Friday, December 26, 2014

The Divergent

In a dysfunctional group uniformity of doctrine, dress mode and even scriptural interpretation is tantamount. Views that are not a part of the whole group think are either dismissed, repressed, confronted or condemned. In this microcosm there are the ruling elite, the server class and the under classed. All are watched and those who are divergent in their views are first identified to see if they can be brought in line. If not, they are confronted and then spewed from the group. One reality that is never addressed is the nature of human interaction  and general juxtaposition. We all are free-thinkers and think in ways that run alternate to common and accepted thought. We all do it.  Even those who are in the elite class. Some are sanctioned by the ruling class because of relationships or because they are chief contributors to the group. The point being divergence is throughout the group no matter how hard the leaders keep professing that they have created a bubble of protection around their followers that leads to their version and perspective of life as they deem it idyllic. What they do not know is each phrase, concept and even scriptural teaching is questioned in the minds of those who serve within the group. I know. I have seen it and it is to be the death knell of any conformity to an organizational model that practices a lifestyle that does not fit human nature.   

This is especially true to those that teach new revelation that is half baked. Why? It cannot address the simple divergent thoughts that each of the followers may have. Let me give you an example: In the dysfunctional group I was in (and was a leader), There was a doctrine on the Holy Spirit that stated that the Holy Spirit was not indwelt in a believer until one received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In other words a person had the Holy Spirit only as an influence or was only 'upon' them until the point of spirit baptism. My son-in-law once asked me (a classic example of divergent thought), that if that were true, how could a person be in a salvific state when the Holy Spirit is an agent of salvation and leads us to Christ. in other words, when is that we receive the spirit of God and if that is after the point of meeting and accepting Christ as Savior, how could that be since the Spirit of God is a key agent to our drawing, revelation of who Christ truly is, our conviction of sin and lastly the gifter of faith that we might believe. Once more, it is clear in the Bible by Christ Himself that the reception of the spirit is NOT tied to the baptism of the Holy Spirit given In John 20:22 before Pentecost, it is clear that the Apostles received the Holy Spirit by the resurrected Christ breathing on them. What is the Old Testament corollary to this? The creation of man! So we have a grave inconsistency with the rest of the Bible. In other words, the contextual and thematic interpretation of the event in John was to confirm the holy Spirit's reception is prior to any post experience a believer may encounter. This is consistent with the nature, scope and purpose of the finished work of Christ. People who do not concede that Christ's work is as far reaching as it is do not have a proper Christology and so theology. Ironically, their views are divergent with the Bible's presentation of truth.  How was this divergence managed? Simple: You need to have the revelation of the Holy Spirit to see this deep truth clearly and if you did not see it clearly, then you were not at a spiritual level mature enough. All questions on scripture and divergence were deflected back on the one questioning that they were not spiritual enough and needed to work harder or rely on those more spiritually mature than themselves for proper application of any doctrine on the Holy Spirit.  

In His essence, Jesus while completely consistent with the nature and mission of God was divergent. Christianity is divergent and calls us to live at a level far above the world's or any dysfunctional groups ideals. Simply stated: we are not to live by any one's standards except those given by God. We ultimately answer to God and from God we gain our life's direction. In Jesus' day he confronted those that bound their society to them by the very words of God not to free but to imprison and to control. This is a telltale sign that perhaps faith has crossed over and now is something dark. It has become an angel of light professing to know the way and using its gnosis as the apple to entice us away from living free and in the freedom of Christ (see the first epistle of John)

Here is the point: divergence will not allow freedom of thought and freedom of action to be repressed forever. One will only stay in a state that is counter to the image in which they are created. It may take months or even years for divergence to prevail. It is the nature given to us to be inquisitive and to search out truth and to investigate all inconsistencies where we find them.  The point being, it is natural to inquire. It is not natural to repress. Jesus is not afraid of truth, He is truth. Those who shy away from debate and discussion show their true form and purpose: it is an insecure form and the purpose they have is to
 control. All in the name of God.  It is our duty to question it is our right to think for ourselves. We always have the alternative of   'None of the above' to any of the limited options offered to us.

In this next year, let divergence happen. Think for yourself and see where God takes you. It is the path to the light and to freedom.  Happy New Year. Think for yourself

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Level Set: Looking Back to a Healthy View of Authority

While most that read this blog may not understand the intention of it. I post it here to give an
example of a healthy view of how to respond to authority that has gone awry. One thing to be aware of, never let anyone outside the immediate local church define what the ruling documents of your organization are. If you see any of the characteristics defined in the below, please ensure that you take appropriate action to remedy these. The results of not doing so are well documented.

Please note that the spirit in which the below was written was that of reconciliation. To bring parties to a point to discuss and reconcile not to split nor to separate. Yet in most dysfunctional groups, power is concentrated to one or few and this is ironically its Achilles heel. It is a main reason that the office of Apostle in the church is no longer relevant -- because it cannot be held by people who have power but no accountability. This has been demonstrated throughout church history. I do not cast aspersions on Catholicism but there is little doubt the concentration of power lead to hundreds of years of corruption and by those actions and so spurred the Reformation to counter-balance such skewed viewpoints of authority.

This is a notorious document to some who may read. I put it here for those caught in authority run amok so that reason and balance and ACCOUNTABILITY may return.

In the ultimate sense we answer for our lives to God and those are hands into which we place our lives, destiny and none other.

The document is no longer relevant to the organization where it may have applied due to a total revision of ruling documents by current and standing members of the corporation. But I place it here for a template for any organization where outside authority's ability to lead and direct has reached a point of no return.  Personal integrity and local governance must continue in the face of such a situation -- fulfilling the goal of local pastoral and God given authority  -- to protect and serve the local church's members.



