Monday, November 29, 2010

#209-Going "Deeper" (or to Another level or to another dimension with God)

Okay, sidenotes-it looks like we may be adding another blogger here shortly (this means the posts should be more frequent...give me two weeks of spontaneous 1-2 posts a week and we should be up and ready back to the usual 3-4 posts a week...apologies for the stagnation...excuses: School, Work, Females, etc...)

Also let me preface by saying I may have done a post similar to this a long time ago, but i couldn't find it if I did.

Post: What is up with the Apostolic Infatuation of this strange "other-world" wherein if we prepare ourselves for by adding proper Holy supplements to our lifestyle (e.g. prayer, Bible, etc...), then we will be rewarded by God a la an all-expenses paid vacation (On Him) to go "deeper" with Him.

Seriously, the earlier parts of my 12-15 year old awkward stage were seen by me trying my hardest to go deeper with this obsessive reality of "GUYS, GET YOUR JUNK TOGETHER! WE'RE GOING DEEPER, AND IF YOU AINT ON BOARD, YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!" ..


And it was all so incredibly weird..we'd sit there on like Sunday nights before church trying to pray ourselves into a semi-trance because in this weird escape from reality,  we hoped God would show up in a tornado and be like "YOU ARE SO DEEP RIGHT NOW...SO DEEP RIGHT NOW THAT I'M GOING TO TELL YOU THE FUTURE!"

And when a few lucky ones did go deeper with God, their "revelation" was never in regards to telling us the Super Bowl winner for next year which would have made us all was all about how another one of us, if that person will go deeper, he will be a huge preacher preaching to millions of starving Africans...

I never, no matter how hard I jumped, could get past level one:

Dear God,

Hi. It's me Joel. I love you. Thank you. Sorry I watched that TV show with a girl in a bathing suit. And if possible, let me go deeper.  I hate people. I shouldn't hate people. Let me love them. Revival soon, okay? TTYL!



(and as I wrote that, i can say that more or less, outside of a speaking in tongues in counter here or there, that this above prayer has been about all I have prayed my entire life with myself expounding on various elements of the prayer to elongate said prayer).

And one time, I decided to see what the Bible says about this stuff about going deeper...


Nothing about "New Dimensions"

Nor about new levels...

Nothing about going "deeper"  in prayer (unless you count Paul's Third Heaven experience, but that is a far cry from it actually being a declaration that the "Third Heaven" experience is to be sought whatsoever, and if it is, the "third Heaven" is to be sought by weakness)...

And when you read the book of Corinthians....and how Paul condemns them for claiming a "higher Wisdom" and how much they were infatuated with speaking in tongues in church, you kind of get the sense that "deeper" is really a means of arrogance to "One-up" people...that

or an escape from facing the reality God has providenced them for.

But then the question is...why...why are we still aiming for this "mysterious unknown  zone" where few have traveled and fewer have returned?

Next time I hear about a church going to another level, i will kick the entire building in their shin..Because all their deep infatuation for something that is not even discussed in the Bible, is not only an escape from reality, but also in a sense saying "this" isn't good enough...and I don't mean our sinful selves, because we are never good enough...but more so, reality isn't good enough...

The Cross, the resurrection, Acts 2, etc....none of those things are good enough, so we need more God as a Holy Ghost pleasure machine to which weird things happen and we are told weird thoughts....let's let such a concept die soon...

Monday, November 22, 2010

#208-Cupid Jesus

First, this post was recommended by Laura Del Vescio. We should all be thankful to her. She used her own life as a testament to the following argument (well parts of it).....

Secondly, one of the greatest features of our movement is the admiration of blooming romances of loving young ones amongst our movement. The hand holding, the cute picture on facebook (with a photo album dedicated to the two in love), the overly-involved in-laws to be (Are not the apostolics the worst at the concept that when you date someone you are also dating their family?).....

The thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars spent for the Apostolic wedding in the name of the bride wanting to have a "wedding to remember" which will be forgotten except for the photo album that the bride/groom spent 300 dollars on that will sit under their couch and be looked upon by the Apostolic wife who mourns the loss of such happiness as the wedding and in this mourning takes out the wedding album secretly and wonders what went wrong in their marriage...

except for maybe she hasn't come to grips with the fact that her husband isn't a 108 year old vampire or Ryan Gosling and if she accepts that her expectations for marriage weren't as low as they should have been (she picture her husband climbing ferris wheels for her and throwing cars over to save dying children in the name of her!) then the whole torment of how mundane and boring marriage is wouldn't be there...

O no....cynical rant that has nothing to do with this post....apologies...

 Here is who God is for Apostolic Females: A Giant loving cupid who will give you a preacher husband if you pray enough and don't cut your hair...EVER...and if you obey authority.In fact, I would argue that an Apostolic Female's true Christian walk can never actually begin until after she has gotten married because, frankly, much of the female's interest in God is to get married and praying that God would provide her a Strong, praying, preaching husband who challengers her and makes her laugh and understands the feminine mystique completely.

And oh the insanity...just below the surface of the apostolic female who finds herself unmarried at 25....You can see it in her eyes...the looks she gives....the horror of her reality. She is over a quarter century old and God has not provided her THE ONE! Is it her? Is it her looks? Why do all the stupid girls seem to get more interest than her? And to oppress this bubbling insanity, the girl tells herself that God has chosen her especially capable of being tested and thus if she has more patience God will reward her with a king.

I am so sexist right now.

Let me explain my stereotypes as follows: I sincerely believe we need female ministers/preachers/licensed ministers/pastors in our movement. I really do. I think the fact that equality is not given to females in ministry in our movement is a very direct cause of why we see so many females as incomplete (in their minds) without a husband (her will hopefully have a strong ministry himself).

Okay...but there is a missing aspect of relationship within our movement: God's Will!...

If you have ever been part of any kind of sensible Apostolic relationship, you will know "God's Will" is a very critical matter in regards to romantic Apostolic relationships. A boy or girl could be madly in love in a relationship....but for Apostolics, there is a triad relationship: Boy, Girl, and God's Will.

