Tag Archives: personal frustrations

15 Minutes for Jesus

I’m jumping to the chase here, I HATE the ’15 Minutes for Jesus’ mantra.

The idea, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is that if you could spend just ’15 minutes’ of your time when you wake up, at lunch, or when you’re going to bed in quiet reflection/prayer/reading the Bible your life will be better. I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea, I’m just saying I hate the emphasis on it.

GUILT TRIP!

First of all, besides being totally sad and pathetic; asking people the question ‘Can’t you spare 15 minutes for Jesus?’ really is a total guilt trip.

“I know I went to a public university and took a ‘secular’ job; but are you really going to try and make me feel bad for watching SportsCenter, too?”

Guess what? Some people seriously HATE reading and some people can’t sit still or quietly; it is against their nature to do those things. And while I’m all for challenging ourselves to step outside of our personality traits and ‘natural’ lifestyle, I don’t think that guilt is a healthy way to go about it.

Yeah, it’s really important to know what the Bible says, but if teachers are changing the presentation of math, science, history, and language arts to meet diverse learning needs… shouldn’t the Church be open to it as well? What’s wrong with Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter?

Lowering God’s Standards

Second, What ever happened to “…at all times, pray!”? Isn’t the ’15 Minutes’ thing severely reducing the standards the Bible has set?

In The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton argues that worship goes beyond singing and services, “It also includes the enactment of God’s love and justice, mercy and kindness in the world,” “Worship can encompass every dimension of our lives.”

I would argue much the same about prayer, Bible reading, and reflection. They don’t stop at the bottom of a cup of coffee, or at the amen, or even when you drift lazily into sleep. They encompass every dimension of our lives.

Prayer at it’s most basic level is communication with God. Considering non-verbal communication between human beings, how much more so are we communicating with God non-verbally? I don’t need my eyes closed, hands folded, or even a specific state of mind to be praying… I just need open communication.

If we take the Holy Spirit seriously, our mere existence is communication with God. The fact that we wrestle with doing the right thing is evidence enough of prayer. Where we fail (and why people advocate ’15 Minutes for Jesus’) is because we suck at doing the right thing. We suck at doing what God tells us.

Total Cop Out

Which leads me to my third reason for hating the ’15 Minutes for Jesus’ mantra… it’s a cop out.

It’s what we do to cover our butts because we don’t always do the right thing. Romans 2 says that it is the “doers” of the law, not the “hearers” that will be justified in God’s eyes. We don’t need more time meditating on loving our neighbor, we need more time DOING it. I think we would be much better served thinking of creative ways to love our neighbor and encouraging one another to take those actions.

Could 15 minutes set apart for God help us take those actions? Sure. Is it efficient? Probably not. Is it necessary? Not at all. So let’s quit it with the guilt trip, realize how hopelessly enveloped by God we already are, and think of something better to say.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology/Spirituality

Prosperity Gospel or Joyful Living?

There is no doubt that God wishes for the fullness of joy in our lives (John 15:11). The question that comes next is how are we to obtain that joy? If we keep Jesus’ commandments are we really more blessed or joyful? Does God love the people who follow the rules more than he loves the people who don’t? Is it OUR responsibility to increase or decrease God’s presence in our lives?

To answer these questions and more here are two ways of looking at it.

The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is…

… a Christian doctrine that teaches us if we believe in God and follow God’s commands, then we will be made healthy, wealthy, and wise.

In this belief structure we are told that in order for God to “bless” us with the things we desire we must first follow the commands in the Bible; specifically, giving money to the church.

However, there are MANY versions of this religious attitude. For example, ideas that people who go to church every Sunday, pray everyday, sing the loudest, commit the least amount of sins, etc… are more connected, hear more clearly, or are “blessed” by God more than people who do not do those things.

The problem with this sort of belief is that it backhandedly supports the idea that if you AREN’T blessed with a healthy family, or a well paying job, or intimate interactions with God that either (a) you are doing something wrong or (b) you don’t love God as much as you say you do.

This belief is unbiblical and does not align with what Jesus taught us. For THAT reason, we must conclude that the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is disconnected from the Christian Gospel, what Christ has taught us.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

The poor are not poor because of their sin, the sick are not sick because of their sin, and those who don’t see or hear God clearly are not that way because of their sin. Likewise, the rich, healthy, and ‘Godly’ are not that way because of their righteousness, love of God, or their ability to follow 2,000+ year old rules. That much is clear.

