
someone to hear your prayers,
someone who's there

Feeling unknown
and you're all alone,
flesh and bone,
by the telephone,
lift up the receiver,
I'll make you a believer.

Take second best,
put me to the test,
things on your chest,
you need to confess,
I will deliver,
you know I'm a forgiver.

Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
Your own, personal, Jesus
someone to hear your prayers,
someone who cares

Your own, personal, Jesus
someone to hear your prayers,
someone to care

Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith

This genuine Johnny Cash song was later re-popularized by Marilyn Manson, with not a word changed; Marilyn's version, of course, sarcastic. He implies an invisible friend, a ridiculous faith, a superstition. Wierd how he didn't even change one word, yet his inferences are there simply by knowing who Marilyn Manson is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Modern Day Jesus

There is no evolution of God; only His interaction with an evolving world. For once He came to us and sat with drinkers and partyers and every type of sinner, he reversed the curse for the sick and lame - those things the leaders thought rightly brought shame to those who must've done some serious crimes, they thought brought by God, and God all the time.

Instead of condoning the guilty one's stoning, He dismisses the crowd (those perfect and proud), and speaks softly to the sinner.

"What would Jesus Do" in the world we have created? Who would he sit with this time? Would he conform to our ways, or ruffle the feathers of our adamant religious chiefs? Would he join us in protest on the streets, to change laws? Or would he work on the hearts of the people with "flaws"? Would he address the congress of the empire at large, or pray on its steps that God take its charge? I don't remember him saying "When in Rome..."

I think we can surmise that He'd sit with our sinners, he'd befriend them, enjoy them, tell them it's ok. Our sinners, the business corrupt (like the tax collectors), the girl who had an abortion (like the one who was almost stoned to death), the gay (maybe he'd launch his ministry at a wedding again!), and on our list of sinners goes.

Does history teach us nothing, Lord? We miss you if we think this way. We miss you if we think this way. Not only when you come again, we are missing you every day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Knowing God

I am a firm believer that to approach the matter of God and spirituality and salvation as a child, as instructed, means to come with no expectations, no preconceptions, no background "knowledge”; to take Him at His word, to believe Him. So for a moment, let’s drop the notion that there are all these God rules and that everyone is saved, and even that salvation is a journey, and let’s approach ‘knowing God’ with a blank page. Let’s think of the state of one who does know God.

I would think that someone who is fairly close with God has about as much irrational fear as a lion (and by that I mean little to none). They know they’re safe, they know the power of the one who loves them, and they know they will never die even if their body does. Someone who knows God would have no worry of any kind. Without the barrier of a mind with a questionable history, the one who knows God would be able to hear The Voice so clearly, so I imagine they’d be full of wisdom and may even have special insights (ooo, the gifts, watch out!). The one who knows God would be the most humble person you have ever met, having been given so much grace. The one who knows God would love others unconditionally and would withhold judgment. This person would seem like God in a body, well heck, like Jesus. Everything Jesus is, that’s what the one who knows God would look like. In fact, the whole goal of Christianity is to “be like Jesus”, or in some circles to “be Jesus”. There are so many claiming they know God – Christian or otherwise – but there should definitely be some of this fruit in the ones who actually do. Good trees bear good fruit.

The eternal reward is for those who know Him, or rather, for those whom He knows (Matthew 7:23).

We have all heard the age-old defense of relationship-religion that you can know everything about someone - their favourite colour, their date and place of birth, their family tree, their pet’s name, their complete history even down to the minute and second - and not know them. This can be likened to an obsessive Justin Timberlake fan who knows more about Justin than Justin does; but she can convince no one that she actually knows him (lame example I know!).

But let’s flip that argument on its head, since Jesus will say ‘I never knew you’ rather than ‘you never knew me’. Have you ever considered this? He who knows our intimate details, more intimate details than we do (He was more present at our births than we were), even counting the number of hairs on our head, doesn’t know us. He doesn’t know us, and it must drive Him to absolute extremes. To think of it this way is something that has helped me see what this is all really about. He wants to know me; He died to.

If you found an old and broken machine, and having no idea what it was, flipped on its switch to find it not working, I’d think that to go about fixing it, you’d first have to figure out what it does, what its intention is, the cause for its design. Our goal for this project then would be to have the machine working as it was meant to work, doing what it was intended to do. A project without a goal is destined for failure, yet because we have put the goal of salvation behind us as something achieved with that whispered prayer, we don’t even begin the real project.