(the Organization)





This addendum to the by-laws specifically addresses a situation not detailed in the existing body of By-Laws of (the Organization) . This addendum is to be invoked only at the discretion of the Pastor and Board of Directors of (the Organization)  when deemed by them by approval in any called board meeting scheduled or unscheduled.  This addendum addresses areas regarding proper proceedings in the area of actions by leadership outside of local leadership of which (the Organization)  is in relationship at that time.


This addendum is considered relevant only when the removal in any capacity of local leadership is recommended by the leadership outside of that leadership serving (the Organization) at that time. The activation of this Addendum is to be made where those allegations of the removal of local leadership in any capacity are deemed by the local leadership, the Pastor and serving board of Directors, are not determined to be in the interest, security or stability of (the Organization) . This is to fulfill the scriptural mandate to protect the church members from divisions that may come in the course of the pursuit of ministries as cited in Acts 20:28:. This situation is evidenced when the considerations by leadership that is external to the local church perform acts or demonstrate intentions to local members that would or has caused the members or prospective members of  (the Organization)  to legitimately raise questions as to the decisions or recommendations made by such persons. This could include but is not limited to the following situations:


·         Directional intent (e.g. directive prophesy) for any of the local leadership (Local Pastor and Local ruling board of elders) or member of (the Organization)  that is considered to be in conflict with the pursuit or execution of their ministry as has been outlined by previous direction and recommendations and appointments made regarding them. These prior directions, recommendations and appointments are based on direction of the Holy Spirit that may have been documented by prior prophetic direction and/or confirmed by the precedent of the successful performance of their execution of such direction. In addition, it is recognized in this addendum that the manifest of demonstration of the Lord’s choosing of ministry for that individual by first their appointment and subsequent recognition by the local church members and it’s local leadership is precedent and deserves consideration as directional intent.


·         Motions or actions made from any external leadership that would cause the local leadership of  (the Organization)  to doubt in the ability of those parties or whom they represent to lead and perform their duties and so provide adequate leadership to (the Organization)  in whatever capacity as outlined in the By-laws of (the Organization) . As an example: When external leadership contacts local members of (the Organization) , for the express purposes of undermining local leadership that causes any member of local leadership to question the integrity of the Pastor or Ruling Board of Elders. In general, these matters if they are a concern to external leadership are to be broached with the Pastor initially so that they may be resolved without sowing internal strife and so cause instability of (the Organization)  membership.


When any situation or event arises that meets the conditions of this Addendum, a letter to the external leadership at that time should be submitted expressing fully the situation. This document is to provide enough information to detail and cite concerns of the local leadership (Local Pastor and local Ruling Board of Directors) to said parties to enumerate and express their concerns as they have deemed them legitimate. The legitimacy is to be confirmed by the agreement of the Board of Directors of (the Organization)   that has been clearly expressed by them and at the very least recalled by more than one party of that local body. It is recommended but not required that any letter submitted to external leadership be made a part of the recording of such events. This will be at the discretion and approval of the Pastor of the inclusion of such documents.


Should conflict arise concerning any area discussed in this addendum, sections in the by-laws of (the Organization)  that permit external intervention into local church affairs will be considered null and void in the following sections:

(sic: there was a section here that cited all instances where external authority was referenced in any transition of power.
Please ensure ALL references are listed here and all powers are made null and void)

This action is to preserve the integrity and autonomy of the (the Organization)  as a local church should it be determined by the local leadership (Local Pastor and ruling Board of Directors) that external leadership or any of it’s representatives perform their duties and responsibilities that are not in harmony with local leadership’s  (Local Pastor and Ruling Board of Directors) direction and purpose. This action will give proper and adequate footing to both levels of leadership – external and local-- with the express purpose of reconciliation and healing at the appropriate level and so provide a forum and facilitate peace and harmony amongst any relationships that exist at that time.



This addendum should only be invoked by the recommendation of the Pastor of (the Organization)  with a motion passed by the current Board of Directors. Should any board of Directors member be absent from that meeting, it will be considered to be a non-vote and shall not impact any quorum of that called meeting.


It has been a number of years since the above was written but I believe it serves as a good template for any organization seeking to counterbalance authority that is no longer responsibly operating in its given capacity. It is a time to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Part III: By Blood Alone Are we Saved..

In the past two entries, the main subject has been blood. Blood it is the only thing that cleanses from sin and it is the unbreakable bond in family. Here is the miraculous thing: Blood creates family. In the Bible it was Christ’s blood shed for us that was the road to not only the presence of God without condemnation but also the birth into the family of God.  This is the conclusion we can reach by reading the New Testament teaching. It is heretical to think otherwise. Those groups that proclaim themselves the true followers of God while considering others only nominal, have forgotten the most important principle of the shed blood of Christ: it covers. This leads to inevitable conclusions that there is no difference in the eyes of God. We all entered the same way: under the blood covenant of Christ. To say otherwise is to deny the power of that blood and does that sacrifice a great disservice.

The fact is that the blood that covers me is the same that covers any believer. What we choose to relate as truth after that is what separates us. The blood never does. It never has. In its truest and purest action and purpose, it unifies, it brings together the prostitute with the little old lady in the fourth pew who has served in particular church all her life. It brings together the criminal with the enforcer of that same law. It joins together the prejudiced with it target. The blood.. the blood is what is important. It is the ONLY thing that is important and all hinges in its application to the sinner of which I am chief.

