Contact.

for centuries upon centuries even dating back to the time of Aristotle people have believed there have been signs of other life from other planets; sometimes from alternate universes. What do they want? Contact. A large portion of film is dedicated to this way of thinking, suppositions that there is more than just human life living somewhere out there. and its only a matter of time before we make contact. so until then, we wait.
i think prayer is much like this. we wait and fiddle our thumbs “waiting” for the answer to come. we wait praying earnestly for the answer we seek or think we deserve. we are told “seek and you shall find” and pastors scream from hollow pulpits “knock and the door will be opened for you!”. Yet we wait and wait and wait and sometimes nothing comes. we go to 24 hour prayer meetings hoping the answers will be there. waiting for something we may have missed, some drip of water to fall upon our cracked lips that used to sing the praises of God to keep us going. to keep us moving. Yet, Jesus says in John that he is the door…iif Jesus is the door, then we are not knocking for Jesus or God to answer, we are knocking to meet face-to-face with God. so, if we seek god then we will find, if we ask then Christ will be given unto us….this is the invitation.
i think like most people and even the unseen aliens, we all crave contact.
why is dating such an attraction> why is loneliness depressing? because we were all made for contact. deep in Eden, before the apple tripped off the branch, god saw adam and felt his loneliness, so, he made one just like Adam for his enjoyment and partnership. we were meant for contact. i think for far too long, we have thought of prayer like one of those game machines with the claw. you stick a couple coins in (prayer) maybe if we’re lucky and skilled enough, we might get what we’re after (action) and yet most of the time the claw slips right through the grasp of our hands (waiting/no response). And Jesus makes the connection that God gives his children what they ask for, that, if they ask for a piece of bread, that is what they get. 
if you follow scripture from the old testament to the new, you find people in contact with their creator. to be in contact with one’s creator was both humbling and and exciting process. for the most part, the religions of the time defined gods as being distant and judgemental and aloof. yet here was a god who himself desired contact wit his creation. he loved and is in love with his creation. you see prayer is about collision with god, not about the answer. it is about being in a deeply embedded relationship with the only god in all of human history who turns out to be a relational god. yes in some instances you see people throughout scripture who were concerned about the outcome, but, in comparison you never see god worry about the outcome and those people are also a lesser few in comparison to those who went to meet with God. prayer is about a face-to-face relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It is encountering the Triune God in a loving relationship. It is about a relationship. God did not send Jesus as a response to one person’s prayer; He sent Jesus in response to His very own desire for personal connection to each of us. Also known as contact.
Some listeners may want to object because prayer has not worked for you, maybe prayer wasn’t made to work at all….maybe it was made so we can solely connect with our creator. Maybe prayer doesn’t change things, maybe God does. If we choose to get our knees and be with God. this is much more than some physical posture, this is an internal bending of the will that cohesively finds itself coupled with the desire to be happy enough to just be with God. Prayer is a lovers’ call to fall over head heels. 
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The Demise of Christianity…

HAPPY DIGGING
(Note: This is not a safe read.)

