Jesus, Zombies and Other Metaphysical Things

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This morning I was having coffee with a friend of mine and it was one of those free-for-all conversations.  I love these conversations!  I am not one for agendas and I like to see where the rabbit trails will lead.

We were enjoying a nice french press when the topic of feeder systems came up.  Now for those of you that are not familiar with this term, let me explain.  

Think Tyson Chicken.  

This particular company was notorious for creating feeder systems for chickens.  You may think, “how nice, a place for little chickies to go and eat.  That is thoughtful!”  The reality is  anything other than nice, sanitary or humane.  

What companies like Tyson would do, is cram as many chickens into a space (covered lot) as they could and feed them until they couldn’t eat anymore.  The chickens are literally walking over each other and crapping on each other.  This presents a few problems like disease!  So, the answer is easy, just pump them full of antibiotics and the problem is solved.

Next, they work on making these little KFC nuggets as BIG as possible.  Can you say steroids?  While some are in the weight room getting huge by taking steroids (and their “raisins” are shrinking) these little chickies are getting Bigger and BIGGER too.  Steroids and antibiotics are the key to making the chickens survive long enough to be slaughtered.

Now, you have Zombies.  What is it with the freaking deal with Zombie movies?  Zombie movies and television shows are all the rage.  I for one, do not understand this genre.  I had to have Jeff sit down and explain the lure of this fantasy art form and after a half-hour conversation, I still didn’t get it.  But, this is what I learned.  Zombies are walking dead people.  They are DEAD and they are WALKING around (seems plausible) but their primary function is to find living, breathing people to snack on.  Yes, they eat there flesh however, they really dig eating peoples brains (again sounds plausible) and then the movie ends.  Mindless, walking corpses that want to eat something that is alive…sound familiar?

SOUNDS LIKE THE CHURCH!!!

Now, if you crack out your blender and put in a touch of Zombie, little KFC chickies and an eye of newt, you will get the…CHURCH.  This special blend is a mindless, feeder system that wants to consume.  I know some pastors like this…did I just say that outloud?

You see, we have created massive feeder systems that gather everyone together so we can gorge ourselves on “truth”.  We then become the “protectors” of this “truth” or feeder system because each feeder system has its own idiosyncrasies.  Since we are all crammed into the same place and told “this” is what a proper christian does, we are given antibiotics like; mission trips or handing water at the local running trail (really?!?!?).  This is just enough Jesus to inoculate us from truly catching the Jesus virus!  

My friend (who was a missionary) stated that he believes that missionaries have it pretty easy.  He said that the real “missionaries” are the moms and dads that go to a job they do not like, put their kids in daycare and sit in a cubical all day.

Now, you may be asking yourself, how do I reconcile the fact that I am a pastor of a church, yet I am whaling against it at the same time.  

Good question.

The truth is, this dichotomy is the BANE of my existence!  

I have to look to Jesus to find the answers because I tick off all kinds of people when I say stuff like this.  Jesus pushed against the religious system all the time.  He questioned their motives, their integrity and he turned over tables.  He drove consumers and profiteers out of the place of worship!

I believe that the future of the Church will need to transcend the four walls of the feeder system and get in the middle of peoples lives.  Get in the middle of their problems.  Leave their comfortable pews and actually go to a neighborhood bar and rub shoulders with those that do not understand this whole God thing.

So, here is the question…Are you part of the feeder system, taking your growth hormones, and antibiotics or are you turning over tables and standing up for the people that the church is judging?  This is more simple than we make it.  

Love God.  Love the unlovable and visit your neighborhood bar! 

Until next time,

Crappy Pastor

 

Laugh until you cry!!!

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As I sit here and write these words I am having to make a choice.  Do I laugh or do I curse my computer?  I am looking at this old man in the picture and I am starting to think that he is laughing at me!

Here is the story…I had carefully crafted some ideas on laughter, that I thought was pretty stinkin cool.  I thought that I had built a great case for how important laughter is and how we need to intentionally incorporate it into our lives and then BAM, I forgot to save the blog data as I changed screens on my computer.  Now, my inspiration is gone and I feel disappointment and frankly I am a little pissed.

Everyday we are faced with situations and we have to CHOOSE how we will respond.  Jesus had a lot of things to say about this topic.  He said that the “Kingdom” was at hand, meaning that anyone, at anytime, could reach out and grab this “Kingdom” life.