Now, if following God does not GIVE us more or MAKE us more blessed, then what’s the point?

(What I call) ‘Joyful Living’ is…

…believing in God, following God’s commands, and doing so joyfully regardless of earthly circumstance.

The point of living joyfully is to fight our natural self-attribution error (the idea that all good things are because of ourselves and all the bad things in our life are other people’s faults). Joyful living recognizes that ‘all good things are from God’ (James 1:17) and that the negative things in life are a result of sin (Romans 7:16-17).

The Bible is clear that we are born with the very image and breath of God (Genesis 1:26, Job 33:4). When we come into this world God is as much a part of us as our heart and lungs. We cannot make our lungs pump blood, we cannot make our heart breathe air, and we cannot make God bless us in ways that he does not choose to.

If you think that you have ANY control over whether or not God blesses you look to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 for clarification.

He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

God does not play favorites when it comes to passing out ‘blessings’ (Matthew 20: 1-16). So again I ask, what is the point of obeying God if it is not directly related to what we receive from him?

The answer is joyful living.

Even if we cannot coerce our heart and lungs to do more than they were made to do, we can surely exercise and make them more efficient at what they were made to do.

As we follow God’s commands we can exercise his presence and know him more. As we grow in our understanding of who God is we will naturally have our eyes opened to, develop gratitude for, and become joyful over the blessings already in our lives.

Long story short, the Prosperity Gospel tells us to obey God and God will give us things that we want; Joyful Living tells us to know God and we will develop an appreciation for what we have already been blessed with.

Let me end with one final question, do you think we will receive the fullness of the joy of the Lord that Jesus speaks about in John 15 from things that we want or from things God has already blessed us with?

Let’s go on and live our best life now… with what we already have!

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology/Spirituality

Christ cannot be removed from Christmas…

This “movement” (if you can even call it that) is absolutely ridiculous.

First of all, Christians, you cannot take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas.’ The word cannot be spelled without it. If you were to take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’ you would be left with mas. Coincidentally, mas means more in Spanish; which is exactly the amount of money we spend on ourselves, our friends, and our families rather than on the poor in the streets (something Christ advocated for).

I believe Jesus exact words were, “When you host a feast do not invite your friends or family or even your rich neighbors because they might invite you back and you will be repaid. Instead invite the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.”

If you really want to keep Christ in Christmas, maybe you should do what he said and stop buying presents for your friends and families and wondering why the checkout counter at Target can’t just say “Merry Christmas.”

Also, if you are upset because December is a STRICTLY Christian season used for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ… think again. Scholars and historians agree that Jesus ACTUAL birth took place in our current spring time. The reason we celebrate his birth in December is because Constantine moved the date when he instituted Christianity as the national religion in order to cover up the holidays of other religions (even Christian groups agree on this point).

What is disgusting about this is that it is an instance of Christianity being married to government and society; something that Jesus was also an opponent of (albeit somewhat more subtly). This is the man who entered Jerusalem as a “King” riding an ass rather than a war horse. He let himself be crucified as a rebel leader and refused to acknowledge the power of both Herod and Pilot.

Christianity is a culturally subversive religion and thrives best when it is persecuted.

“Keep(ing) Christ in Christmas” is a poor attempt to create the image of persecution. Christians are NOT persecuted in the United States. For goodness sake, 76% of the country is a self described Christian.

The reason we say “Happy Holidays” is not to persecute Christians, but to build up, to acknowledge, and to respect other faiths. The hypocrisy of “Keep Christ in Christmas” is that we manufacture persecution of ourselves in order to ACTUALLY persecute other religions as well as non-religious folks.

We as Christians are acting as the opposite of Christ.

I will conclude with the statement that if we have the mindset that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” then we ourselves are taking him out. When we generate our own perceived slights and fight against it, we are ego-stroking. Celebrating Jesus is about humility and sacrifice on the behalf of others who cannot repay us.

If we wish to truly make Jesus the “reason for the season,” then we need to worry about our actions rather than someone else’s words.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology/Spirituality, Uncategorized

Guns are not the problem…

… but neither are they the solution.

What happened today in Connecticut is a tragedy. It is outrageous to believe that someone would go into an elementary school, of all places, and go through with massacring 27 people including 20 children.

While I agree with gun enthusiasts in saying that the gun was not the problem, I also agree with gun control advocates who argue that if guns were more restricted this would not have happened.

