Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why I celebrate Christmas - Sweater Vest Wednesday Christmas edition

A blog post from a Christian pastor about why he celebrates Christmas might seem odd, probably even obvious. I mean, don't all Christians unashamedly celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas? Why even continue's all going to be the same stuff, just recycled over. Well, here it is...

I celebrate Christmas because Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.

wait, what?!?

I'll be honest, I have really struggled for awhile to celebrate Xmas. Why? Because it's not in the Bible. Nowhere do we see Jesus celebrate his own birthday. Nowhere do we see the early church celebrate the birth of Jesus. Nowhere are we commanded to celebrate the birth of Jesus anywhere. It was made into a "holy day" around 300 ad by the newly formed Catholic church. In Genesis, God said that he made night and day to mark the seasons and "holy days." So, let me get one thing out of the way, Christmas is NOT a holy day in the Biblical sense. It is special to a lot of people, but it is not a Biblical holiday. It's a man made tradition that used to be the winter solstice pagan celebration. As you can tell, I'm a bit of a scrooge when it comes to today. Especially in light of the fact that Jesus often times implores his followers to follow after the ways of God and not the traditions of the elders and teachers of his day. Seemed to me, that making Christmas a holy day would fall into the latter and therefore is theologically insignificant.

Which then brings me to John 10:22-23,
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
The Feast of Dedication is referred to as Hanukkah today. It began as a man made celebration by the Jews to celebrate God's faithfulness to them during the Maccabbean revolt. God provided oil for the lamps for 8 days after Judah the Hammer (great name) drove the pagans from the temple and cleansed it. Here, in John, we see Jesus celebrating it at the temple. 

So what does this have to do with me and Christmas?

Jesus gives us a picture here. It shows us that it is OK to engage the culture around you and partake in fun things. He was involved in the celebration of the day even though it wasn't a Biblical holy day. He was with the people, celebrating, answering questions, walking around in the temple. I firmly believe if he were alive today in the physical sense, he would be hanging up lights, buying presents, decorating a tree, and throwing a killer party (remember, his first miracle was turning the party out!). 

Therefore, I will surrender my grinchiness this Christmas once and for all. I will celebrate it as a cultural celebration and use any opportunity to talk about Jesus that comes up. I will not engage in the greed, drunkenness, and gluttony that comes with this celebration. I will celebrate with my family. I will challenge people to think more about this day and the WHY's and HOW's that are behind it. We are free to celebrate Jesus everyday. Whatever we do (whether we eat or drink or celebrate Christmas) we will do it all for the Glory of God.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gay marriage

Whelp. Here we are...another land mark decision where the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) has unilaterally made a decision that affects, wait for it, 3.6% of the US population according to a study done by a gay professor from UCLA (much to the dismay of his gay followers). Christians think it's the end times, non christians who support the gay marriage worldview think all the problems have been solved. Everyone, let's calm down for a second.

There's a push in and among church folks to either say, "Let's get on the "right side of history" and call homosexuality simply a cultural construct during that time like head coverings" or they say, "the gay agenda is winning and I'm moving to!" Wow, like this isn't the first time the church hasn't had to deal with moral inconsistencies. I don't know how this is going to play out. Statistically, the 3.6% of Americans who are gay have a terribly difficult time remaining committed to their partners. It's substantially worse than that of heteros. So, in my mind, marriage as a whole just took a shot to the gut. But that's not the point of this post....

I have 2 points to make regarding this issue. If you are not a Christian, don't worry, I'm not going to be throwing the Bible in your face. But rather attempting to make a few common sense points about why gay marriage matters and why I don't believe we need to have it as a part of our society at large. You can call me a bigot or FUNdamentalist, but doesn't that just make you mean spirited and hateful as well?  We need diaglogue, not name calling.

First point, being gay is a choice. Uh oh, I went there. Here's what I don't mean by that. I don't mean that one day a guy or girl wakes up and says, "You know what, I'm going to be gay today! I love being made fun of, ridiculed, abandoned by my family, so that's my choice!" I believe that all sexuality is a choice. If you don't believe that, then you worship a very cruel and controlling god and your religion/worldview is severely lacking. I know that I can wake up any day and try to or succeed in having an intimate relationship with whomever I would like to. Now, I chose to wait to have sex until the day I was married. She is the only women I have ever had sex with and I think that is an amazing and wonderful thing. Personally, I know if every single person acted in this manner throughout all of human history we would have 0 STD's, unwanted teenage pregnancy with single moms at 16, adultery, and so on. But that's another conversation entirely. The point being, I can choose to wreck my relationship with my wife and kids if I would like to with a man or a woman on any given day.