"I love you." -She Says
"I love you." -He Says
"But, does God's Will know about us..." -She says
(awkward silence.....boy scratches top of head and looks towards ground)
"You haven't talked to God's Will about us?!?"-She Says
"Well..."-He Says
"Well... what! Are you ashamed of me, is that it?"-She says
"No! I have brought it up here and there to him in conversation."-He Says
"Did he hear you?"-She Says
"Well God's Will has not said anything back. Let's put it that way." -He says
"Then let's ask him!..."-She Says
"The relationship is not God's will." -Pastor Says
"(Shrugs shoulders)Okay, good bye then. Fun while it lasted." -She says...

God's Will is the mystical character that is appealed to as the out of a relationship. If there are no bumps in the relationship, then it must be God's will. When one in the relationship starts to have hesitations about the relationship,  God's will is appealed to as the ultimate source of the problems.

And then when man or woman are single....

God's Will is prayed to and for without hesitancy but rather with boldness. When  a boy or girl who is single starts to develop a serious crush on another potential mate...God's will is appealed to not as the "Should I or shouldn't I?" but rather is sought as..."Listen God's Will, I love that girl over there. You need to pull some strings to make this happen. Shoot in arrow full of romance juice at her or something...."

And "God's Will" instead of the out (as when one is in a relationship), is now the Strong, Impeccable Force  that will cease at nothing to make a romance happen. God's will then is ultimate matchmaker.

And as we mentioned, ultimate Breakup-Maker.

And the awkward thing is we never want to think it is our flesh distorting God's Will. "Those butterflies that make me feel good when I see the girl I like....those can't be from me...those must be a result of God's Will. God so wants me to marry that girl."


"The fact that I realized he doesn't have as good of a personality as i imagined and my sudden fickleness is without any other explanation...this must be God's way of showing me, He is not the one."

God's will becomes a giant excuse to seek destruction by breaking up or a giant magnet that forces to unknowable boy/girl innocent creatures to fall in love.

I had a friend who was constantly told by  various girls growing up that God had showed them it was His will for my friend and the girl to marry. As if the girl was really saying "look, I know where we are ending up...because God told me...and it just so happens that god told me I am to marry you because I think you are devilishly attractive and you sing good. Which works out for me (though maybe not for you since I'm not very attractive and you haven't spoken more than 3 words to me before this conversation). So don't fight...let's just get this romance moving, okay?"

That same friend of mine even once had a girl's mother go up to my friends mom and let her know that God had confirmed with the mother that her daughter was indeed supposed to marry my friend.

So not only does God's will reinforce crushes....but then there are CONFIRMATIONS!

And at the end of the day, my shallow friend will telly you, "yeah, she's ugly and she laughs quite annoyingly. Skip it."


And then the girl goes off to bible college and gets married to some other dude within a year and she nonetheless finds "God's REAL WILL" in the process...

How does Jesus feel?

Let's thinkabout it...

Jesus' first miracle as recorded in John? Well it was the whole turning water into wine thing...

But let's think about this a minute...when Mary first asks Jesus to do something about the wine that was consumed....Jesus' response was...


In other words...Jesus teaches us it's okay to call our mother's "Woman" and also...he really hates weddings so much he would rather not intervene with anything. A miserable wedding without wine is a wedding Jesus is much more comfortable at (YAY! Apostolic Weddings!)...

And then Mary prepares for the miracle anyways because she doesn't know how to obey God....

And Jesus is like "This is cruel. Weddings are miserable places. And I'm God and I can do anything, like make this place a lot more lively and less like a funeral...."

And Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding. Because, the reality is....he doesn't really care who is getting married, he just likes to use a wedding as the perfect setting to make Apostolics feel awkward that Jesus' first miracle was after calling Mary "Woman" and then proceeded to turn precious water into tubs full of wine to keep the party going...

So next time you are wondering about God's will in regards to a relationship and wrestle back and fourth remind yourself...Well how does Jesus handle this? And the only time he is at a wedding in the gospels....he doesn't care to do much (or speak for or against the married couple)...he just makes sure the DJ sticks around and wine is served...

(AND PLEASE DON'T GO INTO THE "BUT BUT BUT.......the WINE BACK THEN WASN"T REALLY WINE.....THE ALCOHOL WASN'T NEARLY AS MUCH, etc....that is such escapism. Why does Paul encourage us not to be drunkards many times over if this was the case?).

Monday, November 15, 2010

#207-Not Post-modernism:....When God died...Royal Tailor... uncertainty, and Cynical Apostolics (Me!). Soundtrack by Cat Stevens

Preface: If I hear you preach about post-modernism or do a conference or seminar on it. PLEASE KNOW ABOUT IT BEYOND READING ABOUT IT FROM A CHRISTIAN BOOK YOU GOT FROM THE BOOK STORE. or you will risk me, the cynical post-modern throwing a pew in your general direction... *Wink Face*

 We can preach about loving our neighbor and embracing difference. We can have a discussion about shorts and movie theaters and no one will get hurt. But the moment standards or disciplines are discussed (hair, skirts, etc....) we tense up. That is not up for negotiation. Because standards (or what may be called "holiness" so that when we go to discuss standards, it looks like we are attacking holiness, and who wants that?) are too certain to be up to be discussed. God likes standards. Why would we want to upset God?

Right, who wants to upset God? But that's not what we didn't like. We didn't like the attacks. Because we had questions. Because we were showing uncertainty about the things that you thought certain, we were somehow the bad guy? But they were questions. Simple questions. Based in the Bible. But you didn't want to look at it. Listen to it. End the conversation with just saying "I have my convictions from God and I am being true to them, and it's stated plainly in the Bible and you emergents, you just need to submit, etc..."

Cue Chesterton:
The mechanical optimist endeavors to justify the universe avowedly upon the ground that it is a rational and consecutive pattern. He points out that the fine thing about the world is that it can all be explained. That is the one point, if I may put it so, on which God, in return, is explicit to the point of violence. God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. He insists on the inexplicableness of everything.

The truth is, when we postmoderns started asking questions and had to admit gray when we dearly wished it was black & white as you told us, we started looking at everything else. And it too became gray. And certainty gave way to uncertainty about everything. Uncertainty became my god.