Either way, we cannot change it now. We can only look toward the future and decide what form of action we are going to take.

I think that the Obama administration’s comment about not being the time to discuss things is cowardly. If a bus had crashed and 20 school children were left dead we would want to know why. We would want to solve the problem, whatever that solution might be.

However, with how polarizing the second amendment debate is, no politician would touch that subject with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole (yes, that’s a Grinch reference, Merry Christmas).

This is where the American public, “We the people,” must voice our displeasure. Whether the preventative measure is to be taken against attitudes that cause people to go on such rampages or against the objects they use to release their emotions I am all for it; because I will not be satisfied with the preventable deaths of 27 people.

If Jesus was dissatisfied with the chopping off of one enemy’s ear, how much more outraged should I be at 27 lives being taken!

Guns are not the problem, but they certainly are not the solution.

Firearms are an offensive weapon meant for attacking. There is nothing defensive about them. A gun cannot shield you or repel an enemy’s advance. Any shadow of defense they possess is in their use for intimidation of injuring and killing an attacker. They have no power for healing or protecting in and of themselves.

Until we can further diagnose the internal problems that cause humans to use firearms in ways that they were used in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School today; I will be in support of more strict gun regulations.

My reasoning is something I try and communicate to my seventh graders all the time; that is, “We are in control of only our own actions. We cannot control someone else’s actions.”

Because I cannot control what other people will do with firearms, I will sacrifice my right to posses one in order to prevent further tragedies like this one.

If you disagree with me and would stand idly by while 27 people are brutally murdered by a man wielding two handguns today, then you must be willing to live with your choice for personal freedom over the lives of others.

The Bible talks of swords being beaten into plowshares. I dream of a day in which guns, bombs, and other weapons will be beaten into ships that will bring food to the hungry and drills that will unleash water for the thirsty. Our knives will become scalpels to repair the broken, axes and saw blades to harvest wood to build homes for the homeless, and syringes to cure the sick.

Guns are not necessary for our survival. When did our privilege to own one become more important than someone else’s inalienable right to life?

1 Comment

Filed under Politics, Theology/Spirituality, Uncategorized

My great pride and deep shame

Raised a social and religious conservative, when I was assigned service learning with a group of people that I was either uncomfortable with or uneducated about the choice was easy… I would work with the University’s LGBT center.

Up until that point in my life I had only been acquainted with maybe 2-3 individuals who were ‘out’ with their non-straight sexualities.

When I first was in the LGBT center the people were extremely welcoming. They introduced themselves, engaged me in conversation, and didn’t much mind that I was an ‘out’ evangelical. In fact, a few of them began talking to me about their own experiences with Christianity! I was accepted and embraced immediately.

Also during this time I had been out of organized religion for two years and was looking to get back in to a “Christian Community.”

I attended one group’s meeting the same night as the 2008 election. After the service some regulars were introducing themselves to me when an unknown group of students stopped and asked all of us standing there if we were Obama supporters.  I told them I was, they announced that he won, we high-fived, and they were on their way.

Here is where my deep shame comes in…

When I turned around I was confronted by discomfort, disbelief, and anger. One of my new Christian friends even called me a “baby-killer” for supporting such a politician… Not exactly loving words.

But here is also where my great pride comes from…

I learned in those few weeks that Christians do not hold a monopoly on “LOVE”. True love (the sacrificial kind Jesus talks about) is capable of being experienced and expressed outside of the Christian community.

After that, the barriers in my life began breaking. My friends now include refugees and immigrants, addicts and sluts, Atheists and Muslims, the intellectually aloof and the physically disabled, Kenyans and Mexicans, and any other number of people I have had the pleasure of meeting that are different than me.

My deep shame is that I don’t want to be associated with the hateful rhetoric that has become synonymous with Christianity.

My great pride is that the love that I believe in is breaking through anyway.

I am proud of my friends who love me in spite of our differences and I will work to reconcile the relationships of those who resent me; because, as Shane Claiborne says in Follow Me To Freedom, “The best critique of something that is wrong is the practice of something better.”

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Lest we forget

I’ve been trying to write something witty, biting, and sarcastic. Something to convict the heart (yours or my own) with a combination of snobbery and know-it-all-ness.

I don’t mean it in a bad way; it is just one of the most effective methods I use in pitting my self-confidence against my self-doubt.

I failed… multiple times. So let me cut to the chase brutally, honestly, and perhaps slightly judgmentally.