When we begin to add to the blood is when we enter the realm of the Judaizer, the Gnostic, the Mormon, the Jehovah’s witness and the list goes one. It is the oldest satanic trick: to ADD to the truth. This was the original temptation and its power is still in force. I fell for this trick. I was told that the blood was not enough, to enter the Kingdom of God fully, I had to be baptized in a certain way by a certain person. I had to have the baptism of the holy spirit . If these were not present, I was in the twilight of God’s plan. What a lie. This is the same arguments used by those who taught that the following Mosaic law after belief in Christ was compulsory. Without these practices God would not be pleased. It is the Apostle Paul who spoke directly to the situation: it was another gospel (Galatians chapter 1). It added to the finished work of Christ. As such, it was called for what it was: another gospel. And it is the old story and lie played over in every generation it would seem. Will we ever learn?

How much pain does this lie inflict? Untold damage and its source is not the God we pray to it is the God we really serve.  This is the reality. Those who participate in such things do not serve the true God but the God they have manufactured.

Jesus came to break down barriers with love and give hope to the hopeless. He did not spend much time with the religiously pure but kept telling them and teaching them by example that God was love and He had come to bridge the gap we could not ever build to God (as the religious have always attempted).

No, there is only one way to God, through the blood and nothing else. Oh, I know we all have things to answer for in the end. What we did that we should not have done and what we left undone. It is that latter one I want to talk about now. What may be on that on that list of ‘undones’? Will it be the things that had to do with ministry or the services we missed or perhaps the person we refused to listen to? I guess that is possible but perhaps in the spirit of Christ and why Christ came I think it will be the smile we did not give, the person we did not forgive, the one who loved us we refused to let in. In short, the times we forgot or refused to be like Him. In all our religious effort, we are usually the one who Jesus mentions in the parable of the good Samaritan who crossed to the other side of the path. When we saw the hurt, we did not stop it. When the prisoner called, we did not visit. When the sick needed something we did not give it. When we received a letter, a birthday card, a text message from one reaching out, we did not. This is not Jesus at all, it is religion and it is ugly. It is of its father the devil and we the obedient sons when we refuse to forgive, eschew the ones not like us. Who will be on the left of Jesus? The ones who said they did great things for God. They enumerated the buildings they built, the dogma they wrote that separated and made ones more sons of hell than themselves. What will Jesus say to them? I never knew you.

The blood is our hope, it measures our indebtedness and is our motive to be like Him. God came to build a family and all families are imperfect and to a sense dysfunctional but love is the force that built it and sustains it. Blood is thicker than anything and is more powerful than any word or act. Good or bad.

In the book of Leviticus, it is forbidden to eat blood. God explains why. ‘Life is in the blood’. I can only conclude from this that blood is the important application. It caused the death angel to pass over the slave and made him free, it was the covering that protected and clothed one in the presence of the Almighty, it was the flow from Calvary that once and for all settled the state of man: It is finished.

I ask you, what else is there to do? Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

We are left in wonder and awe at that act of mercy. There is no other way and to take away or add to is the way of Cain.




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

To be a commoner Part II : The Knowledge and Wisdom of a Gangbanger

In a dysfunctional religious group, the main tactic is to demonize anyone who leaves the group. Sometimes, those still in the group need to be reminded of the loved ones left behind. We are not
trash, demons or reprobates. We suffer the scars of the separation and the pain never goes away.
Why? We refuse to stop loving those who cast us aside. We refuse to believe the love we invested in them and shared with them over many years, from  the cradle to the parting, has somehow dissipated
to nothing.

We cannot stop loving them and never will. We hold on to hope because it is what Jesus would do.

Tupac Shakur's tribute to his mother. He is gone now, but he took us through the right approach to those who cannot help but love.

When I was young me and my mama had beef
Seventeen years old kicked out on the streets
Though back at the time, I never thought I'd see her face
Ain't a woman alive that could take my mama's place
When things went wrong we'd blame mama
I reminice on the stress I caused, it was hell
You always was a queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain't easy tryin to raise a me
You always was committed
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it
There's no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated

Don't cha know we love ya? Sweet lady
Dear mama
Place no one above ya, sweet lady
You are appreciated
Don't cha know we love ya?

Now ain't nobody tell us it was fair
No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn't there
He passed away and I didn't cry, cause my anger
wouldn't let me feel for a stranger
They say I'm wrong and I'm heartless, but all along
I was lookin for a father he was gone
Cause when I was low you was there for me
And never left me alone because you cared for me
And I could see you comin home after work late
You're in the kitchen tryin to fix us a hot plate
Ya just workin with the scraps you was given
And mama made miracles every Thanksgivin
But now the road got rough, you're alone
You're tryin to raise two bad kids on your own
And there's no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated

I can always depend on my mama
And when it seems that I'm hopeless
You say the words that can get me back in focus
When I was sick as a little kid
To keep me happy there's no limit to the things you did
And all my childhood memories
Are full of all the sweet things you did for me
And even though I act craaazy
I gotta thank the Lord that you made me
There are no words that can express how I feel
You never kept a secret, always stayed real
And I appreciate, how you raised me
And all the extra love that you gave me
I wish I could take the pain away
If you can make it through the night there's a brighter day
Everything will be alright if ya hold on
It's a struggle everyday, gotta roll on
And there's no way I can pay you back
But my plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated

Why Tupac Shakur here as an example? Why a  gangbanger who dealt drugs, possibly shot others and someone we would probably try to avoid by crossing to the other side of the street?

Answer: Not to speak for him, but in his own words, he did not break the second commandment: Honor your father and mother. Moreover, if you read the above there is no doubt you see more than honor, you see can even feel it. .

He understood something many inside a dysfunctional religious group fail to recognize:

To those still on the inside: Remember You owe some loved ones everything. 

We, the parents, children and dear friends who love you will never stop waiting. How can we?

We will be there when like us, you are cast aside by those you follow once your usefulness to them has expired.

In part I, I listed the importance of the Blood. To extend on that point,
Blood is thicker than the baptismal font and it is also the entry point
to the Lord's Kingdom and mercy.