Jesus also said some other stuff that is hard to swallow like, “In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.  What do we do with statements like this?

Did Jesus not have to deal with all of the crap that you and I have to deal with?  Did he loose all of his blog data on his computer too?

 I think that Jesus was telling us that we can make some choices in our day-to-day lives.  That we can choose to laugh or we can get pissed.  We live in a fallen world that is freaking messed up and there is pain all around us, but how we CHOOSE to respond is the key.

I propose that laughter is a discipline just like meditation, reading your Bible or vacuuming your living room floor.  Work with me here, but there are certain things like cleaning your sink, changing dirty diapers or yes, vacuuming, that can go unnoticed when you do them.  They are the daily disciplines that make life clean and workable but your kids do not come up to you and say, “thanks mom for cleaning the sink.  It was a real mess you know”.

 It is when you DON’T do them that life starts to feel dirty, cluttered and quiet frankly a little stinky.

It is a conscience choice that we all make to not live in a pig pen.  Some of us take care of the disciplines as we go along (changing those diapers, cleaning those toilets) on a regular basis and we get to enjoy a clean house every day of the week.  On the other hand, there are those of us that will knock it out once a week or even longer, and life starts to pile up around us.  Life starts to smell a bit.  We choose to bring the disciplines in daily or only when things get out of hand.

Laughter is the discipline that keeps life from piling up around us.  Jesus was the fun guy that all of the children wanted to be around.  He was FUN TO BE AROUND.  He LAUGHED A LOT.  Jesus chose to incorporate the discipline of laughing into every area of his life.

This weekend I watched my kids laugh until they cried.  I watched them enjoy life to the point they were zombies on Monday morning, because they partied like rock stars over the weekend.  Now, I did not have to lecture them on having a good time.  I did not have to give them a speech on the importance of laughter.  They did what comes naturally to children.  They know how to party!

Jesus said something else that is pretty important.  Jesus said that we can only enter the “Kingdom of Heaven” like a child.  So, here is the question.  When was the last time that you laughed so much that your stomach hurt?  When was the last time that you laughed until you cried?  If you are like me, it has probably been to long.

It is up to us to bring the discipline of laughter into our lives.  It is this discipline that can help clean up our lives.  It can be the agent of change to help us get rid of the clutter of life, that all to easily piles up around us.

So go ahead and ENJOY yourself.  Laugh a lot!   Laugh your ass off!  You might see the Kingdom in the middle of the clutter!

Until next time,

Crappy Pastor

Honesty is a damn hard word…

truthHonesty is defined as, “upright and fair”.  In other words it is dealing with people or things in an “upright and fair” manner.

Why is this so damn hard?

Why does the Church absolutely suck at this?

Now there are some of you that are worried that I said the word “damn” and honestly I don’t care.  I am dealing with you in a fair and upright manner.  If you don’t like it then you can click out of the blog and ignore the very insightful and challenging material (am I dealing with my material honestly…) because I may have used a word that you don’t approve of.  This is a disease among us in the church.  Honesty is something that, quite honestly, we don’t know what to do with because we have been taught in a dishonest manner.

Let me give you an example.  I know of a mega-church here in the Tulsa area that encourages it attendees to not patronize restaurants that serve alcohol.  This at its very core, is well, dishonest.  If there is something we don’t agree with then we cut them out of our world.  Like a well skilled surgeon, that cuts out the cancer.  The problem with this is that they are not being honest about what they are communicating.

Here is what i mean…Jesus had no problem hanging out with those that did not agree with Him or spending time with people who lived their lives in a manner that may have been careless or destructive.  He was not the skilled surgeon that cut those heathens out of his life, rather he hung out with them.  He ate with them (this was a big freaking deal because if you ate with someone, that meant that you approved of them).  He laughed with them, and probably laughed at their dirty jokes.  He touched the untouchable and loved the traitors.  Churches are not being honest with their congregants when they give them terrible advice like this.  Is everyone asleep?  Is anyone reading their own damn Bibles?

Do they not see dichotomy here?

What this mentality does is build very large churches that have very legalistic and weird people that no longer have the capacity to relate to the world. Now these people think that they are the protectors of TRUTH and their job is to point out what they deem good and bad.  There is a word for this…Pharisee, or a less “churchy” word would be hypocrite.   They would be the ones looking at Jesus and saying, “hey, you can’t do that!”  Honestly, since we are talking about honesty, Jesus would not be accepted in most churches today.  He would be too much of a rebel.  Too risky and too worldly.