I am unsatisfied with the surface level celebration of Easter and Christmas. It’s enough to rank them at the bottom of my “favorite holiday list” (we’re talking dead last). Is a mention on our twitter or facebook really what Jesus takes as thankfulness?

“I love you so much Jesus and am so thankful for your death that I am going to force feed my ‘future Heaven’ theology down the throats of anyone who will look at my profile.”

Are you kidding me? That’s the best we’ve got? We might as well GTFO.

Here’s a stat for you… 99% of people who read this won’t repost it; and it isn’t because it’s a picture of “white Jesus” hugging a blond little boy. It’s because people don’t like being told they are wrong.

Guess what? We’re wrong!

As Christians our “most used” evangelizing technique is telling people that Jesus loves them so much that he died so they could live sinless (might as well be “fun-less”) and forever.

Holy crap is that corny.

Living forever is really the number one thing we offer people outside of Christianity..? That’s believable. You know what a miracle is? That Christianity is even still around with a selling point like that.

“Give us your money, give up what you love, and spend more time engaging in group think.”

Eff that noise. I want the Christianity that Jesus lived and taught. I want what he preached in Nazareth, in the Sermon on the Mount, and when he forgave the people as they drove nails, whips, and swords into him.

It was LITERALLY a damned dirty mess (Deut 21:23 and Gal 3:13).

God is no “conjurer of cheap tricks.” There is nothing magical about salvation. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes so much sweat, blood, and tears that we often cannot see the road under our own feet and may even collapse because of it.

And that’s ok; because even Jesus needed Simon to help him out.

If we are TRULY grateful for the sacrifice made for us, then we will in turn make the SAME sacrifice on behalf of others. Putting our priorities (evangelism, “soul-winning”, and the growth of our churches) second and God’s priorities (honesty, integrity, humility, mercy, justice, and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE) first.

I wrote this a week ago on Easter morning. I’ve had a week to calm myself, but still feel the need to publish it. Please, wait for my next post before you pass judgment on me as an angry and flagrant heathen. I promise it will be more centered and organized.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology/Spirituality, Uncategorized

Obama on “Roe v. Wade” and the “Religious Right’s” response

I’ve got to be honest; the “Religious Right” has disappointed me again with their attacks on President Obama over “Roe v. Wade.” They have vilified and criticized him for being a “baby-killer” because he showed a sign of appreciation for the decision to give women the freedom to choose whether or not to go through with a pregnancy.

For the record I am pro-life. Pro-life in that I believe in the preservation of life; whether that be plant, animal, or human. While, every situation is personal and individualized, in most cases I would go out of my way to preserve life. Given my lack of personal or intimate experience with abortion I do not see myself as fit to comment on the topic itself aside from what I have just mentioned. If there was any way in which I could help a mother choose to carry her fetus to term rather than aborting it I would do that, but I will not fault her or condemn her for making a different decision.

Where my frustration enters the equation is not over the protests of the Presidents comments, but of the lack of affirmation and support given to them.

The protests, like the President’s support, are political. In his statement President Obama comments on his support being about protecting Constitutional rights; which is one of his fiduciary duties as the President. As citizens, anyone has the freedom to assemble and protest any political actions or in-actions (like attempting to repeal said court ruling). I will not fault either side for those actions.

Where I will fault Christians is the choice to protest something that we cannot change (the President’s beliefs) rather than joining with him on something we do agree with… finding and eliminating the root cause of unwanted pregnancies.

“While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue — no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.” -President Barack Obama

Why is that part of the speech not addressed by this community of believers!? That is what we are really after, isn’t it? Not that women be FORCED to choose to keep the baby, but that women WANT to keep the baby.

Why can’t we put away our petty differences and work towards this goal? Why do we have to cause more stress and pressure for women considering abortion than helping relieve it? Why do we push women who have had abortions in the past, or that would do it again out of the Church? Why do we always choose division over unity? It is so unlike our Christ.

So please “religious right,” listen to my appeal. It is one thing to HAVE strong Christian morals, it is a completely different thing to LIVE strong Christian morals. Let’s not be dragged down by political partisanship. Let’s work along-side our President to achieve COMMON goals, preventing unwanted pregnancies, reducing the need for abortion, encouraging healthy relationships, promoting adoption (I once heard if every “Christian family” in the United States adopted 1-2 children there would be no orphans here! How rad would that witness be?), and most importantly supporting pregnant women and mothers!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized