Sunday, November 21, 2010

It Has Been Awhile.

Well here I am. I realize that it has been almost two years or it might actually be over two years now that I think about it. But, I am back. I am not sure what that actually means. I did go to the Saturday night group that kind of started this whole thing. It was good. We watched a short video clip from Rob Bell about how despite whatever shame we feel or whatever we have done wrong that God will not stop loving us.

While I enjoyed the time with the group and I, as usual, wished the conversation could have gone on for two hours. The conversation was excellent and the ideas bouncing of off each other I just love that kind of thing. It doesn't matter to me if I agree or disagree but that I was able to hear a different viewpoint and that kind of thing always get me going.

So I just wanted to step into the blog and mention that I really enjoyed myself this evening and I hope I can keep going to the group and continue to enjoy myself as I did before. I am glad they are still doing it. It felt good and it felt correct for me to be there. I know that this process is baby steps for me and that the new Broadway building is a bit of a mixed bag for some people but for me it is actually a place where I feel comfortable and it is a place that I can make new memories in. Not a place that has the very large ghosts of old relationships hanging like a shroud over everything around me when I go into the building.

It is nice when I go there because I am just a customer there. A few of the barista's know me there by name and I like that. But I like that because they know me as Lance the guy that like Hairbender and sometimes will order a pour over. Who comes in on Mondays and drinks coffee and has a scone and looks for a job. It is a comfortable place for me and I am not tied up with memories that bring me pain. I like that about it. I hope it lasts a long time and I hope that I continue to feel comfortable there.

Friday, June 26, 2009

CH 2 Beyond Victimhood

In chapter 2 of Richard Rohrs Hope Against Darkness he touches on the concept of victimhood as it relates to us in the postmodern world of today. I feel like he makes some very valid points concerning church and spirituality and what the purpose is of both.

He writes that "spirituality in its best sense is about what you do with your pain." Rohr believes that we do not know what to do with our pain. We have moved away from the image of God as the taker of our pain. He writes "When a people no longer knows that God is, God is good, God can be trusted and God is on your side, we frankly have a very serious problem." Now I like that sentence and I like both what it says right out front but I also like its deeper meaning. When I read it my first thought is that the reason people feel this way isn't Gods fault. It is the churchs fault for all of their failings. What I find most interesting is that as I read further into CH 2 I begin to understand that I am doing just what Rohr is talking about as it relates to Victimhood.

I am taking the percieved slights that I have experienced at church and using that to give me a reason to move away from God. It isn't that God has failed me or really that the church has failed me. But, being an institution that so often has man at its core as opposed to God it really has no choice but to be inconsistant and to fail. Failure is the single thing that man does well. God is consistent, God is there, God does love us. I think the problem begins when we put our faith in the church and not in God. When we put our faith in the rules of each particular denomination as opposed to focusing on what God and by extension Jesus, or the other way around , wants from us.

Back to Rohr and Victimhood before I get to far afield and become entranced by the sound of my own voice. Rohr notes that in todays world people are using being a victim to gain some sort of moral high ground. Often to achieve sypathy from others one only has to claim that so and so's great-grandmother did something to hurt their great-grandmother and then the cycle of recriminations begins. I think he again is making a very valid point here.

He writes "Playing the victim is an effective way of getting moral high ground without doing any moral development whatsoever. You don't have to grow up, you don't have to let go, you don't have to forgive, you don't have to surrender----all the things that great religion deemed necessary. Now you just have accuse somebody else of being worse then are, or of being a member of a race or group that is worse then yours, and that makes you feel like you're good, moral, or superior."

I see this everyday. Not only in my own life as it relates to how I think about church or politics or the world in general but also all around us. Today I read a blog that was condemming Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll and his use of language when he preaches. Now I am not a fan of Mark Driscoll and I have commented on him in the past. But what I find most interesting is that what this blogger is using as the beginning point for his attack on Driscoll is that his wife was listening to the radio and a sermon of Driscolls came on and he used some words that were objectionable to both the blogger and his wife and both were concerned that their young children were subjected to these terms. I think that is a reasonable concern and that is something that most parents are concerned about. But the blogger takes the position of being a victim of Driscolls language and now he must stand up and fight against this great evil.

I think that if Jesus were to play the victim card we would have never been saved. We must forgive and if we continually play the victim card then we will never reach the point of being able to forgive. There is much more in the chapter but to me the inherited victimhood passage really stood out to me. It spoke to me about the need to move beyond my being a victim and to be able to forgive those who have hurt me.