Too DANGEROUS!!!

If we say that Jesus is “The Way and The Truth and The Life” then we need to act like it.  You can now take this principle and plug it into just about every hot topic within the church whether it is gay marriage, kicking out the Boy Scouts, or something as benign as listening to secular music.  We now have mega-churches full of weird ass people that would not follow Jesus if he strolled through Tulsa today.

What’s the point here for all of us.  We need to deal “honestly” with us and our station in the world.  We need to love the way Jesus loved, act the way Jesus acts and leave the rest of it behind.  Because when Jesus said follow him, He said very harsh things like, “let the dead bury themselves”, meaning that to follow Him you need to leave certain things behind in the rear view mirror.

Right now the church needs to leave behind its PRIDE, ARROGANCE AND STUBBORNNESS.  We have the “older brother” syndrome.

So honestly, I ask you, what do you need to leave behind?  What is keeping you from being a true apprentice of Jesus?  Figure it out and drop it like its hot!

Until next time…

Crappy Pastor

God is dead…

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You gotta love Wikipedia, right?

It is like the dirty, cheap version of the old fashioned encyclopedia.  It’s crack cocaine for the intellectual.  The other day I was getting my fix when I came across Friedrich Nietzsche.  What a fascinating man.  When I was in seminary, we would discuss some of his writing about the Apostle Paul and blah, blah, blah…  Here is what most of us remember.  Nietzsche was believed to have died from a possible STD (what a terrible turn of luck) and he coined the phrase, “Gott ist tot”.

This German statement is translated, “God is dead”.

What happens to you on the inside when you hear a statement like this?  I don’t know about you but this used to make me pissed and I had the feeling that I needed to defend God (because we all know that this is the “Churches” job, to defend a defenseless God.  I mean God just can’t take this shit anymore and someone has to pay, right?!!).  That was the way that I used to feel.  I feel differently now.  I also think differently as well.  And this is WHY I returned to this famous thinker, writer, poet, and philosopher.  I felt that I needed to see the world through his prism.  Why did he think and feel the way that he did?  And that is when I ran across a statement from him that freakin floored me.  A statement in Wikipedia that made me want to read more, to think more and to get off my lazy ass and do something with my God breathed life!

“Nietzsche claimed that the Christian faith as practiced was not a proper representation of Jesus’ teachings, as it forced people merely to believe in the way of Jesus but not to act as Jesus did, in particular his example of refusing to judge people, something that Christians had constantly done the opposite of.[123]

Yep…he said it and you and I have thought it a thousand times!  I can say that Nietzsche and I are on the same side of the fence on this one.  Could this statement not be any more relevant if it were written yesterday in the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report?

We are making disciples of Jesus that don’t know who the hell He is and they surely do not act as He did.  This is where the “church” and I get into the “weeds” together, because I refuse to live my life in a way that isn’t like the way that Jesus did in the four gospels.  Jesus loved people and even gave a speech on how we are not supposed to judge others.  Jesus said that the “Kingdom is at hand” meaning that the clergy didn’t hold all the cards anymore.  Anyone could access God at anytime if they wanted to because the “Kingdom of God” was within reach of EVERYONE.

How did we lose this message over the years?

I visit many of these churches here in the Tulsa area and they are tired, uninspiring and worst of all they teach people to live safe lives.  These lives are hiding out in the safe confines of proper doctrine and are usually protected by their vacant auditoriums.  The response seems to be, if we can get more people to come to our church to hear the “Truth” then we will grow and the Kingdom will grow.  It is with this line of thinking that I ended my sermon last week with these words, “I don’t think God gives a rip whether our church survives.  I don’t think He cares whether Victory Center, Guts Church, Revolve Church, or any other church survives.  God simply does not care about our programs. He cares about people.”  Jesus modeled this and many other things that we will not go into now but you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

The first question is, “If your church were gone tomorrow, who would truly miss it?”  I like this question because Tulsa would not miss most churches in this city.  It would be one less judgmental and angry voice that they would not have to deal with any longer. The people that are uninterested in church or God would not miss them.  Pretty much the only ones that would miss these churches would be the programs and the people that feed off of them.