So what the crux of the argument about homosexuality boils down to this. If we can agree that sexuality is a choice that humans make every day they wake up, then we can agree that hetero, homo, and bi sexuality are all choices. That we are not born one way or another. So the issue then becomes, what are we predisposed to and what makes us happy. Happiness is what people are really arguing, not the biology of sexuality. I know that I am happier being married to my wife and only having emotional and physical intimacy with her. I believe what most homosexual couples are pleading for is that they will only be validated and happy when they can be married to each other.

However, isn't this idea of happiness severely found wanting amongst marriage today?  46% of kids born in the US today are now out of wedlock. 52% of married couples in the US wind up in divorce. More and more and more couples are choosing not to get married. So, why then are gay people fighting to become a part of an increasing failing institution?  Why is it that they will finally be "equal" and "dignified"? When you use those words, you are implying that people who choose to not get married or cohabitate are not equal and dignified.

Of course, the conversation then goes here. That's not what is meant. What the point is is that unmarried or cohabitating couples have the OPPORTUNITY to get married to each other, they choose not to. Homosexual couples then are fighting for the opportunity to choose to marry each other. I mean, homosexuals have always been able to get married, right? They just can't be happy because they would have to marry someone from the opposite sex.

Why is marriage the ultimate pursuit of human intimate relationship? Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being married to my wife, but if I lived in say a country hostile to Christians and they didn't let us get married, I would still love her. A court does not determine the status of my love for my wife. We do. God does. Marriage, from a strictly secular level, is simply the government giving some tax breaks, survivorship rights, and then keeping an eye on you. Again, why fight for that?

Which leads me to my final point...if you're still reading. Where are homosexuals not equal to their heterosexual counterparts? In tax breaks?!? Just make a few more charitable donations. In survivorship? You mean there isn't an estate attorney who can't find a way? Why do they need the federal and state governments to validate their relationships when so many hetero couples are choosing to run away from it? And, why are Christians so busy defending an institution that even they are defiling through divorce and marital infidelity?

I think having the right conversation is critical here. We need to stop placing homosexuality in categories where it doesn't belong. Like the civil rights movement. We cannot compare the right to marry (which isn't even a right, it's a decision) with the right to education, voting, and human rights. Not being able to get married isn't persecution. It isn't inequality. It isn't a human rights violation. Gay people, by and large, aren't being strung up and killed with crossed burning on their lawns fearful for their lives. Gay people are fighting for tax breaks. Not the same thing, people. If I were a racial minority, I'd be furious with this discourse.

Lastly (which I said 2 paragraphs ago), if there are any gay couples/people reading this, PLEASE stop the militant nature that homosexuals and homosexual supporters are attacking the church. If there are churches who don't want to perform your ceremony, just move on to the next church. When there are people in the marriage industry who are choosing to disagree with your choices, please just find someone who will. The protesting, law suits, and fines are just going to cripple the Christian church in America. If that's your idea of equality and love and peace, then leave it at home please. This country needs a separation of church and state and you will be forcing churches to shut their doors in the near future because of your government pressure to submit to your moral views.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alright stop....Torah time!

Recently, I have been laying awake at night and rising up early in the morning with a few thoughts on my mind.  These thoughts have been gripping me for about 4 months now, and I'd like to get them on paper at the very least.  If I even publish this post, then welcome to my crazy mind and pray for my wife :)

The issue is, the role of God's Instructions (Torah) in our lives today.

Let me start with the foundation of where this all comes from.  I have always been raised in Evangelical churches to believe the that Old Testament Law is dead and we have a new law in Jesus.  This new law is less concerned with our actions, and more concerned with our heart.  Things like diet, clothing, Sabbath, feasts, festivals, etc were only for the Jews and not necessary for us.  As a matter of fact, to obey them meant you were engaging in legalism (which is the WORSHIP of Law and not obedience to Law), and if you told others to, you were a no good dirty Jewish Pharisee.  This is essentially dispensationalism and replacement theology and makes God out to be either a divorcee (he left his first wife for a second) or a polygamist (The Father is married to Israel and the Son is married to Christians). Of course no one would say this, but that was the necessary conclusion I had to come to at the end of the day.

All of this has changed now that I have read the Word of God cover to cover. And if you care to know, it was the ESV in case you think I embarked on this journey to prove something and read a Jewish bent translation. I just wanted to read His word. 8 chapters a day.

What really stuck me is when I got through the OT and into Matthew and John.  There are a few verses that really stood out to me, "If you love me, obey my commands", "I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it", "To teach others to disobey the Law makes you least in the Kingdom of Heaven (rendering the curse of the Law dead because you can still go to heaven, not taste death, and engage in disobedience on some level), "Make disciples of all nations....and teach them to obey all I have commanded you."  Mind you, I had just gotten done reading about how great this Law is from David, Solomon, and the Prophets, so my head was confused why it is such a burden and curse now.  Jesus says his yoke (which was a common phrase for what a Rabbi taught) is light and burden easy and that was the way the prophets spoke of the Messiah and the Torah. did Jesus (or Yeshua as is his name) live his life, and what did he teach his disciples to obey?  Could it have been obedience to this beautiful Law that the prophets spoke about?  Surely not based upon my upbringing!