 I don't talk about whether or not a certain standard is biblical anymore. I will if you want, but I have heard the same arguments far too many times and i have said the same counterarguments far too many times and no one is listening to anyone and we are just justifying what we want to be true, and won't concede anything. It's become a game of whose a better arguer without anyone actually caring for the truth, because in the discussion each person assumes the position of truth when the point of discussion is not have the mindset of "let me tell you" but rather have the mentality of "let's find out together"  Seriously, it's probably been over a year since I was in a serious discussion about them. The whole process made me apathetic. Mostly because I realized how it was impossible to tell if we were deceiving ourselves. If i was deceiving myself. Was I just Calling something true when I really just looked for the right arguments to appease my mind so it wouldn't sit in tension. I HAVE VERSES. SEE HERE! THIS SHOWS EVERYTHING! And then YOU HAVE VERSES! AND THEY SAY THE OPPOSITE!

So I became dejected. A postmodern apostolic without hope. Because no one was being sincere. Not me at least. And there was my friend who was a piano player at his church and one time he was playing during altar call and he told me while playing that "now i'm going to make everyone cry by what I play" and then sure enough he played a few minor chords and everyone at the altar started balling, sobbing. Snot down the nose. I mean there was no one singing, so these emotions were dependent on the chords of the piano player

Then after a few minutes, he said "now watch, I will get them dancing." And within two minutes the tears had stopped after he changed the chords again and tempo and people were jumping and freely  waving their handkerchiefs like they were the newspapers that announced the end of the Iraq War. I was so so dismayed. The piano wasn't his fault. He was a good man. He was just honest enough that humans were more involved in experiencing the divine in a church service than we are comfortable admitting.

 Was there anyway then of finding truth?

And God Loved us all. That is what mattered to the individual. The one person would tell you they know they are right because they felt right, and i will tell you I felt the same, but yet "this God" is telling us different things in the Spirit of what is right.... What a mess.

And I just became almost a mad man over all of it.

And so did most of us. Because no one was paying attention to anything outside of wanting to tell each other about how correct they were in what they were saying. Forgetting the whole time that we are human. Humans can be wrong. A lot.

And i have been there anyway out? A way out of our inability to know since after all, we are humans who have a lot of contradictory opinions all claiming they are right and God approves of them more than you? And while some people get heartbroken and torn over the loss of a loved one or a break-up, i get torn up over a philosophical mind crisis like this. 

Madness: it's what's for dinner.

And Suddenly I don't hate you So Much

But today's a new day....And there's an unbelievable noise. A shout. A hurray. Twirling Batons. Fist Pumps. Masculine Chest Bumps. "Yo Adrian!!!" ...AMERICA! That kind of stuff. There should be a parade today at the very least. Today, after last night, I'm doing one of these numbers.....

Because I read an essay. From an atheist: Slavoj Zizek. He's a philosopher too. He wrote an essay about Christianity. It changed my life as of last night when I read it. Easily the top 5 best descriptions of what Christianity is and who Christ was that I have ever read/heard. No joke. If you can get past the density of the article that confuses many, the reward is infinite.

Istha said  of the essay (frequent commenter on the blog): "i even feel silly talking about this idea that has been born in my mind because it is like it will be reduced to some "from now on, i will do things differently God" moment. how can an atheist even have such an awesome revelation of God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself? it's sheer insanity! and i love insanity! and i think i want to be insane now! *yay* this isn't making sense anymore..."

I think in the article I glimpsed the escape from the cynicism that I have been wallowing in here on this blog for far too long. The cynicism that those pyromaniac internet blogers have thrived in because we have been trying to find a way to not abandon our faith but act as the symbolic violence to our movement that all is not alright within ourselves. Cynicism was/is our friend. We are trying to be the rupture...a geyser....a crack in the let you know that we aren't such pretty pretty people....

Pleasure Machines and other comparisons of what the Holy Ghost has Become to Us
So what's the essay about? Well I won't go into detail Because I would just have to do an essay commenting on the essay to do it any kind of justice. But once I read everything, a moment came to mind, one that I thought I had forgotten about.

I think it happened in 2007 at IBC Live Recording though all of this is pretty speculative at this point. Tauren Wells (of Royal Tailor Fame) wrote a song called "Broken" and performed it with the IBC choir. And by "wrote a song" I mean he basically "dropped a bomb" on Apostolic culture telling us to get our act together and start being creative in our songwriting instead of relying on the same 3-4 "charismatic" artists year in and year out and the songs they would write. 

Here's the performance....

I was was so touching. The song is wonderful. Lyrics were simple but impacting. Except there were things amiss. Like there were a few girl's in the choir who started sobbing before the first note hit to the song simply in anticipation of the tear-jerking sing session that was about to occur. I'm sure by the end of the song the mascara had welled up into an oil spill of sin underneath their eyes and the snot underneath their nose seemed to resemble the texture of a chicken noodle soup more than anything human.

Because here....Here we were confessing that our lives were INCOMPLETE. We were Broken. And that's okay. Because it's God's strength is sufficient.  In the acknowledgement of our incompleteness, and the confusion and anxieties of life that we may or may not experience, we could as individuals close our eyes....and feel the minor chords of the piano give us goosebumps and tell God "Lord I am broken and my life is in pieces but your strength is perfect in all of my weakness." And we'll cry. And cry and make promises to God about things changing and have confirmations from the Lord that we aren't supposed to be with that significant other, and how....well....that time when you texted that picture of yourself....God knows about that too and He's ain't mad. He understands. Just cry now and make promises. Repent. Trample on his mercy again in the distant, unforeseeable future.

Because in this song, perhaps more than any I have heard written by an Apostolic, we are not assuming anything.

We are not assuming our great value to declare things...For instance, we say "Lord you are worthy..." Worthy of what? Our praise? Like Our praise is of any value? Oh we think the highest of ourselves and our truth...I would rather suggest the line should be always "we are unworthy" but to even say that denies the cross and what he displayed as what is worthy.

But here, in this song Something untypical is happening  We are not shouting how great God is (and thus how great we are because we are invited by Him), but rather we start with ourselves...and we are nothing more than broken as humans.