going to church. studying your bible. scripture memorization. saving a few of your friends. these are not the ticket to heaven. in fact, Christ himself tells us that if we think those things are going to get us into heaven, he will get amnesia. He will say:” I never knew you”. This seems a bit harsh, now, why would Jesus say this? Because, he doesn’t want actions or guilt. He wants our hearts aka relationship with him (for those that think that Christ-following is boring — read this section again). If you get up and think “oh, i have to go to church” and then go out of guilt, you might as well have stayed in bed and talked to God. you might get more of out of it. A lot of conservatives might step in and say, “well, sometimes you have to force your way to feeling it”…but right here, and other places Christ says: I want your heart not your duty. Later on he tells his followers ” I desire mercy (heart) not sacrifice (duty)”. So, is there ever a time you should “force” yourself to do these things…yes! if you are avoiding these things because you are afraid or are lazy, then these are good. but if you look to these things as ways to get into heaven, i am sorry. duty is not a free pass. live with passion. yes, sometimes you have to force yourself to live with passion. but if you live with passion all these other things will fall into place. yes, it is that easy. Read Matthew 6:32-33.
If there is an “us” versus “them” attitude (i.e., Christians and non-Christians) we have failed. God isn’t chasing after a special few. He desires relationship with every person. there is not some exclusive bunch that receives special treatment. there were a group of guys who thought this same exact thing, they were called pharisees. Jesus says: God doesn’t play favorites. Westernized Christianity is failing if we think there is a side to choose in war. In fact, Joshua in the middle of battle meets an angel and asks the angel which side he is on and the angel responds: “neither”. we don’t have the luxury to justify war over oil. (okay, so now some of you know where i stand politically)…and for the record i am non-partisan. I want to change the world by loving people. that is the gospel and the will of god combined in a nutshell. if we think going around shouting that heaven and hell are real and you only have two places to go and a few seconds to decide is the gospel, then we are reading two different bibles. I echo the words of Rob Bell (as cited in Relevant Magazine): ” America’s (the whole of the Western world – my inclusion) is a failure. The whole system that says these few people, because of what they said, did, believe, etc., are going to Heaven and everybody else is going to Hell, is deeply flawed and must die. The central metaphor Jesus uses is the Eucharist. His body is broken and His blood is poured out to the healing of the world. God is looking for a body of people…for the healing of the world”. Love is the will of God, not were you are or how you get there….but what you do while you are there and getting there. Yes, there a few moment where he might specifically intervene, but through Christ He has already intervened. We just follow the leading of the Spirit.
Church has nothing to do with a building. nothing at all. it never had to do with the building. even in the Old Testament. It was about people/(then one person) meeting God. not about the temple or cloth. before Abraham met God he sacrificed to other Gods. God chose to step in and use their (human) system to “wean” them off the sacfrifical system. in comes the New Testament and we see Jesus saying that he is the fulfillment (translated and modernized: i am the end all to be all) to the law. and we get most of our modern day theology from the New Testament, which Paul himself got a huge chunk of his theology from the Old Testament. If you read the verse by him which has been misquoted quite frequently, you will see he was referring to the Old Testament (all scripture (OT) is god-breathed — god inspired men to write it) and yet we get all of our theology from the New Testament and these were men who like you and i now encountered God and got it wrong and sometimes even got it right. Yes, there is relevance to the New Testament and God can choose to teach us something from the New Testament, but He can also choose to teach us something from watching birds or reading a John Grisham novel.
The gospel is being among people being with them. not to them. not preaching to them or at them. but getting alongside of them, crying with them, starving with them, bleeding with them and even holding them when their world is caving in. “The enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity” — Erwin Mcmanus….the word christian was used more like a cuss word in the first century life of christ-followers. now it has become derogatory not by outsiders but by insiders. we have created such a destructive gospel, we have hurt one another and we pray for peace yet wage war against our sisters and brothers in other countries…what about those there who are praying for peace yet we rally behind our troops in the name of Jesus. The Jews believe (and I conclude the same) that everything is connected. We are connected to the earth (we are told to take care of it and we are also made from it), and to one another. We all (“saved” and “unsaved”) have the image of God within. rather than ostracizing people because of their lifestlye, love them beyond that, beyond your own theology. Theology is man’s flawed study of God. I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine about this, we all have different ways to see God. We all interpret differently how God moves in our lives. But seriously, people who have Doctorates in theology (this is not to say that their hard work isn’t profitable or shouldn’t be recognized) are no greater than the guy down the street who only knows how to quote John 3:16 and doesn’t know how to read. There is not one more correct theology than the other. In fact, Mithras was a greek mythological story of a man who came down from “heaven” to die and resurrect for his people. sound familiar? there are a handful of other stories saying the same thing…so what does this all mean? is your faith centered on knowledge or Truth. Is it based upon facts or relationship? are you living out this messy faith because you believe or because you have to? My goal is not to make you doubt….but to challenge your perceptions and to encourage you to begin to ask questions and jesus promises that if you seek you will find, if you knock the door will opened…are you brave enough to start this hunt? Ask Jesus to come along…you will be surprised in what you might find! Happy Digging!! 

Sick.

if its broken you fix it. i grew up on the premise that i am responsible for fixing the things that i screw up. that if i threw a tennis ball into a neighbors’ window, I had to go buy them a new window. or maybe if i break someone else’s heart, i have to apologize and hope it mends well. yet, God does the exact opposite, he says let me fix it all for you. Let me take the very thing you had a part in breaking and fix it. Yet, there is a dichotomy here. David discovers while penning some poetry that God is close to the brokenhearted. In fact, the word in the verse actually means ‘near.’ my wife and i sometimes are sitting in close proximity to one another. this is not what David is saying here. it more likely that he could mean, ‘elbow to elbow’. you and god are touching. so, when you are all alone because someone you love has either moved on or died, God is nearer to you than you think. and when you think you’ve gone too far or God doesn’t ‘feel’ close, He is right next to you. When the tears fall on your pillow, he catches everyone. So fast forward a few thousand years to the time of Jesus the God-Man…and recorded in the book of mark, he says this: it is the sick i am after no the well. He was referring to the Pharisees who thought they had it all together, they were the theologians of their day…he said you think you know everything, so you don’t need me and i have no use for you. I know, I know, but Jesus wasn’t as much of a pansy as our felt boards on sunday have plastered him to be. Yes, he was saying that he was looking for those who knew they were needy. That happened to be the outcasts, the women, the children, and the mistreated. Yet, in the midst of all this, it got me thinking…I have to maintain a sense of sickness or brokenness to maintain my attractiveness to God. There was an episode on the TV show “House” where there was an older brother who was dying of blood cancer and the only way he could be saved was if his brother (same blood match) gave a part of his marrow. so one of the doctors in a quick reaction, strapped the kid down on the table and extracted the marrow while he was still awake and not under anesthesia. the young boy screamed and screamed and asked for the doctor to stop. both boys were standing side by side at the end of the show. sometimes we need to go through hurt and loss to become better. like some patients who find out too late to have anything done. maybe our creator and loving father allows us to experience pain (not that he wants to or its in his will for us to go through that) to somehow learn and maintain our sense of need for Him. He is committed to us remaining sick. He, like a lover, likes to be needed. Not in the insecure way a human to a human relationship might exhibit, but one where He is jealous of the time we spend with him. For those who think they have it all together….this is an opportunity to lay down your degrees and doctorates (literally and figuratively) and knowledge of who you think God is or should be and allow the divine illness of needing God to seep through your veins. He can only use you when you’re sick enough to need Him. Yes, He will always be there, this is true. But, how close do you want him near your hospital bed. Like a doctor would be or like a father would be? We live in a world where strength is praised. Where magazines like Men’s Health (they are not wrong in and of themselves) are flying off racks and the physical body is being praised and men are being stereotyped as one’s who never ask for directions (yes, for a lot of men this is true)…weakness is a sign of weakness. Yet, the invitation is to lay your burdens down, to lay your sickness as His feet and become strong. But, most of us are too strong for our own good (good church attendance, theological study, think you’re better than others, and etc…) or strength doesn’t have to be physical…it can be emotional or psychological..what is it for you? are you going to walk away from this like how you came..what are you going to lay down…how are you going to become sick? don’t forget your meds…!!

souvenirs.

a young girl is forced into motherhood in a back alleyway….and we pray.

a village is ravaged because of greedy politicians…and we pray.

a baby is tossed into a blazing fire because it was too much for the local economy…and we pray.

a wife’s face is beaten in because her husband can’t control his anger…we tell her to pray.

be doers. step it up. commit to what you say you believe. james says we need to be doers not just hearers. put “feet” to our faith as the trite cliche echoes. james was speaking to a bunch of church leaders (pastor is nowhere in scripture). So how much more so are we challenged to love uncomfortably…To be among those who mourn. to touch the untouchable. to breathe new life (“nooma“, spirit) into those we encounter.

yet divorce rates are still high. youth pastors only stay around for a little over year. cell phones now have a no-commitment possibility. and life is just to easy to pass by. most people are in “survival mode” because there sense of commitment will only allow them so far. living life takes dangerous people. people of risk. people who choose to believe in their desired outcomes before they see them. people of the “jump”. who will jump chasms knowing they will land on the otherside. are you a person of the jump. if you are, people are waiting for you to take the leap to meet them where they are. so, Jump!!!