Blood is our only link to God our Father, there is no other. When God the Father looks at us, He does not see the sin and the transgression even sometimes the hate one has had for Him. He sees the blood of the Lamb covering us. There is no baptism of the Spirit or Water that can augment that. In any Systematic theology  worth its salt (not the one made up by False Leaders), the Blood stands alone as the solution offered to sin BY GOD HIMSELF.

Blood it thicker than anything: even a gangbanger knows that.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

To Be Common - Part I

In the book of Leviticus one can in the vast list of instructions look over some gems hidden in between the stanzas of rote teaching. In the rhythm of the book in the pauses in the corners of that smooth and flawless room, lie clues that tell of another future time when the God-Man would walk the earth for all of us crushed under the weight of what lies in Leviticus. 

Let me give you one here.

In the beginning chapters of the book, there are specific instructions regarding offerings: sin, grain, wave, peace, guilt and so on. But looking a little deeper into one, perhaps the most important one and to one I am most familiar, I find something unexpected. I cannot imagine the scene in that time. The blood and the horror of the last breath of innocent animals slain and then burned in the holy fire is too much for the modern man where such things are far removed… and so the sense of the gravity over the sins we commit. I wonder if we had to go with an animal lay our hands upon its head and take part in its slaying if we would feel differently about the things we do we know are wrong. I believe we would. In the time of Leviticus, there was no other option. It was crude and vile and the last screams of the innocent animal perhaps carried on the shoulders of the one offering  it could only lend regret and a grievance. The cold fact is something had to stand in the place and be the payment to turn back the wrath of God against them. You see, it was a bloody and terror filled place. It was a place where man was reminded of the darkness of his own heart and reminded that God was ever just.  It was a place where the deception of the heart was rendered powerless and one stood in the cold light of reality. The stench of burnt hair and flesh and the blood and … oh my, the blood was everywhere. It saturated the ground and matted the dust in to a foul smelling paste. It was where sin, the real character of sin was in plain sight. All that one could do is bow and be thankful that penalty was paid; at least until the next sin.

This is how it was and we would do well to remember the heinousness of it. It was the result of listening to thoughts, appetites, impulses and sensations that result in the evil fruit of death.

What caught my eye when reading the various instructions was the sin offering of a common person. With the dignitaries it was a bull but with the lowly it was a…lamb. I am reminded of the passage when John the Baptist sees his kin walking toward him to be baptized.

“Behold the Lamb of God” John 1:36.

I was stunned. We see the Jesus in the movie, we see Him in a romantic way and shy away from the black afternoon He was born to spend alone. Combining these two pictures: the sacrifice of the common man and the afternoon on Golgotha, we will find  corollaries: There is the innocent, there is the guilty, there is the lone sacrifice, there is the pain, there is the horror and…there is the blood. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

In the Cold

I was reading the story of Jacob’s reunion with his son Joseph. What a story teller God is. The weaving of a life that dissolves into resolution, reconciliation and peace.  One of the phrases struck me in a very telling way shaking me to the core with the reality of life and the putting away of the flotsam and jetsam of dreams unreached and love unrequited. The world is full of this. As much as the Christian denies it, there is heartbreak, lack of success and in the end we all look back and think to ourselves ‘it could have been better.’  It is almost laughable the soap box religion we settle for because it is easy, has a nice scent and keeps us at least in other’s perceptions…clean.  We run from danger and tragedy and disappointment calling it the enemy and we somehow believe if we live close enough to the God we have constructed, the plague at the door will find some other host. How tragic to live a manufactured and contrived life. But for God. He takes us places we would never imagine. We wade through the things the strongest heart will shudder when it is contemplated.  The cold of it is sometimes stronger than whatever fear we might have had. We are numbed by the exposure to a life that that has God in it. Yet in that forlorn place, the pit, the prison, the cave and even the grave we are changed and we become something that is extraordinary. In that place our thoughts are washed and purged and what comes are the whispers of the Almighty. In that moment where life is the stillest and we are closer to the abyss than perhaps the television evangelist will ever come, we are changed. In that place we see the powerlessness and the hell that life is and desire a better place. In that place we become a pilgrim and no longer one that desires a kingdom here collecting people places and things and the building of a ministry that we will pass to who? The future becomes something where we used to dwell and we begin to live in what Erasmus called the ‘Eternal Now’. A place where prison can be borne and forlornness offered as something we pour out on the ground to God and whisper that we are blessed just to know Him.  In the cold we learn that God is the hope of life and not in the circumstances this world offers like a cheap substitute. Whatever we thought we would become and what we would do for God is seen as the cheap rustling paper swept along some side street back alley. Now we are ready to be used. Not because we want to do something for Him or even because HE calls us to do it. We do it for Him. We don’t do it for others or their expectations on us or their vicarious dreams.

It is at this moment that we become a tool in the hands of God. It is neither our talents nor our willingness He wants. It is our brokenness and our arrival at honesty that we will never achieve what we once heard in the false words of others. We have put down the dreams and the words and finally stand free of self expectation and the haunting voice of the past is drowned out by the dirt of experience that now covers us. It is at this time the words of the Apostles come rushing to us in hard realization: We are not of this world. Eldon Ladd once said that we were a part of the new age to come and after what I have been through, I believe those words. Here is the true test of our separation to God in my opinion:  our lack of care for ourselves and our care for others. So much so, we overlook the sin they did against us and the hell they put us through. In a way, we become thankful for our time in the burning because what we realize in the end, there was no stench of smoke and it was the time in our lives when God walked closest to us. We have no need to look any further than that pitch black afternoon on Golgotha to know that God does His greatest work in the dark.
Before Pharaoh the ancient stood. Taken to a place and saved by a son he thought long dead. Pharaoh asks him a question ‘So old man how old are you?’ Jacob, the man who had twelve sons, lost one, lost a wife along the way and the one that wrestled with God on the bank of a river to walk away forever marked. There was no waver in his voice. It was a strike for honesty and for truth. “I am a hundred and thirty seven and evil and short have they been….” Wow; This from a man who was perhaps one of the top vessels of God and the holder of all that would be manifested in the world.  No cotton candy religion here. No squeaky clean ending. He took no short cuts, God did not allow it. Why do we think God will allow them for us? He has things for us to do and what stands in the way of it is ourselves