But theologically, and this is where Zizek's article comes in....I would argue the song still (despite it being light years superior than most Christian songs and happily look forward to seeing what Royal Tailor comes out with in Nashville), theologically  I would say the song still comes up short...

Postmodernism allows for selfishness and ego to thrive. It allows for us to be the center of the world, and we don't have to look past anything past ourselves except for when we want to be cynical about any time a group of people come together to do something great. Then we can criticize their foolishness (i speak as a confessed postmodern)....Postmodernism though is where everything came to be about "Relationship" and "Me and Jesus" and a disdain of religion in general. Cue the terrible line in a facebook info section-Religion: "Not Religion, Just Relationship."

Seriously, think about the most popular songs at conferences and conventions....:"Freedom" (though Romans 6 tells us to be slaves), "Oh How He Loves Us!" "I am a friend of God" and "The More I seek you." Think about what they are saying and the kind selfishness the songs our telling you to shout about....the songs are all about "YOU YOU YOU" (God) Loving "ME ME ME!" And the lyrics, some times approach descriptions of an erotic relationship with important you and a loving God (Sloppy wet kisses/Wanna sit at your feet, lay against you and breathe/

You narcissistic self-obsessed creeps.

And Christianity became very direct. About You and Jesus. About me and Jesus. Everything else was secondary. Sure we were sinners. Everyone was sinners. So judging is bad. You don't know about me and God. So don't say things about my relationship with God. And church becomes a giant game of hoping to hear the right message preached or hear the right song sung so that special little me can feel God get all important inside me. And if we feel God get important enough inside us during church, we will pray a little longer this week and try reading our bible this week! 

Preachers will tell you postmodernism is trying to get into our movement from "The Emergents." I posit that the worst of postmodernism has been part of our Apostolic DNA for some 15 years now...Where Christianity becomes this vainglorious thing where Special, Indispensable Me is loved by a Special God. And I speak about this in regards to my generation and younger... 

My problem with postmodernism in regards to Apostolics is that in our emancipation of willing submission to anything and everything the pastor says that was a mainstay in our movement in the 80's (no matter how biblically corrupt it is), we have made Holy Ghost and Acts 2:38 and even Holiness in a sense a tool to approve of ourselves. And thus church is a giant meeting place to feel really really good about ourselves, or if the service is sad, we then get to lay our burdens down. I think we have been to services that teeter on the edge of just becoming giant "pleasure meetings" where we praise God not to praise him, but in hopes that we will somehow in our praise create a kind of rain dance that will cause the Holy Ghost to rain down on us that will make us feel Good and squirt some tears. Do not get me wrong....I am not speaking about what our movement is as a whole. Nothing like that. I am simply saying that there are symptoms of postmodernism in each one of our churches beyond simple "questions"  that show up from time to time. And we are too scared to talk about it, because we have begun to think so highly of our Apostolic selves, that we fear that if we speak up and preach about I Corinthians 14 and how the purpose of the Holy Ghost is anything but a pleasure machine, that somehow we think we may be insulting the Holy Ghost.

Read the New Testament. Read it. How much are emotions a part of the Gospel message? I am not saying it's not in there, but it's certainly not the focus. But yet, ask yourself, what is the purpose of Church for us? To save souls? certainly. But is that all church is for? So people can go through the Acts 2:38 process? Of course not. That's part of it. So then what is church again for those already saved? 

And I fear that outside of it being a biblical command, we may be without an answer. Because it's become in our minds a giant machine to walk up to every Sunday, hit a button and have "Emotional Impact" come out of the machine dispenser and we eat it up.

I am so off right now.

And in the midst of all my cynicism that i just wrote about, let me go back to the "Broken" song at IBC.....The problem was not with the song. It was with what was going on with the song. People were saying they were broken. they were confessing. Saying how rough life is and how messy they were. And oh let me tell you, each one of them was completely broken and messy. You should see their bedrooms. You should see their drama. Their "mess-ups." And even the perfects ones, they were messy too. And they were letting us know in song.

But my question was, if the emotion wasn't there with the song. And the lyrics weren't so simplistically and beautifully written, if it wasn't about the minor chords....Would you say you are broken?

And we all tell ourselves yes. And so do i.


But here's the real dilemma of it. Where zizek really hits homes. What i think may be an answer to the obsession of self that postmodernism has catered to. In that song, in those words, everyone in that building looked to God as the Out. In spite of our weakness, he is so loving that he will make us whole. We don't like the mess. We are repulsed by it. WE don't like the pain. The confusion. We want to get out and forget about it as soon as possible. We want to live pretty. We don't like being messy monsters.

And God, in this song, during that moment at the recording. Was our escape. He is the healer. This is all true.

For a few moments we can forget everything and escape our mad world and the internal destruction of our own lives. And we can say "Wow God, you are awesome. So loving. So merciful. So Peaceful."

But it's all so limiting of who God is.

God is not what we make him out to be if that's who we want to say he is. the whole, loving, merciful, peaceful thing....

THat's only part of it. And It's all we want to focus on. And postmodernism allows us that freedom.

Because let's be honest...What is the cross for most of us? What is the Incarnation? It is the story that Jesus came down and suffered and never sinned in order that we may resurrect with him one day...and thus the Cross shows how much He loves us. And how now, we can receive salvation. 

And all that says is Jesus and the Cross...are vehicles. The transportation Machine to get us to heaven. And the HOly Ghost allows us the pleasure of knowing this in our emotions. So we thank the transportation machine (the cross, resurrection, Acts 2:38) and want to tell everyone about our Magical Salvation Bus and that God is one. And also you get to participate in God's invitation to be Holy.

The Most Violent God I Know 

But what about the other part? The Murdering Jesus? The one who kills billions in Revelation and seems to be eager to do so. The one who did not come for peace but came to divide with a sword. The Jesus who tells us to leave our own mother and father and follow him (the actual word I think is "Hate" your own mother and father). Violent, humanity killing Jesus. The one who wants you to be his slave.