So then I moved onto answering a very deep question that I am still in the middle of...who is Jesus?  The answers to this question would surely point me towards answering what he taught his disciples to obey. So I kept going into the gospels and realized that Jesus did in fact live his entire life in perfect observance of these laws.  All of them. He fulfilled the entire law. Everything he did fit within the parameters of loving God and loving people. This was not new to me.  What was new to me is the Jewishness of Yeshua. He was a full on Sabbath keeping, feast observing, Torah loving, Tassel wearing Jewish Rabbi. He looked like a Jew, ate like a Jew, worshipped like a Jew, and lived like a Jew.  Yeshua was a Jew.  And this Jewish Rabbi told his disciples to make more disciples of Him.

Which led to my next question, what did it mean to be a disciple of a Jewish Rabbi?  What did He teach his disciples to do and what did they teach others to do?  If you're familiar with the Nooma DVD Dust, you may remember the term, "Being covered in the dust of your Rabbi."  These Jewish followers of a Jewish Rabbi did EVERYTHING he did and told other people to do the same! Paul, Peter, John, all were pointing others to follow Yeshua as closely as they did.

This theme kept true throughout all of Acts, through all the letters of Paul, through all the letters of Peter, and through all the letters of John. Imploring people to reject the man made law of the day (Pharisees law, gnostic law, talmudic law, pagan law) and follow the Torah of Yeshua! They were being judged according the world's standards (you can't eat certain things the God declared good, you have to worship in this way on this day, you have to follow the feasts and festivals the exact same way we do), and not the way of Yeshua.

So, how on earth did I get to the present day message that they way Jesus lived, the things Jesus taught, the Law he obeyed, is no longer necessary and is a curse and burden to us? Without going into to much detail, the answer is not the Bible. It was a combination of Nero, Rome, Constantine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Justin Martyr, and other early catholic and protestant fathers. While I don't know the eternal state of any of these men or the intentions of many of them, the damage has been done. The goal of the Gospel is to create Disciples of Yeshua. It was not to create disciples of a specific theology or emperor. The goal of God's Word is to cause repentance in people and to reorient their lives and live their lives according to Yeshua.

Why then, does my life look NOTHING like a Jewish Rabbi?  I think I have done a good job with principles of His, but I'm nowhere near covered in His dust. I don't care about following all of the rules he followed and taught others to do, I don't really care about eating like him, living like him, loving like him, learning like him, teaching like him, or celebrating like him.  Most of this is because I'm afraid of what happens when I start to try to imitate him and follow him more closely.  I'm afraid of losing friends, I'm afraid of losing status in the Christian church. I'm afraid of loneliness and being outcast like Yeshua was.

Now that I have finished reading the word, I can only come to a few conclusions about this topic referenced above...the Law. There is a blessing to obedience to it that guided Yeshua's life. He lived it, taught it, loved it, fulfilled it, and is our example for Godly living. So must I. I'm to follow as closely as possible after him. This includes HUGE things like loving my neighbors better and reaching out to the least of humanity. It also includes the small and easy things, like eating like him and celebrating like him.  He said that until heaven and earth pass away (which it hasn't), the biggest and smallest things of God's Torah (singular, meaning unified law, not divided) will not pass away. To quote the rapper Lecrae, "I want to be like you in every way." Every way. This includes submitting to the blessing of his instructions in obedience and teaching others to do the same.

I've heard points like, "Well, the Law was divided into separate parts and we only have to follow the moral Law (which is the 10 Commandments)." I agree that these are HUGE and significant portions of the Torah and all of the Law can be summed up in them, I disagree that the Laws were divided. To call something a "Moral Law" implies that the other laws weren't moral at all, which is false. How is disobedience to the dietary law still moral and good? Why did Isaiah write that those who eat the flesh of pigs are provoking God towards anger? Was God only upset because they weren't eating healthy or is there something to be said for obedience? Why did God attribute the dietary laws to holiness? If it was only about the sanitary nature of pork, then why doesn't that apply to sex?  It's much safer now to have sex outside of marriage, yet we consider that a sin. Was sex only considered a health law to them?  Or do we, rightly, categorize this under adultery? What about beastiality, incest, and rape?  Those aren't explicitly covered in the NT and were a part of "civil laws"? Are we alright with them?  The answer is a resounding NO!  Also, who made this distinction? Surely it was Yeshua or Paul or Peter...nope.