Jesus responded in a very specific way in regards to the feeder system and it was POWERFUL.

Another great question is, “Am I living my life in the manner, tone or the spirit of Jesus and the way that He lived his life?  Are people coming to me with their problems, hurts or concerns or do they see me as just another judgmental, Christian asshole that has all the answers? Do people look at my life and want to know more, to know why I do what I do, respond the way I respond or do they avoid me by keeping it simple.  “Don’t look them in the eye or they might preach at me and tell me everything that THEY think I am doing wrong”.

So ladies and gents, take inventory of what your life truly speaks and read over that Nietzsche statement again.  I have come to the conclusion that God is not dead, not even close to dead but the churches integrity sure is.

Till next time…

Crappy Pastor

Zits and Braces

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I cannot think of two things that caused me more insecurity than zits and braces.  The only thing that could suck more for a 13 year old is the dreaded inopportune sex drive in the middle of Geometry.  I remember washing my face at night and seeing the red little mounds of pain in what is now referred to as the “T” zone.  I would smear on the white, pasty Oxy Clear “vanishing cream”, that NEVER vanished.  I looked like Edward Scissorhands and my face looked like a freakin war zone.  I remember not wanting to laugh too much either.  Flashes of shiny metal shooting out of my mouth like a disco ball at the skating rink on a Friday night.  So, I remember feeling like Jiff (Eddie Murphy) in the movie Bowfinger.  That is a terrible feeling.  If you are too young to remember that movie than you suck but here is a reference that you might get.  I felt like Fogell in the movie Superbad…”I am McLovin!”

One of the ways to compensate for these insecurities is to focus on the future.  Set goals and obtain them.  One summer evening my father and I drove in from a super fancy dinner at Furr’s buffet and I asked him if I would ever be able to live in such a nice house as ours one day when I had a family of my own (to put this in a frame of reference we lived in an average house that would go on the market for about $85k.  Nothing elegant but I wasn’t in the trailer that I used to live in either, dammit!).   He smiled and said that I should easily be able to move in a house like ours not soon after I graduated from college and got a good paying job.  I smiled and put that goal firmly in my mind.

Now as a 41-year-old domesticated caveman, with a house, 3 kids, 2 cars and a cat that masquerades around as a dog, you think that I would be satisfied.

I made it right?

I wished I could say that I have evolved enough as a follower of Christ that I would be content with my 13 year old goals.  But somewhere along the way someone said that my dream was not big enough.  If, I was somehow going to succeed in this life, I needed to exchange this simple goal in for a much prettier one.  You can’t be happy if everyone doesn’t want what you have.  So, the exchanged happened without me even knowing it.  I wanted MORE.

My new goal was not just a nice house but a half a million-dollar house with a perfect job and a perfect family.  I surely wouldn’t have some wanna-be dog like my Shih Tzu, but a man’s dog…can you say Great Dane!!!

The problem is that we don’t just do this with our day in and day out lives but we do it with our spirituality as well.  We often tell ourselves that one-day, when I have “grown” more as a Christian that I will start “ministering” to others.  A different way of stating the same problem is that, “we will be more involved in what God wants when the we have more time”.  I mean, God wants us to spend time with our families, and we all know that spending time with our family means sequestering ourselves from society so we can REALLY enjoy each others company.  So, we put off loving others and actually being a part of others lives because with the church it’s all or nothing!!  We are not good Christians if we don’t tithe, serve coffee, greet people at the church door, or the very worst…serve in children’s ministry.

The truth is that God didn’t ask most of us to do all of this crap.  WE moved the goal post without everyone knowing it.  WE exchanged the mandate from God (make disciples, or a better word might be “apprentices”) for one that seemed nicer, much like what I did with my daily goals.  Life is not about accumulating stuff or even trying to make God happy.

Truth is, God is happy with what He has made and that is YOU.

You do not have to do anything to win God’s approval or His goals for you.  The goal posts are much closer in His game of life.  Love God, Love man, and don’t be a dueschbag. So go back and look through those old pics that you have from Jr. high and ask yourself what did you want out of life back then?  How did you feel about yourself?  I will say this…God is pleased with YOU.  God loves YOU.  You may need to shed some junk or some habits that hold you back but God is deeply in love with YOU!  Pour a beer and think about that one.

Until later,

Crappy Pastor