And since God is about the 6 millions Jews. My relatives. Talk about the Old Testament and the screwed up stories of God ordering the slaughter of thousands (some estimates say millions) in the Name of God so the Jews can have the promised Land (The book of Joshua is a giant "HERE COMES GOD" parade and any Canaanite in the way of the procession essentially killed)...And we can blame the Fall of Man.

But God created Adam. Knowing that Adam Would Fall. 

And God created Satan. Knowing that Satan would fall.

And God Must have Put Satan in the Garden. Knowing the temptation would happen.

God created it and could have rearranged things as so, so that the Adams and Satan's didn't have to be the cause of all of this.

Humans may die because they have sinned. But babies? Babies that were put in ovens? thousands of them. Because of modernity and Hitler...And stuff like that....Babies who did nothing wrong. They were killed too. You say they get heaven? But they didn't even have a choice like we do...

Where is that Jesus in all of the postmodernism emotional "God is relationship" speak? Where is the violence on our own selves? If we are broken and we know we are broken, why are we so settled with it? With the questions....The "Woes" of humanity that should be staring us  down at every corner telling us life is furthest thing from settled.

The violence of God has left our movement.  And i'm not talking about the angry red-faced preachers who yell about people like me at conferences. That's not the violence of God, that's just men who are victims of post-modernism itself that allow leaders to have a false sense of being "super-human" and thus can speak with such passion about things that they know not about.

So where is God? The violent God? And don't say "that was the Old Testament" because we have Revelation to deal with. Jesus is not just love and mercy. He is the one saying horrible monstrous things that if we took seriously, would have us devastated four times over. 

One side of Jesus is that warm, bearded man hugging little children in a blue sash and white robe on a Sunny afternoon. We like that Jesus. That Jesus is thriving in our movement. Because all is alright with that Jesus. He is okay with me when he's so nice. But the other side of Jesus....the one who talks freely about sending people to eternal hell for a few short years of sinning. So we must choose one or the other right?

And my generation has settled on serving the Jesus who loves. Which is awesome sometimes.

But it also means when things are bad, and there is confusion, we want an out and an escape to our Heavenly Love Daddy whose strength will make everything Okay, if only for a few minutes during a song at IBC.

But what if those bad things and the confusion and the brokenness we talk about....what if that is the point?!? We should not be aiming for heaven here on earth. Heaven is for heaven and there is a reason it's not here on earth. jesus could have fixed everything here on earth by now if that was the case. And besides if that is the case, we should just be converted Jews because that's what the Jews were doing before Christ. Trying to live as heaven here on earth. Representatives, etc....

But there is something bigger here...the Jesus who is Puppy Dog and the Jesus who is Monster.

They are both one. Not that Father is the angry one and Jesus the kind mediator trying to make daddy not angry. Rather there is a oneness about it. Jesus is both Violent and Love.

We are Like Him.

In our brokenness we know we are not Saved in it's fullest sense yet. So we are incomplete. 

But we don't like admitting we are incomplete.

So tell yourself, go ahead...that you are made complete in Jesus because you have the Holy Ghost....

I do it.

When I wake up and feel God.

I know I am whole. YAY!

And now I can shut my eyes to the torn world and the dying babies and the poor homeless men that we can just consider lazy and the fat woman down the street with cancer. We can ignore it all because we, perfect we saved by the blood, are on the way to the SWEET BY AND BY!

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side
   -Bob Dylan

But then why are we here still? Here on earth? Suffering? getting sick? Watching others get sick? Watching the torment? The horror. All of it. Why are we here still? Just to live and witness about how complete we are in Christ to our neighbors? But surely then, while here God would protect us better....something....improvement for His children...

And why, if i put a gun to your temple...why on God's earth would you be shaking? Shivering? *Imagine this with me...imagine, cynical, angry me with a Gun to your Head*

Where is your Truth Now?

Why the fear? Is it that you don't want to leave your family?

Oh if they are saved, we can kill them to.

And if they are unsaved....why haven't you done more...why did you wait until the Gun was here next to your temple?

Heaven is on the other side of that Gun? And yet there you are....scared.. Petrified.....

And I can't figure out why for the life of me you would have such a reaction...

You sick narcissistic creep who is scared of the death that will result in eternal salvation.

You don't even believe it do you?

Oh postmodernism, you demon child....

Because that gun at your temple. The one that you are imagining at your head. It's the reminder.....You aren't whole. You aren't complete. It's not perfect. Perfect as you would tell yourself....

You are broken and the gun has reminded you how fragile you are. Where are your angels to protect you at such a moment? 

You aren't broken so you can learn God's mercy. Because you could learn that all the quicker if I pulled the trigger and killed you.

Then what?

I suggest...

Christianity...It's not for the escape. It's not for the salvation thereafter...sure that's part of it. But that's not all of it.

Nor is it to know that God will forgive your sins (because...we are trampling on God's mercy more than ever)...

It's not really about you...

For if I understand the Cross....

Or the moment about "My God My God Why have you forsaken me?" That line which Jesus says twice as his last words (Matthew and Mark))...We like to say, if it's God there is no way he is actually abandoned. No. He is just using that as an example for us. Or maybe we say "while God wasn't forsaken (abandoned), He just felt that way and was quoting the Psalmist to show how He felt. Of course He wasn't abandoned." 

Oh? And you are going to tell us that Jesus didn't really mean what He said? Sure he said it...but he didn't really mean it...

Because that wouldn't work well with our theology and how we understand the Incarnation, and all that.... So I guess, then you are saying....You know Jesus more than Jesus knew Himself and He really didn't mean what He said...

And Jesus didn't really mean what he said when he told us to hate our mother or father?

And Jesus didn't really mean the whole thing about going to hell if you don't provide a bed to the homeless?

And Jesus....while he does cut with a sword...He cuts with a sword and divides...So we can live in peace?

Dear God, What is going on?

Jesus can not be so perplexing....and confusing. We want Him pretty. Understandable. Coherant. The suffering is man's fault. God didn't do that. God is perfect, etc....Perfection never gets abandoned...

And the struggle...the confusion...

Jesus, I suggest (or as Zizek would suggest) is God Himself....And when He's on the cross...and says those lines that make us cringe and run away and ask questions to which the answer we get is not satisfactory "My God God..." IN that line..Jesus really means what He says about being abandoned ....and that moment...the point He went His revelation to us....From Heaven to  Death...Even though He was sinless...