Rohr closes the chapter with this " the cross calls all of us to a mystery of transformation. On the cross none of us is in charge, none of us is in control, none of us can possibly understand, just like Jesus himself. On the cross someone else is in control. Someone else is in charge. Someone else understands. Someone else is obviously a much more patient lover then we are."

That is something to think about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reading and Thinking

I am currently reading a book by Richard Rohr called Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an age of Anxiety. My friend Marcy who comments now and then upon my posts recommended it to me because she did not have time to read it herself. She heard Father Rohr speak at a conference that she attended.

I am hoping to work through the book chapter by chapter as I read it and I hope we can have some interesting and meaningful dialogue along the way. The book is broken into three parts and part one is titled The Current Dilemma and chapter one is titled The Postmodern Opportunity.

To start right off I found the title of the chapter intriguing because I feel that most of the evangelical community the mainline evangelical community would rather think of this as "The Postmodern Problem". Now I may be putting words into the mouths of some evangelicals out there but I think that the majority do not grasp the Emergent Church and Postmodernism. But I believe we will address that as we move further into the book.

One of the first things that Rohr does in chapter one is address why we should look at Saint Francis and use him as a guide for further study and growth. Rohr writes

"...Francis stepped into a Church that seems to have been largely out of touch with the masses. But he trusted a deeper voice and a bigger truth. He sought one clear center and moved out from there. The one clear centerpiece was the Incarnate Jesus. He understood everything else from a personalized reference point. ...Francis found his one firm spot on which to stand and from which he could move his world. He did this in at least three clear ways. First, he walked into the prayer-depths of his own traditon, as opposed to mere religious repetitions of old formulas. Second, he sought direction in the mirror of creation itself, as opposed to mental and fabricated ideas or ideals. And, most radically, he looked to the undesirable of his society... for an understanding of how God transforms us."

I found this passage most interesting as Rohr highlights how Saint Francis found his center in Jesus not in the Church that seemed out of touch with society anyway. This is a substantial point for me because I find myself fighting against the Church and spending most of my time complaining that they are to controlled by the orthodoxy and rules that control all that they do. So I opted to step back out of Church and while I continue to meet with friends on a regular basis for fellowship and discussion I have not been part of an organized congregation for a long time now. The writings in this book have made me wonder if perhaps I have made the wrong choice and perhaps I would have been better off staying within the Church and focusing myself on Jesus and letting that fill me as opposed to breaking away. The food for thought in this book is meaty and I am looking forward to chewing off more and trying to digest it. I hope some good conversation can come of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I read this on another blog that I read in the comments section. It was written by a fellow named Warren.

"once we have figured out that (some kind of) God must exist, and put aside what C. S. Lewis called "boys' philosophies" (materialism, atheism, etc), then we are led to the next stage of enquiry: namely, has this God revealed himself to us? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism all claim divine revelation (I would not include Buddhism on this list) - are any of them right? All of them? Some of them? None of them? And how would we decide that a genuine divine revelation has occurred? What criteria could we possibly use for that?"

I found this really fascinating because it puts into words what it is that I have been thinking and what I find myself wrestling with on a regular basis. Many philosophers and thinkers feel that without Divine inspiration philosophy would have ground to a halt rather then move forward into Theology.

So for me this is the interesting point. While the majority of Christians will argue that only their God exists. The Jews, Muslims, and Hindus will argue the exact same thing. In the quote above the author does not put Buddhism on this list. I am not so sure I would think that the original Buddha may himself have experienced Divine revelation but chose to (freely chose) express that in a different way then the other religions.

So, the first question, if all of these separate religions claim Divine inspiration then which one is right? The traditional Christian will argue that this is a slippery slope to begin with. If I even acknowledge the possible origins of these other religions to have begun with Divine inspiration then I have begun to doubt the very origins of the Christian faith. But, I would argue that if I do not ask these questions I am not being honest with myself and am not using the brain that God gave me.

If I claim that God is not powerful or big enough to survive my questions then why believe in him in the first place. In fact, I would argue that this need to think of God as exclusive to my particular place of origin is a result of us being human. Perhaps, God knows this and chose to show himself in such a way that his message would be the most effective for the differing peoples that he was revealing himself to.