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Darkside of Christ

It is hard to imagine it but there is one. It is not at all Him or any aspect of Him but that cannot be said of those who have called themselves His body: The Church. A quick look at history from the persecutions of the counter-reformation to the jungles of Guyana to the killing floor in Sarajevo, there has been blood spilled in the name of Christ and it should not be. Much subtler are the lives of those who have been entrapped by religious groups who have claimed a corner on Bible truth and have used such to control, manipulate and destroy lives in short order. I was one of these. This is my wife’s and my personal journey over the last five years into hell created by bad choices made with good intentions all within in a world most of the Christian world knows nothing about but is palpable and vicious. I was not burned at the stake, shot or force to drink from the vat of flavor-ade but I assure you the pain, anguish and destruction was just as real as the any of the aforementioned.
How can this happen to such a heavenly based and sourced entity? It is an old story. Brennan Manning has I believe captured the essence of the problem: The church at large has replaced the Christ with something else. It is no longer a group of people called to a common Savior and trying the best they can upholding one another. It is something else. It is organization. I once told my congregation that the Kingdom of God is not a business and it cannot be run like one. What do I mean by that? We are not here and called to:
1>     Build empires
2>     Self promote our ministry
3>     Recruit people to our cause.
None of the above is what Jesus intended. Yet this is the exact framework of most churches and ministries. I know, I was a part of the ‘business’  at one time. I had a conversation with someone very close to me this past week. She sent me something and asked me my opinion. Basically it was that philosophy could be extracted and synthesized from all religions and come up with standards to live by. A lofty endeavor but in thinking about it, I realized that religion is why one would want to do this. You see religion is the problem. There is nothing good in it. We should not label ourselves as religious people. We are followers. We are not to present a creed, a moral code or even a written codex. We are to present Him. Jesus… Alone and unadorned to people. We need to allow ourselves to be honest and forthright and tell people we have no agenda, we do not see them as a recruit to our cause but a lost soul in need of help and it is the compassion of our God that has allowed us to cross paths. That’s it. We make disciples not by teaching but by example. This was the method of the early church. The problem is we have let a worldly concept into our thinking as it concerns our callings.
Here is a thought: What if a city’s entire Christian population met at a park in the city and held a service where nothing was done other than randomly picking from the group people to testify about their life and how Jesus changed them. How important and how great that day was. Maybe someone would talk about a healing or the re-uniting of a family. At the end a bucket was passed and the proceeds given to feed 5000 children starving in Africa….what if that were to happen every week for a year. How many hospitals, churches, funded missionaries…LIVES would be altered.
What if Christendom were to do this? It would change the world. Jesus would be exalted above every other name.
Yet we build our ‘big box’ ministries that do nothing but make us feel like we are doing something and all the while the planet’s souls are passing into eternity with out one hand of comfort, without a message of hope…without the extended hand of Jesus. We are our brother’s keeper. We are to visit the sick, the old and those in prison. We are to be Jesus to the prodigal and those caught in sin. I ask you where is the church? Where is the body of Christ? It is behind its own walls doing nothing either too holy or too satisfied.
We have lost our mission. We have lost our vision. We have lost Jesus.
There is a darkside of Christ. This is the darkside. Coming from a dysfunctional religious group myself I know the self deception. We spend so much time perfecting our walk we cut ourselves off from a world that needed us. Those that sought to break out and tell the lost about Jesus were run out on a rail and discredited by the Corporate heads. You see, it has become a business and its industry was keeping the people so busy with their own personal walk and how to perfect it, the life was spent as nothing more than burying our talents in the ground.
So what do I do now? Well I am honest. I am a sinner and have problems but Jesus is my hope. He takes me for the clay I am and makes me a better person. Not more holy, not more disciplined but more compassionate and filled with the mercy I have received. This is the light and as time goes by and the church wakes up, they will stop building monuments to themselves and once again travel the Damascus Road.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sands at the Bottom of the Glass

Out of the blue, out of nowhere comes life. I was speaking to the inmates last night where I go for prison ministry and one thing that hit them is when I said ‘No one lives forever and no one gets out of this life alive’. I received an email from perhaps the dearest friend I have. The word was not good…one word: cancer. Some profiles of the work done to remove what they saw and then some. Clear. Thank God.  It is at times like this life takes you down like the descent of a Georgia Cyclone. You hold your breath and hope…pray… there is an upside.  We grew up together had our disagreements and such but you never lose a friend like that. They stay with you…they are part of you. After decades, we connected again. It was at his Dad’s funeral. I went because they meant so much to me. I was so glad to be there. His momma was saying goodbye and she looked at me and said perhaps the greatest compliment I will ever receive in this life ‘Now both my boys are here…’ Together we supported her small frame through the crowd to the waiting lead car for the procession. I looked at him, embraced him and kissed him on the cheek and said ‘I love you man…’ I didn’t care if it was manly or if people would misunderstand. I didn’t care. My twin from a different mother was hurting and all I could do is hug his neck and offer what I could. There was no miracle, there was no drama but a quiet passing…the whisper of sands piling at the bottom of the glass….never to be flying in the space between birth and death. I realized what a small space between the top and bottom of that hour-shaped glass called life is. Barely a breath.