And what is this intention for us broken machines? What is our purpose? I’d like to suggest our purpose is to know Him and to be known by Him – nothing more, nothing less. You have to go to the beginning to find this. Why were we put here? It’s clear to me that because the person of the Creator IS love, and there is no love without an object of love (a recipient), we were created to receive His love. It’s all I’ve ever been able to come up with. It’s the only thing that makes any sense.

And how fitting then, that Jesus – the person of God, and the repairman of this broken machine – comes and says that salvation is being known by Him. How perfect. How utterly perfect!

So let’s re-insert our grid for understanding, our preconceptions (maybe a little changed?), and the journey of salvation (Phil 2:12), and let’s get to it. Let’s find Him and know Him. It’s the only way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A passing thought today as I was driving home from Abbotsford. For all the statistics I've heard about the size of our planet in context, I've never thought of it this way before. It's beyond comprehension to think that our planet is as a single particle of dust on an elephant in comparison to our universe. And to add to the analogy, what are we as individuals in comparison to our planet? How many trillionths of the size of that piece of dust are we? What's more stunning and even more incomprehensible is that these trillionths of a piece of dust claim to be able to define, by their surroundings, the elephant. How proud are we!
Here's a link to the trailer for Jesus Camp

I've also added a link in the Jesus Camp post of Ted Haggard.


Making Babies

There are a few reasons why people are or become Christians, and they are:

> they are born Christian, and know nothing else. If they were born Muslim, they'd be Muslim.

> they aren't atheists, so they adopt the dominant religion thinking it's one way of many

> they were atheists, or considered atheism, and it scared them to death, so in essence, they created a god.

> they've been called, and have answered the call, and have been "saved"

I'm sure there are other reasons, but generally, I think it's either because they were born Christian, or they have created some sort of god to help them sleep at night, or they are just there and don't have the time or energy to seek truth, or they're genuinely His. And I guess you could say that in all of those 4 reasons, there could be the genuine. Any of these inductions could lead to a genuine adoption of the faith. Or they might not. One can be in the church all their life, have wisdom to boot because of all the sermons they’ve heard and all the Bible studies they’ve been to, but have no knowledge of Christ.

I don’t like how salvation is distributed these days. It’s normally a repeat after me type thing that ushers in eternal and magnificent grace. I guess that’s the best we can come up with based on scripture. I mean, if you look at Acts, it really only gives examples of people accepting the truth of the Gospel. Doesn’t tell us how.

Now let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say that all these people who go out to make converts and bring them into the fold by giving of oneself in word have the highest intentions. Let’s not think that a lot of these people will come into the church and translate their attendance to dollars with fallacious tithe teaching. Let’s not think that saving souls is the only way for the struggling church to stay alive. Let’s believe the best of intentions. Does evangelizing with best intentions (ie. The love of God) save people? Does it bring forth real fruit? Or are we still just filling our flock with goats?

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. … Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matt 25:31-33, 41)

Also read the Parable of the Weeds

It seems to me that the initial conversion may just be a stepping stone. It’s easy, it’s an introduction. And there may be a hint here in Phil 2:12, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” There’s a process, a starting point from which you must go. Or, let’s consider Jesus’ words to the churches at the time of John’s Revelation. Some of his churches he encourages and tells them to keep on as they are; others he rebukes, and says if they continue as they are, he will cut them off.

Think about our catch-phrase "born again", which is rooted in John 3:3. To further the analogy, they say being born is the most traumatic experience the average human ever experiences. Would the spiritual rebirth be any less of an event? Doesn't surrendering yourself away hurt even a little?

The validity of modern-day and historical conversions are contingent on fruit. And just because there is no fruit does not mean these people leave the church. They stay, and like weeds they suffocate our growth, and can destroy that which grows alongside them (the wheat). That's their purpose.

Nothing to be done but beware. The Parable of the Weeds makes me happy. And it makes me excited because it looks like it's happening. The weeds are being pulled up first and thrown to the fire. In my mind, I'm thinking Ted Haggard, and the RC Clergy Child Abuse flood. We have only one hope, but it's a good one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sheep Amongst Wolves

My last post sort of leads me to this post; something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. It’s just such a hard topic, but it’s been on my mind’s back burner for so long.