The, other question, how could I decide that a genuine revelation had occurred? That to me is the key, because this is exactly what people are saying and doing when they declare other religions off limits. To me, when one looks back at the origins of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity it is obvious that they are coming out of the same beginnings. The changes begin with the birth of Jesus and when man got involved. But, despite my feelings about the origins of these religions. I am hesitant to declare these three the ones and only. The biggest reason being that since I am not Divine (in any way) how in the world am I qualified to make this claim.

I would further argue that it would go against the teachings of God to automatically declare these other religions worthless. I think I need to worry more about my faith and how I live my personal life when it comes to honoring others and just showing them love. It will not be up to me to decide who is right or wrong. And, if I insist on behaving like I it is up to me then I may be in for a real surprise. But, I don't know and for me that is the most freeing thing. I do not know and I am not supposed to know.

It is freeing for me to separate my faith from my origins, separate it from my politics, and finally separate it from my failings as a human and to believe that God is big enough to handle all of that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

We have Free WIll! We have Free Will?

I read a blog called One Cosmos and I find it very interesting. I do not agree with all that he writes in fact I do not agree with probably half of what he writes. But, he raised an interesting point in his writing today.

"The problem isn't that man is unfree, assuming that he is not living in literal slavery or attending a politically correct university. Rather, the problem is that man's freedom is not absolute but finite; it is constrained, for example, by death. As is the case with truth, our freedom is inexplicable in the absence of an absolute freedom that we can never possess, but which we can know about.

The question is -- and this is a question God must "ask himself" -- how can I overcome man's "no" without denying him the precious gift of freedom that I have granted him? You could say -- so to speak, of course -- that this is the question God must have pondered before coming up with the idea of the Incarnation."

I found the above paragraph very interesting because I am not sure that we have free will. I think we think we have free will and in some cases we may believe that we have free will or feel that we know we have free will. But, I wonder does that really matter one way or the other if we have Free Will or not? We are going to live our lives. We are going to get up each morning, or afternoon, depending upon your lifestyle, and go about our day. Then at the end of our lives we die. It is like Bob mentions above. Our Free Will is finite because we ultimately are all going to die. So I wonder then does the mind set that death is inevitable free us up to just live.

Or does that drive us to move towards some level of belief system so that we can try to fight against the inevitably of death. So, that we can feel that as long as we are a believer we have eternal life. So, then death is not to be feared because we have eternal life to look forward to.

I submit that we will always have eternal life to look forward to. If you are a believer either we die and go to Heaven or if you are not a believer we die and go to Hell but it seems to me that either way we have eternal life. Or, we die and that is it there is nothing left. We are worm food! If we then die and are worm food then truly death does not matter because we have no idea that we are worm food because we are just that worm food. Then there is no existence for us beyond death. So death does not matter one way or the other, death is not to be feared.

DEATH JUST IS! It is not good or bad it is not right or wrong it just exists it sits there waiting for us to arrive. So, chew on that for awhile.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God of the Moon and Stars (Kees Kraayenoord)

I found this video and it blew my mind the artist is named above and I know nothing about him. I urge you to watch and listen to this video because it really affected me and really made me think.

It is rare for me to find things that make me want to pray. But, this did just that. I was left weeping and hopeful at the same time. Please tell me what you thought.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What is manly? II

The video above is Pastor Mark Driscol of Mars Hill and he is talking about basically stay at home dads. As well as a mans role in providing for his family. I well let the video speak for itself before I get to involved in the pros and cons. But it seems to me that he has taken the verses that he uses out of context. Please watch it and let me know your thoughts on it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

30-Days Muslims and America

A few of you may have heard about our "Saturday night group" plan for next Saturday night. Saturday the 27th we will be discussing an episode of "30 days". The episode we plan to discuss (please watch before hand to discuss) is the Christian in a Muslim world. I found the episode on line at the following web site:

Or I'm sure you can rent it from Blockbuster or Netflicks. If this works well we will discuss a different movie or show the fourth Saturday of each month. I'll try to come up with a few good discussion questions, hopefully before next Saturday. I'll send them out in advance. Feel free to come up with your own, also it would be fun to bring in "scripture" (however you define that) or other quotes to share that relate directly to this episode.

I think this will be interesting, fun, and challenging. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Thoughts

Last week I posted an article that I had read on the so called "Lakeland Revival". I felt that it was both an interesting piece and one that said a fair amount about the confusion that is going on today in religious circles. With so many different versions of faith in the world all of them seeming to take on aspects of their dominant and subordinate cultures it is hard to know what is real and what is imagined.