We cannot hold it back. Some are under the illusion that the immediate is important and are told to march in a certain way and all the way, their lives silently collect at the bottom.  This is the greatest sin. It is the star-eater all over again. How do you know when something is unwholesome and not in a sense evil? It monopolizes all your time with nothing but cadence and industry. You are so busy, people you should not forget are…brushed aside to make way for what someone else told you is more important…more important…hmmm…more important than what? This is what dysfunctional religious groups do best…take over your life, tell you how to live and dictate life’s conditions masquerading as Jesus Himself…in the greek, anti-christ is not Satan, it simply means…replacement.  All the way eating your life like Slubgob on the Screwtape Letters, relishing the crackle and crunch of the souls they have consumed.  Make no mistake about it: this is the face of evil dressed in deceptive light. 

I grow older, my foot slows but the compensation for the loss is experience. I know what is important more than my children do. They said they left to follow Jesus… All  I can say to them is ‘You better be completely and utterly right! For what it is costing you’ We will see.  I am now a pile of sand in the bottom of their hourglass buried over by useless activities for the ‘Kingdom’. I ask you , what is the Kingdom of God built with? Doctrine?…how foolish to think so. It is built with flesh and blood and cemented with love. What have you traded for that? I will tell you…doctrine. So go ahead approach the vat and drink to the full…it does not change the truth. The carrot of ministry is the seduction. Be careful. It is the oldest trick. One I fell for and so lost all…you are making the same mistake.

So, I am praying for my friend. We cannot recover the time lost. We only have what is left in the top. It is not much but that makes the remaining so much more precious. I intend to make it count. I hope my children do the same.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Yellow Star

My wife and I wear one… as many of those I know. It is a good metaphor for those who are like us in life experience. The ones at one time embraced and even perhaps led others in a dysfunctional religious group but now have departed the group. In a dysfunctional religious group, there are only rare occasions of parting ways amicably. It is most always jagged and painful. It is at that point the yellow star is placed firmly. While in the months or years that pass before the point when one physically leaves the group, the star is already placed on them in the minds of those who remain. How is it so? It is a gradual process of separation and in that drifting, there is much pain and anguish on the one finally and permanently marked. Who walks in the shadow of the yellow star? It is those that perhaps see a little differently or do not march fully and absolutely to the cadence of the leader, these are seen as the pariahs of the group. The sub-par and perhaps subnormal: ones that eventually break with the group. It is these that  know the pain of this marking. The tragic thing is even if the person so marked succumbs to the pressure brought to bear, the mark is only covered over, never really expunged. It never is taken away, it is always there as a reminder of the ordeal and always present for those who are struggling to break with the group yet remain. In the end should that person leave under any circumstances, the mark is what they refer to  and so show that  ‘they never were fully with us’. It is a crude and malformed interpretation of 1 John  2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Can the above scripture be used to cover over the acts of abuse? I think not. What I have learned in my studies is that scripture cannot be applied in such ways. The point being it must be applied to the context of the scripture. In this passage, John is talking about the proto-Gnostics who believed in an amalgam of Greek philosophy and Christianity. He was trying to warn the people and explain why some left when their teachings were resisted by the readers of the epistle. There is a stunning conclusion:  these were NOT believers in Christ but were seeking to live off the flock through their teachings.

In most cases the above scriptural application does not apply at all UNLESS the premise is made that the ones who left were in some way malformed or subnormal. This is the main manifest of a dysfunctional religious group: it treats those who are a part of the group who are not fully embracing the teachings of the group as somehow abnormal. I had it put to me this way ‘they were not converted’. In some way the work of Christ in their lives was not complete. I might add that the viewpoint they hold of other believers is much the same – anyone not in their sphere are assumed to be mongrels in the faith and not true followers. This in itself is a conundrum to me now. The real question is IF Christ does the work and is the sole implementer of the work, then how is it that some who believe in Him are malformed? We are only the clay and He is the potter. In other words, there cannot be any mistakes because He who performs the work is perfect.

Yet in the dysfunctional religious group, there is no such application. Why? Because it leaves the leaders powerless and they cannot be seen or perceived as a determining factor in those they lead to obtain salvation to ANY degree. Thus proper application of the scriptures would cross-circuit the leadership. So what is the answer for them? Inject acts or teachings that cause dependence on them from their members—this is the spirit of the anti-Christ (true Greek: anti means substitute). It is very akin to those proto-Gnostics identified and warned against in the first epistle of John. So, being unscriptural, the group devolves from perhaps a healthy group into dysfunction dragging members along with them down into the maelstrom of abuse. Why? There is no accountability to anyone. There is no check or balance – the word of God is used as a club to bludgeon instead of free. If there is a dissenting voice, the yellow star is threatened to be applied and eternal damnation looms. I know, I was told I was eternally damned when I was ejected from the group in which I was a part. How anyone can make such a statement today is beyond my understanding and reveals the true nature and spirit of the one who wrote it.

How can any group do such things? It is in our fallen nature. One of the most compelling examples of the stages of abuse is the progression of the persecution of the Jewish people in pre WWII Germany. Here is the progression.

1>    In the beginning, the Jewish people were blamed for the state of affairs in Germany in the early 1930’s. All sickness of the nation was due to this pariah. In the dysfunctional religious group, there must always be a scapegoat and it usually some of the people’s old sin nature that is deemed out of control by the leaders. Someone to point to as a problem and infectious force that threatens the fiber and future of the group.