When I consider our history, as humanity and as a church, and I hold it up to the words of Christ, for some periods there is no hint of resemblance. And it begs questions of all of us in the here and now. I consider the fact that during the apocalyptic reign of Hitler in a Christian nation, two-thirds of the SS called themselves baptized Christians. Two-thirds of those who performed the acts of Kristallnacht, two-thirds of those shoving hoards of people into cattle cars, two-thirds of those who manned the atrocious concentration camps, two-thirds of those who invaded sovereign nations and killed many innocent people, two-thirds of those who killed 6 million people based on traits that were not of the victims’ choosing, were Christians. How is that possible? How is it possible that Christian churches in Germany under Hitler hung the nazi flag behind the pulpit, or even bore the swastika on the pulpit? Christian soldiers wore the belt buckle (above), on which is written (translated): "God is with us".

Were they Christians?

How about the horrendous crusades? How about the convert-or-die program that has appeared many times over the years? How about selling indulgences? How about the Inquisition? How about the modern clergy sexual abuse flood?

Were they Christians?

And now, as there is a “Christian nation” with a “Christian” President, how about the 65,000 Iraqi civilians that have been put to death to gain access to oil?

Are they Christians?

My God, what are we capable of when we approach the Bible with an agenda? Is there anything we can’t proof-text?

Yes, in modern times, we think we are so evolved, but I have to shake my head every time I think that Dachau was “in production” just 60 years ago. My grandparents were alive to fight Hitler. These were not dumb people; I know my grandparents! To think, then, that such a thing is possible; that reason enough could be given to convince practically the entire German Church to endorse Hitler’s plans is mind-boggling. What does that mean for us now? Has time and regret made us immune to this ever happening again?

I wonder if something similar were to happen now, here, how many of us would go along with it. If there was reason enough given to convince us to commit absolute atrocities or just to simply do nothing about known atrocities, would we? Would I? Are we more than just animals that can be manipulated? Is there any Voice within, maybe a conscience? But yes, it is happening today. Watch Jesus Camp.

We, on the sidelines, shake our heads and say “that’s not us!”, or we separate ourselves from them. But aren’t we them? Haven’t we all come into the same “family”? It’s so easy to say we’re better, but we all fall under the same banner. Everyone will stand by what they do, even us. We can justify ourselves out of eternity. Weren’t the majority of Western Christians born into the church? And for those who were converted as adults, how many of these were ‘Damascus Roads’?

Who is real? Is there any way for us to know short of a trial (like that of Hitler)? It’s so easy to say “oh I would NEVER do that” and believe it. It’s so easy. But to say that without considering the scenario is foolish. We don’t know. We can’t know what we would have done.

Maybe the words of Christ will prove Him true. After all, we have never quite understood it when He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mt 7:22). Or when He said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mt 7:14). Or when He said, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14). What did He mean when He said, “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 8:12)?

How are we to reconcile these words with a global and influential church body? How are we to grant salvation with a whispered prayer? How can you tell from the outside if its desperation (or money) that gets the church bringing just anybody in, versus belief in the love of God? In no way is this implied easy, or that all who are part of the Christian religion are “saved”. And really, what it must boil down to is the institution, in whose womb is the actual bride of Christ – tiny, innocent, kept.

Christ was missed by Israel when He came to them. Why? Because they had certain preconceived ideas about what His arrival would look like. Instead of humility, they envisioned an army general. Rather than have him wash feet, they imagined Him served as royalty by all of humanity. In place of eating with sinners and giving words of redemption to prostitutes and lepers, they thought He’d slay these wicked with a word from His mouth. Instead of challenging and even cursing at the religious leaders who spoke in His name, they expected these men to be His closest advisors. They were wrong; they missed Him.

How will He come the second time? We have some of the very same notions actually, as Christians. He’ll come on a cloud and will slay all but his chosen ones with the simple brightness of his coming. He’ll establish his throne and the world will never know a day of unrest. It’s uncanny. But who are these chosen ones? Who are the real enemies of God? Israel would never have believed God’s enemies were the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Never would they have thought this. Is it the same for us? God versus the institution? God verses those who “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them”? Those who “travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, [you] make him twice as much a son of hell as you [are]”? Those who “strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel”? (Mt 23).

Who belongs to Him? Can we know them? Do we need to?

All of this scares me. It makes me think we’re falling short. It makes me wonder how big the church actually is. And I can’t help but look inwardly as well. Yet you don’t want the church to become a game where every man is for himself. It’s tough.

Thoughts. Mostly questions.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jesus Camp

I had seen this new documentary on the video store shelf called Jesus Camp, and had read the back to get an idea what it was about. To be honest, I had avoided renting this movie, as normally when I go to the video store I’m in the mood to be entertained, and I had anticipated this movie actually making me mad. But eventually I did rent it. View Trailer

It wasn’t horrible. I found it quite honest and fair actually. There were certainly parts that evoked anger in me, parts that made me deeply ashamed of my associations, and parts that were actually quite precious. Basically, a camera crew follows a Pentecostal Children’s Pastor in the States who runs a summer camp. Her philosophy is that the “enemy” (ie. Muslims) are “getting them young”, meaning they are indoctrinating people into their faith when they are children, as these are the most impressionable and least sceptical. She explains that the Muslims are getting the kids excited about Islam, and proceeding to put grenades and AK47s in their hands. Therefore, Christians should be doing something of the same sort, short of grenades and AK47s. Two of the major issues that these children are trained to fight for are the re-Christianizing of the USA (because it apparently is God’s nation), and abortion (anti, of course).

A few noteworthy scenes. At the camp breakfast, after the children have got their sausage and pancakes and have sat down, there is a prayer. One of the adults stands up and thanks God for the food, ok, but proceeds to tell God to end abortion. What? At breakfast? I’d have lost my appetite. Just odd.

At another time, there was a quite well-known youth minister (who I had until now respected) who came to visit the children at the regular church service. He actually came to bring children with him to Capitol Hill in Washington to pray for God to “take back America” and to end abortion. As part of his protest or stand (or whatever), he had children come up to him like Catholics receiving communion to have their mouths taped over with red utilitarian tape. On the tape, of course, was written the word LIFE. Now I don’t know, parents, would you let your pastor tape your child’s mouth shut? That was my main concern here, however there is also the concern of using these children to help make your own points. Ah, children, so led and innocent!

I believe this film was released before the fall of Ted Haggard, the famed televangelist gay-hater who got caught praticing what he was preaching, if you know what I mean (also former President of the National Association of the Evangelicals, and former (?) Bush advisor). I felt bad for him before, until I watched this film. He invited this camera crew to his church, and he was taped giving a sermon. The camera was in fact on stage with him. Several times he looked into the camera and spoke to the audience of this documentary. For example “I think I know what you did last night. [audience laughs] In fact, if you don’t send me a cheque for $1,000 I’m gonna tell your wife what you did last night! [audience laughs again]. If you use any of this I’ll sue you! [audience laughs]” and proceeded to denounce homosexuality. View Clip I guess homosexuality is (was) the focus of that church. Other issue. He later was talking to his audience about his “10-year rule” in marriage, in that you shouldn’t marry anyone outside of 10 years your own age. He said that if in fact you are a younger woman married to an older man “I hope he dies so you can get his money!” Umm, ok? And the audience laughed.

Finally, the worst moment of all – the cardboard cut-out. During a service, one of the children’s ministers comes on stage and has all the children come to the front (like in our churches, for a nice little story, or a puppet!). She brought with her a cardboard cut-out of George Bush, and asked the children to pray for him, to speak blessing to him, to stretch their hands towards him and pray, and to then lay hands on the image of Bush. Ummm, no comment. It speaks for itself.

Where are the lines? Where is the line between teaching and indoctrination? Using and genuine self-willed action? One child explained how he was saved at 5 years old, saying that at that time he wanted “more out of life”. How? How does he know that at 5? Case in point that this is just jargon, indoctrination; he knows what to say. So is he a Christian? How can any of us know? So many questions arise.

I would certainly not recommend this film to any of my friends who don’t share my faith, as it is a complete and utter shame. However, all my Christian friends, please watch it. We need to know what our “brothers and sisters” are up to for accountability purposes, and more than that, we need to know how our (their) actions are perceived by the world in general.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The End is(n't) Near

If you live on planet earth you should definitely take the time to watch the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and The End of Suburbia. These may give you some good-to-know info.

The basic premise of my point today is that there are two very real – and very global – catastrophes that are looming. In fact, they are predicted to be so close they’ll happen in our lifetime, even in the lifetime of someone my parents’ age.

Catastrophe 1: global warming, polar ice caps, an uninhabitable planet, and so on (though the science has been questioned, it is a generally accepted truth now – heck, even Pat Robertson is on the global warming band wagon!).

Catastrophe 2: the unpublicized end of oil, the sustainer of life on earth. Yep, the well is going to run dry. And who saw that coming? I mean, it’s not like we take it out of the earth, wash our cars with it, and it seeps back into the earth’s belly – we burn the stuff, and it’s gone forever!

I was thinking as I was watching The End of Suburbia today that the two of these catastrophes may sort of end up cancelling each other out. As soon as oil production peaks (and I’m not sure if it’s happened already but it’s speculated to happen near 2010), the supply will slowly begin dwindling, and the price of the stuff – the sustainer of life – will skyrocket. And of course, as time continues, the supply of oil will become so scarce, it’ll be a substance for the rich of the rich (like Dick Cheney). It is predicted, in this film, that this will cause all of humanity to completely reform their way of life, especially out in the West. The American Dream will become a memory, that of endless consumption, proud pillaging, and the 3000-mile dinner plate. People will be forced to revert, as it were, to the old way of life: village style. So long commute (yes!), not to mention not-a-second-thought heating and air conditioning, hello home-grown food, and who knows, maybe even the family will make a reappearance! Remember the family?

It had to be foreseen that our way of life, with the extreme level of consumption and waste and earth-domination, could not be sustained. Resources that are not given the time to replenish, and fields that are pesticide-showered to death, and a completely foreign goods-manufacturing force (think goods movement… shipping). How could we be so proud?

But alas, I had to believe that Al Gore would be the hero! While he’s gallivanting the planet advocating less consumption and more sustainable innovation in the name of slowing down the inevitable meltdown, he’s completely neglected the fact that in my lifetime, using a car will be out of my price range. Having electricity extracted from my walls at the rate I do now won’t be possible; I will have to rely on everything my solar panel and windmill can provide. Soon, my commute won’t be possible on my wage. Soon I won’t be able to afford a shirt that was brought into being in Bangladesh. Soon I won’t be able to bring my Caesar Salad in from California. Soon, I won’t have a choice!

Then, THEN, our problem will be solved! The earth will take away our choice to live more or less sustainably. It will save itself (so to speak – I’m not on the floor to Gaia!). With no one driving cars, and a lot of hard-core industrial plants being shut down, and no one being able to afford anything that has anything to do with oil (which is almost everything), maybe the earth will calm down on this whole atmospheric build-up thing, and begin to heal itself before it's too late for us all.

Who knew there’d be an end to oil? But it makes so much sense. Maybe this means there’ll be an end to war as well! Haha, now I'm just getting excited! All major causes of the end of our existence could be nipped in the bud by the end of oil. It's that Texas Tea whose blackness has been a witch's brew for all these years.

I wonder if the scientific elite at thebulletin.org have pitted these catastrophes against each other. I think not, since the clock remains at 5 to midnight. Maybe I’m just blowing smoke with my little theory here. One can hope!

777 Reasons why Jesus will return on July 7, 2007

Oh wait, it's past! Maybe I could still convince a few people... Did you know that there was a book released in 1987/88 entitled "88 Reasons why Jesus will return in 1988"? And when that didn't work, the next year there was a book called "89 Reasons why Jesus will return in 1989". Strange world eh?

Short & sweet! Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Questions for Pat Robertson & the Christian Coalition

1. What purpose is there in having a lobby group called the "Christian Coalition"?

2. Why is the Christian Coalition spending $1.4 Million in one single campaign to oppose universal health care legislation in the USA (Clinton reform 93/94); money which has been donated by well-meaning 700 Club viewers like my grandmother, who is by no means well-off, and money collected in other ways, like through a travel agency (see below)?

3. What business does a lobby group which is trying to give Christian principles the rule of the land have promoting a for-profit health care system, which is known to leave millions and millions living in fear, and has destroyed countless lives?

I am not a fan of Pat Robertson or the Christian Coalition. (click for details/history)

This is a pop-up that comes up when visiting the CC website. Oi.

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