Monthly Archives: December 2005

113561131468764842

Every Christmas Eve, my family attends service with my Grandparents at Forest Hill Community Church. My Grandpa is an elder there, though they haven’t been attending the church long, relative to where they attended before moving to Memphis.

When they first moved up here, circa 1992, everyone in my family that lived here (An Aunt Uncle and cousins, Grama and Grandpa, My family) went to Quince Rd Church of Christ. What I as an 8 year old didn’t understand, was that problems had been brewing there for a while. The deaconship was very, lets say foward thinking, wanting to change up some of our 1950’s style worship service. The elders, on the other hand, were not so keen on the idea. Eventually, the group of deacons and their families took their Max Lucado books and started a new church called “Community Church of Christ”. For about six months, approximately 200 people attended in a ball room at the Adams Mark Hotel. Sometime during that period, someone threw a guitar into the mix, and a whole bunch of people left. You know, its ok to be “liberal” but only to a certain point right?

Well, long stort short, eventually, a good thing got too small for some of the families with children who wanted a strong youth group for their kids to grow up in, so Community Church (dropped the “of Christ” during the whole deal) disbanded. Some went to a burgeoning MEga church called Hope Presbyterian. Some moved to Highland St church of Christ (my immediate family) Some went to Forest Hill Community Church. My grandparents were one family that did.

If you’d known my grandparents before they moved to memphis, you would have never expected them to attend a church with no c of c roots. There were dyed in teh wool, so to speak. But they found this new church, and liked it. They tried to convince my parents to come.

I never liked the church from the get go. I’m not sure what it was… something about it always made me feel like I was on Trinity Broadcasting Network, though that may have just been because someone always played the guitar or piano during a prayer. That just screamed televangelist in my mind. I told my parents I didn’t want to go there, and that I would attend Highland as soon as I got my drivers license. That convinced them to stay at Highland, and I believe it was a good decision. Anyway, back to the story.

I can’t stand going to Forest Hill. I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe its that I feel like its a show. Something about the way the stage is set up, or the fact that the pastor talks like a DJ on a christian radio station, I’m not sure. One thing that bugs me the most is how my Grandparents rant and rave about it. I understand they love the church, and they love the ministry of music (I don’t say worship ministry, cause it’s never struck me as being about that too much. That’s just an opinion though. But Saturday night, they starte oohing and aahhing cause the pastor and his wife were doing a duet with him on the piano and her singing “O Holy Night”. They are both talented, but they do the same thing every year, and its always the finale, and, forgive me for being this way, but I feel like everything at that church is the Pastor and his Wife show. Its one of those churches where they are involved in everything going on. I know there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but its just not my preference.

The final thing that irks me about that church is either

A: If the christmas program is for outreach, why do they give everyone and envelope to give an extra “Christmas Gift” to the church

B: If its not outreach, why the minisermon, complete with 5 minute long “Sinner’s Prayer” for you to repeat after the pastor.

I am not someone who thinks the only way to be saved is to be dunked under the water. But the sinner’s prayer almost seems more trite than that. Especially when no one comes foward, they just repeat in their mind what the preacher is saying. Its like, if you don’t say these words that I’m going ot say to you, you aren’t going to heaven. And oh yeah, Salvation is totally an individual thing… don’t bother letting anyone know that you’re praying the prayer.

Anyway, I’m really glad that my parents didn’t make me go to church there, cause I”m almost positive that I wouldn’t be where I am spiritually had we gone there.

Advertisements

113536513530828748

Its kinda weird how these things hit you. This morning when I woke up, the most important thing on my mind was, “I wish I could go back to sleep, instead work” but then I realized that I spent money I didn’t have on presents this year and I’m extremely lucky to be making what I am sitting and answering telephones at a law firm, so I got up. I got up just like every other morning. Stumbled around in the dark to turn off the cell phone alarm, hopped in the shower, gargled some water (I have a cold, and I’ve been waking up with that ‘I’m kinda sick’ sore throat) got dressed, took some medicine, and headed to work.

Traffic was light this morning. I imagined that it has something to do with it being the Friday before a Sunday Christmas, and most people decided to take a long weekend, either that or it was actually Saturday and the calendar in my mind had gotten confused, but that second thought didn’t last long as the morning guy on News Radio 600 WREC said “good morning” a million times and told me that it was, in fact, Friday.

All this to say, this morning was rather typical, and as I arrived to work, I still imagined it would be a typical day. But as I began perusing blogs this morning, something struck me. I often wonder about how God works in our lives, and whether or not he controls every aspect or any at all, or somewhere in between, and I’ve decided that one can still have faith and be at any of those conclusions and still be a follower of Jesus, but this morning, I really felt like a lot of things came together and made a lot of sense to me. I believe I understand why I went to Lipscomb, and met Brandon Scott Thomas and why I started questioning my faith, and life, and all the things that had seemed so certain once. Why I had ended up at MTSU, why I’m with Carrie now, why I met Claire this summer. I think its all led up to this point.

I guess I’ll stop beating around the bush here. I think that God is calling me to start some sort of house church in Murfreesboro. Obviously, he didn’t send me an email, or give me a vision, with the exact steps and what I need to do etc. I’m not sure when this is going to happen, how its going to happen, who’s going to be involved, and things like that, but there is a group of people, a rather large one in my opinion, that’s searching in the Boro. 22,000 undergrad students, a few christian ministries that in my opinion have become shelters rather than communities. A place people go to escape the world rather than a refuge for those who are of the world. I love all the people at the Raiders for Christ a ton, but I feel like we’re missing so many people because we’re wrapped up in ourselves. I am the same way, well, I’ve been the same way, and I’m repenting of that. I’m trying to look to others rather than focusing in on my own salvation. Being saved is not just about my eternal soul, though I have faith I’ll be with Jesus. I feel like Christ made clear that salvation is here now, for all of us. Salvation in Jesus is freedom from the powers of greed, and lust, of hatred and discord, freedom from a slavery to the flesh that only leads to death.

Again, I’m not sure when, or how this will happen. But I think there’s a need for this and I think God has called me to work with it somehow. I’m not sure what the exact direction of the church will be except that I want it to be an open place, where people can come however they are, feel free to worship however is comfortable to them. I want to have authentic community, the kind of community that the NT church exibited. I want to have intimate relationships with the other members, and I want us to serve together, and let our main goal be serving others rather than ourselves. Maybe I’m getting to be an idealogue here, but this is what I’m feeling, and I’d love to dialogue with anyone who might be interested.

113501342806210659

Hell. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot… most notably in the past week or so, but, all in all its something that’s been at the back of my mind for much longer.

I’ve never been a fan of “Judgement House,” a conservative southern baptist “evangelism” program put on around halloween. I’ve only been to a few, but most of them revolve around some stereotypical teenagers at a party, drinking, covorting, you know, the whole deal. Typically someone mentions something about Jesus in the beginning, but then puts him off, saying they’ll be good later, or something to that degree. LAter in the show, some dramatic accident happens, maybe drunk driver, or something like that, and several people die. After death, the are sent before God. Some are forgiven, and sent to heaven, and then Jesus says “I do not know this person” to God and they are sent to torment. There’s screaming, red lights, terrible sounding things. Then, cut to people celebrating in heaven. Jubilant. Good for them since they said a prayer and got dunked under the water. The lights come up, and a heavy set baptist preacher with perma-grin walks out and asks people to come foward. Many do and are prayed over and/or say the sinner’s prayer.

I’ve never understood why I couldn’t stand these things. I guess it was the whole scaring people to become christians deal. That’s not something I would imagine is very effective for genuine life transformation. Something was still nagging, though I didn’t know quite what it was.

Enter this week. I read “The Last Word, And The Word After That” by Brian McLaren. This book is the third in his trilogy that began with “A New Kind Of Christian” followed by “The Story We Find Ourselves In”. These books introduce, in ficitional narrative, the ideas that our society has moved into a new historical period, one that has been labeled “postmodern” since its after the “modern” period of history. The arguments are that modernity and christianity have become so intwined that they are indistinguishable, and that unless we re adjust the church to new culture, generations may never realize the life that comes from the Kingdom of God.