2>    Secondly, because they were not of Aryan descent, they were sub-human and were placed in with the physically and mentally handicapped therefore a drain on the society and nothing more that those who took resources but contributed nothing. The de-humanizing of a race was soon underway. They began to be perceived as no longer human. How does this apply to a dysfunctional religious group? Very much so. Remember I mentioned above that those who did not adhere to the group fully were seen as not ‘fully converted’? Thus the de-humanizing process is begun. Funny thing is for the most part, everyone is in this state unless they are a part of the inner circle. This usually means only a few and most of those are usually family members of the leadership or the fiercely and blindly loyal – more zealot than true disciples (there is indeed a difference!). They become the master-race. All aspire in the group to reach such status…to become human and the only way to that is to pledge unflinching loyalty to the leader. This in itself is chillingly present in the dysfunctional religious group. The pledge is not made to the teachings, nor the divine as much as to the one that originates the teachings and so the way to the Divine. In Germany at this time, oaths were made not to the nation but to Hitler and these oaths were to the death. These acts of submittal are replete in a dysfunctional group and go beyond any scriptural application of submission.

3>    Third, they were cloistered (that is a mild word of a ghetto) from the rest of society and left to starve and work unceasingly for the Reich. How does this apply? It is a further step in de-humanizing, the member who dissents is tolerated under the guise of forbearance but every sermon directly addresses them and denigrates them in some off hand and indirect accusation or insinuation. Everyone in the group knows who is being pointed out. There is an intangible separation that begins and increases to where the person is ‘there but not there’. Yet the giving of tithes is still expected and may become a major point of contention between the dissenter and the leaders. The person is seen as only a source of income to the group and nothing more – the star has been firmly placed. In the Polish ghettos where the Jews of Germany were eventually shipped as cattle, they were so marked. Them and their children. This had untold damage upon those that wore them. They were a part of a society that rejected them and told them that they were nothing better than an animal; the sludge of the Reich.

4>    Fourth, the Jews were eventually sent to camps where there was no return. There was a void of compassion and care. They were simply a nuisance that must be dealt with. The zyklon b was dropped in the showers and the bodies piled and the furnaces burned to heat the homes of the leaders. Their final use was in their death.  They were used to reinforce the leaders’ treatment of them and to cast a fear into the remaining society that they too could be so marked and processed. The Stockholm Syndrome was in full play. And so it is in a dysfunctional religious group. Many times ex-members are pointed to as examples of failure and regression back into the ‘world’ as they call it. While those still on the inside grow fearful of such acts being performed on them and so further bond to the leaders all the more out of fear of reprisal. After all, in their misguided use of the scriptures, the verse of 1 John is invoked to cover the blood-letting.


They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.


A friend once told me as we were discussing the group (both of us ex-members). He said to me if there were only a few bodies, then it would be said by a passerby ‘What a tragedy’ but when the bodies are so many, it would be said ‘What is happening here?’ I thought that was a good analogy for what is going on.

When some leave, they do not continue in the faith but lose it. They are seen doing all sorts of things that are no doubt stretching the bounds of the Lord’s grace and patience but do I believe that it is their fault? No I do not. These who have left the dysfunctional religious group having the yellow star are in a great deal of pain. A good application is the experience of Elie Weisel who was imprisoned in one of the death camps:

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God's sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
"Where He is? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..."

 As I said, they take everything. I do not believe God will hold those who have experienced such at the hands of others without taking what was done to them into account. There is a compassion that Christ has for those who have suffered in such a way. His hand is even extended to those who refuse him now. My friend if you are like this, God is still awaiting your return to Him and in that pathway is healing and reconciliation to God. Be reconciled He Is waiting.

Does the yellow star ever leave? I would put it this way…how can it? When we meet or attempt to with estranged family (because they are still in the group), it is the yellow star they see. We are demonized and de-humanized in their eyes because of the teachings of which they are still under. It is easy to walk away, call the police, write nasty letters and benignly ignore those to whom the star is affixed. We are no longer human to them, we are the blight on their lives and no matter what we do, the star remains because it is tattooed on us.

In the Judgment, when we stand together with them before the seat of Christ, what will He see? He will see the yellow star marking the injustice and lack of humanity done in His Name.      

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vagabond Wisdom-Hold lightly and Hold tightly

Just In time.

“Tired of bein' on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we's coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There's too much of it…”

We are all men and women…forged and breathed in the image of God. Yet some are seduced to believe that they are somehow different…somehow above, a little better or perhaps that they know something the rest of mankind doesn’t. It is the most exhilarating of lies. It is the whisper of the snake in the garden to Eve, it is the promise of the infernal whispering in the ear of the Christ, it is the seduction to short cut the way each must take. In this life, I have seen the short sighted take the way of self and their heart grows cold. Taking the way of self is not simply wanting one’s way in life, it is the belief and intent that the one so steeped is one of the few that understands and sees clearly. Unlike the Apostle Paul who readily admitted he only saw through an opaqueness into the eternal.

Life is not meant to leave us strong. It is meant to bow us and bend us. Many of us break and are torn. In the end we look more forward than we do back. It is not that we have not loved life and enjoyed such a creation. Anyone on a clear spring day at sunset basks in the fullness of life and love. It is that the longer we live, we see wisdom where we once saw ignorance and love where we never thought we would find it. Again, the Apostle Paul lived a life with a forward look and in the end of it, he left the job done and the last word penned. It was his time as it will be ours in our turn.

What will be our last word and to whom? Will it be a prayer, a look heavenward, a tear for one left behind or perhaps all of those at the same time. One thing I know is that to leave things unsaid and undone are perhaps the worst of regrets. We let fear and pride keep us from reconciling. Much could be said to justify any action you may have but the real truth is there is no justification strong enough to keep lives separated from people. There is no truth that separates, if it is unity and one way of belief or a version of the ‘truth’ you believe you have, it will be the first time in the history of man…not likely.