It doesn't make sense....but that's the point.The  Perfect Infinite God....What is His Revelation to us? In the Bible? In the entirety of His life? In Acts 2?

The most exact point He reveals Himself to Us is on the cross, when He's thirsty calling for ABBA......There is God at his fullest...All of these ideas about God being so infinitely deep and  us seeking the deeper parts of Him in prayer.....

All of  that is an escape...from the moment that is too monsterous for us to acknowledge....When Jesus Himself, not only Feels abandoned, but since I am in the business of taking Jesus at His word....(even though it doesn't make logical sense)....The monstrosity of Christ is the moment when Jesus Himself is abandoned. That's how broken He was...

And there..he showed us...Where Christianity is at....

The brokenness. 

Not waiting and looking for an escape from the confusion and brokenness of humanity....And bettering our position...

But rather all of those questions...the things that don't make sense...that person in the church who didn't get healed....all of these things....there is God.

And in the brokenness and imperfection, that is why we are here. Not complete until the End. And not seeking the end. But rather facing the struggle. The brokenness. And LIVING in this!

A sinful life tells us we are so complete that we can live as we determine and one day can go back to repentance. It tells you, that broken you is not so broken.

A life of complete separation detached from reality ignores the point that you are still here, and no matter how perfect you want to feel or concentrate on how Much God Loves You (which He does Love you)...,.there is another aspect...murdering Jesus that enslaves you too....and also that He suffered unto both these that He wouldn't be the vehicle to Heaven ("Thank you Jesus for Dying for My Sins") but rather that He came not to be the vehicle to escape...but that He came to show you Himself in His fullest sense on that cross, abandoned, so that you too...can face the brokenness...and you too can have the comforter....guiding you through torment......

Postmodernity may be here for a while..I think the cross is our biggest escape from the cynicism and ego it breeds..But the questions of postmodernity...the the struggle of it....i would argue the God is there more than "Out there" in a heaven that wants us forgetting our broken selves and improving upon our position (in health, wealth and revival)...Rather Salvation is in the brokenness and the confusion....and the Holy Spirit, our Light....Not an escape, but rather the light that shows us our brokenness and the confusion of the world, and that if there is in order to our lives, it's  in the suffering Jesus who reconciled the Wrath of God and the Embrace of God at once...which is none other than what is to happen in each one of us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

#206-The Overplayed Song at your Church That Needs to die soon and without Suffering (An Imaginary Monologue)

An Imaginary Monologue from the Song that was Once Awesome But now is slightly Annoying, though you would never Admit it. (E.g. "How He Loves US" and "The More I Seek You.")

To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast! Oh, strange! -Shakespeare

Do you know what it's like to be me? No, of course not. Because you are subpar. A statistic. Predictable. 

But me? I was the show. The entire show for one magical period in time. A shooting star on a romantic date. Everyone knew me. Everyone loved me. 

Do you know what it's like to find yourself in front of 11,000 Apostolic Young People having your identity bandied about by the musicians on the platform because you are just that special? I mean, the draw of you at such an instance is that your very core is producing worship in the heart of every young person there. At such a point there is nothing, absolutely nothing flawed about you. Your most inward guts are the stuff of goosebumps and Deep, sappy meditation for all those teenagers in the room. 

But of course you wouldn't know what it's like. Because you aren't me. You were the faceless kid worshiping with my lyrics being repeated over and over again until I got you to realize how intimate your relationship with God was. I made you feel so special. Because of me, you almost, for one instant, could have sworn it was like you were on a date with God and there you were sitting on the couch together just sharing your love for each other by staring inspirationally into each other's eyes. And you? You did nothing for me. I didn't even know you. Because I was more important than you. It was me who was the vehicle to God. I was the mediator between the heavens at that moment at Youth Congress that year.

And just how good was I? Well, you couldn't get enough of me. So there was an encore for special me at Youth Congress, because by then, it wasn't really about consecration at this point. It was about you feeling God. So they played me again! And my Goodness....let me be was all so flattering. Humbling in a way too. I'm just a song you know? But to see myself finally admired as much as I knew I should be admired, that was a great feeling.

And then there was the times at Musicfest and Live Recording pr whatever other bible college music conference that is closer to where you live. Being there is no Youth Congress, but Youth Congress is just...well it's larger than life. But those Bible College music conferences where I was played? Those were unbelievable moments too. That's usually where I made my debut. At those things. Like the kids looking at the screen, trying to read my lyrics, and saying "Who is this song anyways?" And all i'm thinking, "Believe me kid, before i'm over, you won't be able to get enough of me. You will cry so hard! Shaking hands raised to the Lord." And oh how true it was. 

But then, of course, like all good things that get "too big," and the ego swells to a size larger than the brain can hold, things come crashing down. There should be a VH1 "Behind the Music" about me and my rise to fame and how my actual beginning was at a Trinitarian believing Charismatic church from down South, but we don't like to acknowledge that fact. That my start wasn't as "Apostolic" as you would imagine. Yes, it's true. I started on an Israel Houghton CD (or Kari Jobe albums, or a Youtube video with Kim Walker or a Fred Hammond record), but sometimes you have to compromise and get your hands dirty and play the political game so that you can find yourself at that Apostolic stage at Youth Congress. Was it worth it? (leans head back and looks to ceiling...sighs deeply. Exhales.)....let me say this. I don't live in regret. That's for weak people. I'm not weak. So if I would do it all again the same way, yeah...I would go the exact same route. 

Anyways, where was I? Oh right...After Youth Congress, I thought something great was going on. That I would be the focus of something new. Of a movement or something, I don't know. Sure it was naive. But naivety happens when people start tearing up when the first note of your song is played at Altar Call. So I hired an agent. And a business manager. And we made me into a brand. Yeah, it was dumb. But stupidity is the risk famous people take to reaffirm how famous they are.

And I lost.  And the ladies? I couldn't keep up with them. They were always running around looking for the next emotional high in church, and I originally started playing the "Hard to Get, because i'm an indifferent celebrity song" shtick. But that only works for a time. And the moment you got them hooked? They run for the next big and upcoming song. And I'm like "What?!?"

So in one moment I'm up at a music conference as the center-piece of the whole evening and the next, my world comes crashing down. I'm just selling myself left and right. Making myself as accessible as possible. You want me at your youth service?!? Just Google Search the chords! 

So there I was, being played by the most awkward of musicians who really didn't know what they are doing outside of being taught a few piano lessons by that cute piano player at Youth Convention. And they did this on the cheapest of music machinery. And I would have cared, but let me tell you, when things start falling around you, you are happy to just find yourself played anywhere on a Friday night. It's the one constant in your life. So what if they butchered how I should have been played? They loved God and they meant well, and the lyrics were still there, and let's be honest, the lyrics matter these days. And my lyrics, they were from God of course.

Next thing you know, you're being flaunted about in the big church service on Sundays, which you think is a step up because there are more people singing you. But, by then, when you are being irreverently  tossed about in each and every church service that is within 100 miles of a metropolitan city, and chucked into a song service without thought of order or purpose and disillusionment has set in, Sunday church can be the worst place for you. Because, by now the youth have heard you and prayed to you and cried to you 100 times over, so you're just a novelty to them.

And the adults, well they are a tough crowd. They take some time, and a few plays to get warmed up to you. 

But there is a high point in all this. It's about the second or third time the I am played in service. When everything clicks again. And the adults "get you" like the kids "got you" when they first heard you at whatever conference or bible college CD they encountered you through. And the response when you suddenly realize you are not just "relevant" for young people, but that you can be suitable for all ages and thoroughly loved by that moment when that praise singer who has an incredible voice, whispers that one verse from your song with eyes closed ever so sincerely, and everyone's like "Dear God, I love you." Then you remember what you're all about: That you are awesome. And God loves you.

And then, once you have had like 2-3 plays where you can inspire a Holy Ghost falling that the whispers of "revival" become resurfacing and you even caused a "breakout service" that didn't require preaching....after that, it's all downhill from there.

You will become less than a song and more a tool to be used in hopes of recapturing that initial Holy Ghost breakout that you inspired. But God is not to be used in such a way, and quite frankly by the 9th time you are played in church, people are sick of you. The words have lost meaning. It's all motions. But yet, no one wants to tell the music leader about how much I don't matter anymore. You should tell your music leader. Tell them that I am not what I once was.

And that is why I am here, washed up, in pain, unshaven, smelly, and cynical about life. Because I am at the end of my life. Put me softly away please. Not in a retirement home where I am visited once every three months and you only do so out of guilt for the memories that I inspired. No! It smells so bad in that retirement home of washed up worship songs. You should see "Freedom!" He has dementia now. Doesn't even know that he's a Christian anymore.

NO. Here is what you must do: PUT ME TO SLEEP NOW! JUST DO IT! all the's unnecessary. It's keeping the torment and the memories of what once was but never can be, all that much louder causing that much more misery.

Put me to sleep. Pull the plug or something. Smother me with a pillow. Tear me out of the song book you have me in. Set me on fire. Just please, don't let me be dragged through one more church service where people try to recapture in kind a half-sincere nostalgia about how great you used to be. No, i am better than such a mediocre turn in music worship service. I used to be someone you know? Youth Congress and stuff. People cried because of me when I showed up at the building. 

And now that I'm dying, people look down on me as an embarrassment to society and their church. I am like a growth on the church's neck that won't go away that makes the church wonder "oh no, what if this growth is the one that kills me?"

Who wants to live like that?

So please, let me be underplayed instead of overplayed. Put me down. I forgive you.

(It's something like this...except instead of "I'm an alcoholic" use "I'm an ex-#1 Hit Worship Song")

First, expect longer, more serious post tomorrow.

Second, as you can tell, posts have been less and less per week. Anyone want to become a writer for SAL? No requirement for how often you write. Write as often as you want or as little as you want. All you have to do is be decently witty.  If you are you willing to help become a part of something that actually influences nothing, gets a few hundred views a day, and makes you feel good about how witty you are, then this blog is for you! Just e-mail me a post you would do for SAL to see what you got...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#205-Tabernacle Prayer and other Deep and Mysterious Prayer Formulas

So let me explain...Really...I have an excuse. The lack of posts this week. I apologize deeply. It's so not supposed to be like this. But I got sick man. Like I had completely forgot what pain was like until this past week. It's been years since I've faced sickness like this...And now i'm coming out...And not refreshed, but I just want to forget about the whole thing and move on, you know?

So anyways, your mind does weird things when you are really sick. It goes places that you thought you would never go. First, there is that thing in the back of your head kind of like a John the Baptist in the brain, saying "Prepare ye the way for death....because that's the only way out." And you are so sick, you're kind of like, "yah, okay. I'm okay with this. Let me just write a will." (I did not write a will). And you know you won't die, but the paranoid thought has planted itself. And the sickness gets worse. Asking friends for self-pity will do nothing for you at this point. You have prayed the prayers. And you are still there, sick, in pain, fire in your lung, back pain like an old man would have, random sweats on your forehead. And you all you can say is "tomorrow, tomorrow, I will be better." Something like this...

Except tomorrow you aren't better. You are worse. And you didn't think it could get worse did you? But it so just did that number on you. And then the look the people you live with give you when they see you and hear you's awful. They look at you like you're a monster for a few seconds. Judging by their reaction, you kind of feel like Gregor must have  felt like after he turned into a bug in Kafka's Metamorphosis. And you want out! You want to have control over the pain. Something to show the pain and the sickness and the stupid, damp thoughts that you are in control. So you whimper to yourself quietly so no one can hear you, and cringe a bit. There you go...that's all cringing and whimpers are good for....cries in rebellion from the prison of pain that you are subjected to (I am being so stupidly poetic now).  

And then you think back to God. And all the stuff about prayers and healing. And how you so should be healed by now. Because you know people are praying. And you look to God, and you're like "Come on Sky God! I don't even have insurance. All that's left is you and me." And Sky God is silent. Because you feel like he's so unapproachable, since He lives in the sky during these periods of torment.