That is where a lot of my own personal confusion lies. If I am willing to give authority to the scriptures. Then am I supposed to feel that any interpretation that is different then mine is completely false? How am I supposed to put my faith in a mans opinion of the scripture when some many things that in the past have been taken as fact are now thought of as something else entirely?

This is just a beginning as I began to unpack my thoughts concerning both religion and faith and if it is really possible for the two to coexist in today's world. Is the failing ultimately with me or is it with society?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Never believe the hype

I stumbled across this article talking about the rise and fall of the man behind the so-called Lakeland Revival. It is really sad actually

"On Friday, August 15, the Board of Directors of Fresh Fire Ministries issued a press release, announcing:

We wish to acknowledge, however, that since our last statement from the Fresh Fire Board of Directors, we have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff. In light of this new information and in consultation with his leaders and advisors, Todd Bentley has agreed to step down from his position on the Board of Directors and to refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life.
For the past couple weeks, there had been controversy and consternation at a previous announcement that Todd Bentley, a Canadian faith healer who had been on a rocket ride to worldwide fame and acclaim in Pentecostal circles for leading the "Lakeland Revival", was official separating from his wife Shonnah under the guidelines provided for by Canadian Law. With the announcement that "Brother Todd" had been involved in an "unhealthy relationship" with another woman, and was stepping down from public ministry, Bentley's start had crashed to earth even faster than it had risen.

Brother Todd, Revivalist Healer
And risen it had. When Bentley showed up in Lakeland, Florida in the first week of April this year, he had travel plans to return at the end of that same week. As it turned out, Brother Todd would stay in Lakeland for the better part of six months, leading a revival that would draw hundreds of thousands to Florida and spawn satellite revivals in places as far away as England and South Africa. Earlier revivals like the Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Outpouring of the early-mid 1990s did not exploit the Internet; the Lakeland revival was not just daily services with 10,000 attendees to witness "healings" and the "outpouring of the spirit", it was streamed to the world, with Pentecostals all over the planet logging into watch, chat, and get "healed" right through their cable modems.

After a long session of worship music, Brother Todd would get up, and the "healings" would begin. Bentley's signature move was a shout of "Bam!", as he pushed/hit/kicked the faithful into a state of spiritual ecstasy, leaving the anointed writhing on the floor in convulsions, or simply catatonic, "slain in the spirit", in the language of the Pentecostal (watch this video, for example).

Aching joints were miraculously healed. Intestinal problems disappeared. Wheelchair-bound people were miraculously able to walk, or at least not fall down as they stood on the stage with the assistance of a couple fellow believers on either elbow. Cerebral palsy, ruptured discs, spinal problems, all healed, the Revivalists claimed, through the anointing of Todd Bentley, and the outpouring of the spirit he was presiding over in Lakeland (see example report from CBN here from the height of the revival frenzy).

The miracles accumulated and multiplied, and by late June and July, reports where making their way back to Lakeland that Todd's work had unleashed the ultimate work of the spirit -- the raising of the dead (see, for example, this video, this video, or this video ). Brother Todd eventually claimed more than a dozen cases of people being raised from the dead as part of the revival he led. At its peak, the throng exalted in reports like this from Bentley, reading a letter recounting one such resurrection (from this video ):

"My dear brother died, so the medical world thought yesterday. We requested at our all-night wake that GodTV would be on, the revival would be on. And we declared that our brother would not be embalmed. At 2:19 am my brother began to stir in his coffin. My brother sat up in the coffin, praising God and Reverend Todd Bentley. My dear brother all day has been telling us about his journey to heaven and how he thought he would never come back. He thought he would never come back here on the earth to be with us, but then he heard our beloved Reverend Todd and his voice pulling his spirit out of heaven. All of us at the funeral home began screaming and shouting fro more fire. Thank God for the revival on GodTV."

Brother Todd, False Prophet
For all the heady events in Lakeland, the revival was not without its critics within the church. Christian cessationists like the Calvinist bloggers over at TeamPyro have rejected the legitimacy of Bentley and his revival from the outset. Other mainstream Christian continualists like John Piper have now taken time to speak out against the Lakeland Revival, but as Frank Turk notes at TeamPyro, only after the fact, in light of Bentley's fall from grace due to his marital infidelity. How come frauds like Bentley cannot be identified and decried before they've duped tens of thousands of believers and brought shame, ridicule and cynicism to the faith? With Bentley's revelation of his betrayal of his wife and the impending end of their marriage as a result, even many of the once-fervent revivalists have now concluded that Bentley was a fraud all along (see this thread at the Charisma magazine forums, for example). While Bentley's star was on the rise, the gullible hopped on the bus to Florida and the rest of Christianity just watched, silent for the most part, managing a frustrated frown here and there.

It's no mystery why people like Todd Bentley can manage to rise to prominence and world-wide notoriety, despite the frustrations of Christian cessationist "skeptics" like Frank Turk. It's hard for a man with a glass worldview to throw stones, after all. Some forms of Christianity are much more level-headed, evidence-based and skeptical then others, but fundamentally, the epistemology of even the most skeptical Christian makes that term an oxymoron, useful only for gauging various degrees of credulity in a group that is profoundly credulous at its base.

I was a 'healing skeptic' when I was a Christian. Over the years, at many points where I expressed my skepticism about claims of miraculous healings, proponents of the miracles regularly pointed out that I wasn't in a position to say what God had or had not done in healing Aunt Martha, and moreover, if it was divine healing, by denying the miracle, I was denying the power of the Holy Spirit -- a kind of non sequitur as arguments go, and a rather transparent ploy to bring the fear of blasphemy on the doubter. But despite these problems, the core of their retort was a powerful one: Christianity is a subjective discipline, and one Christian cannot appeal to objective analysis of another without undermining their own claims to faith and knowledge of God. Ultimately, I appealed to revelation and supernatural intervention -- externally unverifiable intervention -- as the justification for my belief. I could point to some historical testimonies in scripture and claims about the lives of Christ and his followers, and some intuitive senses I had about God's existence as a brute fact, but without the appeal to my perception of the Holy Spirit's intervention in my life, my basis for belief could not hold up to scrutiny.

Defenseless Against Frauds
Such are the wages of a worldview based on the primacy of subjective experience. Christians who are skeptical of claims like those made by Todd Bentley and friends have to resort to the same kinds of defense for our own claims as Brother Todd does for his. Despite the differences I, or Frank Turk, or John Piper might have had with Bentley, we all embrace the same worldview, and see reality as subject to the magical, unpredictable, and impassible nature of God. For Christian's this is God's universe, and exegetical quibbles aside, God can do anything he wants and does what he pleases. If God wants to miraculously transform some teeth in a revivalist's mouth into gold (see here ) while just a couple miles away, young children languish in St. Joseph's children's hospital, suffering from brain tumors and all manner of other agonies, well, God can do what he wills, after all. To be a Christian is to give up the right to ask why, for many important questions.

With Bentley's fall from grace, people are disowning him right and left, and making much of the misgivings and doubts they had all along, even if they weren't announced or articulated at the time. Christian critics from the beginning, though, can complain all they'd like, and suppose they are "prophets" themselves of a kind, full of "discernment" regarding Bentley. When pressed, however, their skeptical verdicts ended betraying their debt to the stolen concepts of skepticism and evidence-based analysis, which, if applied consistently, debunk them as thoroughly as they debunk Brother Todd. Cessationism is a way to insulate and isolate their own credulity, to stuff all the magic back into the first century, reducing the footprint of exposure to critical analysis. Of course God doesn't shower God dust, miraculously given, down on the worshippers at Ignited Church! But of course the disciples could heal at will! Brother Todd can't do what the disciples did in the book of Acts, because that was then, and this is now.

All of which is a bit of uncomfortable special pleading. Bentley may be laid low for now, but Benny Hinn carries on, flitting hither and yon across the planet on his private jet working miracles and healing in the name of Jesus, as do many others, even if some of them have to console themselves with a first class seat on a commercial flight rather than the pampered leathers and chrome of Hinn's Gulfstream. The rest of Christianity is powerless to mount any substantial critique of Bentley, Hinn, et al. There can be no "Christian James Randi", that exposes Brother Todd, because Christianity, even the "skeptical" kind, is predicated on credulity and subjectivity. Frank Turk wonders how Brother Todd can get away with being such a hypocrite, and shows his own hypocrisy in doing so. This is why so much BS is always being tolerated and ignored in Christendom. It's an ideology built on credulity toward fantastic, unbelievable claims, even for the most conservative believer."