It is a tired and worn out lie replayed in every generation of the body of Christ. It is the lie that one has the truth and the other does not. One is wrong and the other not. All the while the one who separates to destroy and kill chortles to himself perhaps in the unbelief his lie has worked yet one more time. How tragic. Who is at the forefront of such subterfuge? It is the church’s elite army and so ones who should know better. Ones that call themselves the last holders of the flame and the final generation before the end—they come and they go, they go and they come…will we ever learn?

These are the one who take the lives of their captives as Corban and so their love and attention held from those to whom it is rightfully due. In a dysfunctional religious group what is held from those outside their walls from their inside is the very thing that we seek and need. Life and love. So, what eventually is drained from those who remain on the inside is both…they take everything from themselves and then from all else within their gravity.

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”…For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”…Mark 7:8-13

So you want to argue with the scriptures, go ahead. What is the Corban here, it is the most precious of things…time. So give your lives to your god, he is not God. This cycle repeats itself in every generation and perhaps someone you love is caught in this vortex. Your hope is it will dissipate like any storm. It will end and end badly. It will die with a whimper and on its heels will be peace.

So what is the secret? Hold lightly to what may be and hold tightly to what is. In the end, teachings and doctrines fade with the paper they are written on but the Word of God held humbly creates foundations that last. What is the key principle in that most stable of words and work? Love. Love of God, Love of family…first. Here is where it gets convoluted. In a dysfunctional group, love of God is equated to adherence to certain points of view from some who are held to be the revelators. Those that question or begin to think on their own what God wants them to do are now the enemy. Families are ripped apart over such stuff. I had one of my own children defend one such leader to me. When the fact is for years I raised them, loved them and supported them. Yet in the end, it was that one defending the actions of one they barely knew and had only talked to on the most rarest of occasions. Something is wrong. Sad to say at some point, there will be realization of the deepest of sins..betrayal of all that was good and God ordained before there was ever a church…the family. This is most culpable and will require the highest degree of reckoning. It is an ironic twist that has turned what they hold as truth on its ear. Love of God is not the sacrifice of family but compassion to them. This is literally the contextual meaning of Mark 7:8-13 above. Perhaps the most key verses in understanding how God and Christ view leaders who for their own self promotion and benefit, break families apart by denying what is rightfully theirs to give to other members of families – especially the parents.

Hold lightly to what may be and hold tightly to what is. What is true is the Love of God and the Love of family. Not love of church or doctrine or dogma…this is what is in the heart of the Pharisee. Which one are you?

“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.” -- Brennan Manning

Sunday, March 16, 2014

An Open Letter

It is that place where dreams can still be brushed away. That is where I see them. It has been almost five years. People have come and gone in my life. Last week we buried my wife’s uncle. I did the service and however well you want it to go, it never goes as you pictured it. Frankly, it is the coldest of moments that people ice over with talk, smiles, recollections but one thing is for sure: it is final.

I have not seen them for five years and I gasp for air thinking about what the next five will bring. I am not one that fancies and thinks of the ideal. That first meeting if it ever happens will be very hard; plenty of stilted words and glances not knowing for sure how to proceed. But for that meeting not to take place would be a major injustice and the fait accompli of where we both had been.  That is why I hope because I believe when all the fog of war and emotion clears the devastation will be seen in all its ugliness and malice. There are no other words to describe it.  It may not be as graphic as some witnessed and so depicted Jonestown but I assure you the devastation from a dysfunctional religious group is just a real and just as haunting.  The painful wince and the hollow stare could come from any of the dark corners of hell this world has produced.  Somehow we who have experienced such things are drawn to the dark of it and that is chilling to the bone.  A friend told me “without the presence of faith, we are toast” – good words.  That is what drives me on. What do I seek? The smile I once knew, the laughter in the kitchen, the rumbling of little feet on floorboards, the breath of a small child too close to my face the grandchildren I have never seen. I ask you, is that too much to ask.

You know the tragedy of it after the last determination that I was to be cast out..Yes kids, cast out. There was a long night where I was told to go wrestle like Jacob with God and they would let me know if I could stay in the fold that next morning. That night previously I had literally gotten on my knees and pleaded to stay. That is the truth of it. But what I had done in their eyes was not forgivable. It was the mortal sin. To take initiative regarding my church and my life and to seek to fulfill what I believed at the time was my calling. Was there some of myself in the machinations of it? Oh yes, I must confess that but the real nail in my coffin was I had sought to think for myself – the one thing you are never supposed to do. Later I found out from sources, they wanted to take the building my congregation had built and either installed one of their sons or liquidate the building. Their excuse was ‘there was no one to send’.

I was called a liar to my congregation by an in-law…which was a real stretch given the deception they were walking in at that time to rip away everything in my life. What was that lie? Frankly, I mis-quoted the day I had filed the 501c(3)…in the haze of that attack I couldn’t focus enough to remember and blurted out a favorable date. That was my lie. Oh my, seems ridiculous to me now. That was my level of discredit, not fiduciary irresponsibility, not moral failure, not preaching Satanism. I was accused because I mis-quoted a date.

So kids, at least know my side of it. I know that it is my side but the point being –consciously and with all degree of pre-meditation make your decision to stay your course. Stop listening to the babbling of background voices that would throw you under the bus and most likely will at some point – I speak from experience.

I did what I thought to be right and if that is a fault, then condemn your own self as well. I certainly don’t but don’t be duped by those that do not matter either. You have shut the door on us, called the police on us and no telling what you have said to others about us…we have never done any of those things.

We will love you and will continue to love you. We take the blame (or credit) for your lives so you are scott free and can live like you are permitted to live. Just remember, there will be a meeting. There will be a reckoning before the throne of God. Bring whoever you want to that meeting… trundle up your suits. I will bring the truth.