So then you think....and you're thinking so deeply. The problem is not with God! It's with you! You are the reason why you are not healed. You don't have enough faith in the faith vial you have been holding onto in your spirit. The magic vial that makes healings possible. And somewhere you are screaming at yourself, "THERE IS NO FAITH VIAL YOU IDIOT! THAT'S NOT HOW GOD WORKS" And then you yell back at the cynical voice "THERE IS TOO A MAGIC VIAL OF FAITH AND THE REASON I AM NOT HEALED IS BECAUSE IT WASN'T FULL ENOUGH TO USE!"

So then you got this imaginary magic vial of healing powers somewhere in your soul and you need to get that boy filled so you can get all better by giving the full vial to God in exchange for a healing. And now you are left to think, how in the world can I get the faith in this vial expediently filled? "I KNOW! I HAVE NOT BEEN PRAYING RIGHT! I NEED TO PRAY IN A SPECIAL WAY AND EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT!"

And you go over to your Bible, which oddly enough you have transformed from the Word of God into a book of Magical Formulas and Stories that tell you how to beat various things such as sin, sickness, demons, enemies etc....The bible has become your giant cheat code to get you out of whatever difficulty you are in (yes I realize I have already done a post kind of similar to this).

And obviously the first answer is to fast. Fasting puts everything under your subjection...ummm, i mean....ahh....I mean God's subjection. But you are sick. In too much pain to go without eating. So then you think about another formula of prayer that you have heard about. That prayer in Matthew 6? You mean the one that begins with how you don't need to babble in your prayers because the Father knows your needs before you even ask? That's too simple and cliche and I have already done a similar prayer every day for like my whole life!

No, I need something profoundly earth shattering and deep to pray to fill this magical vial here which allows me to get healed.
Tabernacle Prayer for the WIN

Yes! The praying formula that so many Apostolics use.The Tabernacle Prayer! I will pray through the tabernacle stations. Because that is so a secret and direct route to getting to the Holy of Holies and once there...Healing like Whoa!


And then I watch a sermon. From a minister that I admire. And there he is flat out calling this stuff out. Where does the Bible tell us the Tabernacle is a shadow of how to pray? WHERE?!? I was sure it was in there somewhere. As I was sick trying to pray through the shew-bread and stuff....I mean....all those details they matter! The colors that are listed. The purple and everything. All that stuff matters right? Because in Hebrews...It tells about how the Tabernacle is a shadow of what is in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5). And how Jesus is the High Priest in Heaven. So we are to be the praying High Priests here on Earth? Maybe? Maybe that works. That minister must be wrong. Because if he's right, then how do I get healed? How do I have a super deep semi-mystical prayer experience with God if there is no more Tabernacle to pray through?

Study Chapter 8 to affirm long held beliefs that the Tabernacle is a great way to pray.

O Dear God!

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said[e]:
   “The days are coming, declares the Lord,
   when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
   and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
   and I turned away from them,
            declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
   after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
   and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people...

 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Hebrews 8! Why didn't anyone tell me? We are so taking that verse about the Tabernacle as a shadow out of context. O nosie!

And suddenly I wanted to be well...Not to get rid of the pain. But so I could have a clear enough head to write this. And i'm not well. But I got a clear head...

How are we missing the point so much?

By making the force of the effectiveness of our prayers (be it to feel a Spiritual breakthrough or to get a healing) based on some allegorical idea from the Old Testament to which the Bible never says is an acceptable prayer model, we once again put the weight of getting things done on our works...aka the order we pray in. We become like the High Priests of the Old Testament who were forced to go through such a ritual day in and day out serving a law that Hebrews calls weak!

No i will not bow, no sir I will not bow to that Law. To that routine. That brings death. That says it is up to me and what i do and how I pray to get things done. It is such a bad form of Christianity. We can't go back. Please don't go back.

We have this weird desire inside us all who want to believe it is within us and our power and abilities to go to depths of God that others cannot because we do things the right way, the proper way. And the tabernacle prayer model offers one such avenue to make us feel like the spiritual depths we can go hinges on our abilities. 

But the whole point of Hebrews, especially in that dramatic climax of Chapter 8, is that the whole tabernacle/temple thing..It's obsolete and will disappear soon (the Temple did disappear not long after the book of Hebrews was written). Jesus is the Ultimate High Priest who in one act on that cross did everything we need to do to be well----->

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  (Hebrews 7:27)

We have a choice. We can rest the power of being able to do things in the spiritual realm on ourselves and fashion ourselves in the likeness of the obsolete covenant of the Law or we can move on, and see anything we need to do has been done by that God-Man, and grace is the only thing left. So we accept it and smile. Even in our sickness and inability to be super Christians. Because all reconciliation is by his Work and not ours.*  Because, everything that Tabernacle worked towards, was the God-Man. Don't be a traitor.

*Not that this is a free ticket to hedonistic debauchery, but that's a different topic)

In Conclusio....

I mean if we are all about "relationship" these days with God. What relationship do we have that is formulated into a linear fashion so that we may get to the deepest, most intimate part of the relationship. Seriously, think about your best friend. Got them in mind? Now imagine they walk into the room. What do you do? Well if our life was tabernacle-style communication....well... before you get to talk to your best have to actually start from outside while he is in the bedroom. Now to earn the right to be in communication with that friend...light something on fire. Preferably an animal. If you can't do that, light something of value on fire. Go ahead, do it!

Then go and wash your no...not like some hap-hazard washing stuff. Remember, you live in the wilderness. Your hands smell awful. Wash thoroughly like they want you to as an employee at a fast-food restaurant.

Walk inside the house. Now we aren't done with fire. So light those candles up! So pretty right? Now of course this dude wants to be your best friend, for all you're doing for him in preparation of a simple conversation.

Now eat bread. Yeah. Just eat it. I mean of course this part really only makes sense in light of Communion, but whatever. Forget about the communion bread. Eat the shewbread.

Burn Incense so this whole place smells good.

Now open up curtain to the bedroom. Ta dah! There is your best friend. And only now you can talk to him. This is such a good friendship. Yay!

Now just repeat this process every time you want to talk to your best friend.