The final book deals with a touchy subject for recovering fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, hell. For hundreds of years, hell has been used to scare people toward christianity. Imagery, mostly borrowed from Dante’s Inferno, among other sources, were used in sermons, most notably “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” by Johnathan Edwards. This presents a conflict for many christians, myself included. How does a God who is so loving and forgiving, have a big room full of folks up in heaven, and just let others be tortured in fire below. Does not that seem a little out of character?

I know what many of you are thinking. Justin, God punished people all the time. He asked some pretty hard things of the Jews. But all of his punishments were temporary, they were just. He killed Sodom and Gomorrah, and that was it. But didn’t they go to hell you ask? Not according to the Ancient Jews.

In the old testament, there is no mention of hell. None. The Jews didn’t believe in an afterlife. The place you go when you die was “Sheol” otherwise known as “the grave”. Somewhere along the way, some jews started believing in a resurrection, when the messiah came, all the good jews would rise from the grave in order to enjoy the greatness of a new israel that ruled over the Romans, Assyrians, Greeks, everybody. The Sadducees on the other hand, didn’t believe in the resurection.

So where does hell come into all of this you ask? The pharisees believed that the messiah wouldn’t come to israel until they were good enough, until they were keeping the law to a T. They adopted the idea of Hell from the cultures around them and used it to their benefit. they used it to scare people into following the law. Wasn’t working very well for them, but thats just an aside.

When Jesus shows up, people that believe he is the Messiah. Their understanding of the Messiah is that he will bring back Glory to Israel, lead the armies against the Romans and other Pagan Gentiles, and show who God’s people really are. What he does, however, is quite the opposite. He talks about a Kingdom, which gets everybody really excited, but the catch is, this Kingdom is nothing like what they had imagine. the Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven, isn’t some sort of place we go after we die, its a way of living that is totally contrary to the flesh. Jesus’ new Kingdom was about salvation all right, but not salvation from eternal torment. Jesus used hell as a metaphor that the people would understand (since the Pharisees had been using this idea of hell, borrowed from other cultures, Greek, Zorastrian,Egyptian), and used it not against those who the Pharisees condemned, but he used it against the Pharisees themselves. They were trying to enforce a moral code that even they couldn’t live up to, and through their laws they were missing the point entirely. the Law was never meant to be a burden on the people. Jesus said it himself. The whole law is summed up with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” These are the laws of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven.

That being said, there will be a judgement. Just because Hell was used as a warning doesn’t mean we will not be judged. Jesus made it clear, through his metaphor of Hell, that living a Kingdom life is imperative. Its of dire importance. It was so important that he was willing to sacrifice himself, in order that the sins of all mankind be forgiven, so that we will know we should live a kingdom life.

What does al l this mean? I’m not sure exactly what I believe judgement will be like. What I do know, is that we are guilty of using hell the exact same way the pharisees did. Where do we go from here you ask?

I think we stop using hell as a threat. That creates, first, a sense of invincibility. I’m “saved” from hell, so what does it matter what I do. I can ignore the radical Kingdom lifestyle Jesus preached because its really all about going to heaven. Sound kinda selfish? Second, it makes it even easier to ignore the plight of those in need. It makes it easy to rationalize walking by that homeless person and not helping. I mean, he probably deserves it anyway cause he drank himself to death, right? Or how about ignoring the famine going on in Africa. I mean, God’s gonna come back really soon and take us to heaven, so why should we worry about those things. We’re living in the end times. Let’s go work on studying the bible more, and making sure we don’t ever say Damnit when we stub our toe. I mean, what if Jesus came back right when we stubbed our toe?

Anyway, that’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Maybe we’ve missed the whole point here.

113488567168377228

I’ve had two great spiritual conversations the last two nights. On friday night, I had dinner with a girl that I’ve been friends with for about 4 years now. We talked about different struggles in our lives, some really personal stuff, stuff that I’d never imagined she might struggle with. We talked a lot about community too, and how its such an important thing in christianity. Its also something that so many in church shy away from, most likely due to the constraints of the modern viewpoint, and American Individualism. I can do it on my own. Its all about me. Selfish Christianity at its finest. That leads to the point where people walk down roads they never meant to go down, all because they were afraid what people might think of them. The ironic thing is that most of us struggle with the exact same things.

Tonight, Mitch Holt and I talked about our frustrations with church as an institution. How we’re tired of a lot of things, and we’re tired of people using christianity as a social step or a crutch to exisitance. It goes back to community again. That’s what “church” was and is supposed to be. Its supposed to be about relationships, not punching your card when the doors are open. I’m so guilty of that myself, you know, the “wow, 15 minutes left of church… where are we going to have lunch today.”

Not that having lunch is bad. In fact, it could actually be a wonderful thing. What if our small groups met one sunday a month to just have a meal together, maybe have some sort of moderated discussion about things? Wouldn’t that be wonderful. That meal would probably be more like “church” than anything we do in the building.

I would like to start a house church I think. Or maybe not in place of sunday morning, but something sunday night, get an intimate group that we can confess things, and we can serve others. That would be awesome.

Anyway, just some random musings for the evening. Time for bed.

113461638282179324

I would like to apologize.

I’d like to apologize for the attitude I’ve had in the past, an attitude rooted in a fundamentalist faith that told me I was better than anyone else because I said the right words, and did the right things, therefore God looked on me more favorably than others.

I, along with many others, have created a God that is about myself, a Christianity whos focus is the individual’s freedom from hell, rather than with the plight of the afflicted. I feel as though Jesus woudl be ashamed of me. I ask for forgiveness.

I ask for forgiveness for putting on the “church face” and looking down my nose at those who struggle with things that I didn’t. Things that, while they do have worse consequences on earth, are no different from the sins with which I struggled. I ask for forgiveness for using hell to try and scare people into following a moral code that I came up with, not the one that Jesus preached. In short, I ask forgiveness for not loving, for not being Jesus to those who need him, to looking at the poor, the weak, the less intelligent, and those with different skin color as mine and feeling superior. If I have not been Jesus to you, I ask your forgiveness.

113449933686372347

So, we’re still a fairly spiritual society. Numbers on this question are considerably lower in Britain, France, and Europe in general. Check it out.

113449552132380426

So, the guy on the myspace thing decided to quit myspace. Randomly.

After he posted all the pictures of the gay men and said “eww” after them, I made a thread that said “heterosexuality is so gross” and posted pictures of people fooling around and being drunk and stuff (no nudity) and he commented “point made. i’m out” and deleted his myspace site.

I’m reading “The Last Word and the Word After That” by Brian McLaren the third book in his “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy. It’s really intriguing. So far here are the highlights…

“For people like Gil, (an engineer, not a lawyer) faith was meant to be solid, bolted down tight, static, secured; in the midst of a turbulent world, it was one unchacing reference point, something from the past that we keep going back to, a place to escape the chaos. Christianity was a Sousa march, completely charted, with a strong downbeat, great for military maneuvers, not jazz with all its swing and syncopation and imporovisation and blues notes”

I think that’s so true. So many of us want a faith that is unchanging, a rational faith to fit with our rationalistic worldview. But rationalism is rooted strongly in modern culture, and we’re moving beyond that. We’ve realized that rationalism hasn’t solved all our problems, and since we’ve tried to use rationalism to further the kingdom, eventually that moves to far and rationalism becomes God. When rationalism falls apart, since Christianity has become so intwined with a human creation, its doomed to have problems. We’re moving through that right now, but its gonna be hard, because when people’s steadfast ideas are questioned, many times they hold onto it tighter, hoping that it will be a lifevest, but many times, it ends up becoming a brick. We’ve got to look around and decide what is a product of culture, and what is universal.