The other point is that there are about 5 verses which would contradict this theory.  These can be found in Colossians 2, 1 Tim. 4, Romans 14, Acts 10, and Galatians 3. I would challenge anyone to do what I did and read these in light of the rest of the Bible (which means you need to read the whole thing). Here are some conclusions I have come to with these verses as well:

All food is good and clean - this is absolutely true!  Anything God calls food is clean and is to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. Does this mean I can eat a diet consisting of tree bark, poison ivy, and Acetone?  Nope, because those things aren't food and they will kill me. What if I eat them with joy and thanksgiving? Still death, unless God miraculously intervenes.

So what are they talking about then? God gave us a list of what isn't food in Leviticus 11. So if it's not food, don't eat it. Jesus didn't. So we don't. Let's be covered in his dust, remember. What Paul is rightly arguing against is people who distorted the Torah into further categories of what could and couldn't be eaten. These were man made laws designed for control and not Godliness leading to holiness. The Pharisees and non Messiah following Jews were so threatened by the message of Yeshua that they attempted to make his ways (like food) not enough so the Jewish converts would defect and come back. It was for religious and societal control.  Not to mention the Pagans who had their own sets of rules regarding temple worship, food, and law. The new believers from the Gentiles were being swayed by them, and Paul wanted to ensure they would stay faithful to the calling of Yeshua.

The Law is dead - Again, this is true also...sort of. The Torah had 2 components to it (unlike the modern day man made ceremonial, civil, and moral), the blessing of Torah (When you do these things, you will be blessed) and the curse of Torah (sin leads to death).  The curse of the Law (death), was nailed to the cross through the atoning blood of Yeshua. The wages of our sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. No longer do we have to experience death due to our sin, we have grace now!  Did he kill the blessing off to? Absolutely not!  Paul calls the Law holy and spiritual. Jesus lived his life according to it. David, a man after God's own heart, loved it so much. It is a sheer blessing to be loved enough by God that he cares enough to give us his laws.

If you're a parent, think about your own kids. Do you give them laws to abide by in your house (family traditions, chores, foods they can eat, how often they can eat them, etc)? Does it delight you when they obey them with joy?  It does me! Do they understand them and why they are there? Not all the time, but you ask them to do it because you love them and care about them.  A house without laws is one without love. Lawlessness is the sign of the devil, not God.  God creates a fence around his children (Grace in Hebrew means "Fence") so that we can live and have abundant life inside of that fence.  Outside, there are no guarantees.

Also, (since we are adopted sons/daughters into the nation of Israel) if you had kids and were guiding them by one set of rules and adopted a child, would the expectation be that they live by the same standards eventually?  Would you treat them differently?  Wouldn't you expect them to become one with your family?  Are we not to become one with God's Chosen Family, Israel?  Remember, we are grafted in as a wild branch to this family. It isn't the other way around.

Another thing to be clear on (and Paul rightly puts this to bed in Galatians), the law cannot save you. Following the Torah does not lead to salvation without faith in Yeshua/Jesus. Legalism said that you had to do a whole bunch of stuff IN ORDER to be saved. The good news of Yeshua says you have been saved, SO NOW you can experience the joy of obedience to Torah. Remember, it isn't a curse, it isn't a burden, it's a blessing.

Lastly on the law, I have heard that the law was only a shadow of things and it pointed to Jesus. YES! That's why it's such a beautiful thing to observe and follow! It shows us Christ! Do you want to know why we Christians fight and fight and fight about how Christmas/Easter isn't about the right things? BECAUSE IT NEVER WAS! The Word has all of these great feast and festivals already that point right to Jesus.  Why on earth don't we delight in them? Christmas and Easter are fun holidays that me and my family celebrate, but they aren't Biblical. They are western. Wearing tzitzi to remind you of who God is and what he has done is a more Biblical representation and reminder than wearing a WWJD bracelet or cross. The other things can point you to Christ, one is a Biblical call to point you towards him.

My points are many, but the main one is this. The more I get to know about Yeshua/Jesus, the more I want to be like him. He demands all of my life. From my diet, to my heart. I'm tired of living a lukewarm, one foot in one foot out life. I'm all in. If that means people will call me a Jew loving Pharisee, then they can go ahead. I'm a follower of a Jewish Rabbi who died for me. The more people who live like him and love like him, the better our world will be. I believe this with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, one day, I hope to get to heaven and have look me in my renewed eyes and say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The case for Andre Miller

I get ridiculed quite a bit for my love of Andre Miller as a basketball player. I understand why fans of today's NBA don't really get it, but when he's on the court there's a sense of calmness about the team. I have to agree with Coach Karl that he seems to be one of the smartest basketball players in the NBA today. He certainly has a career in coaching after this (especially for a team with an intelligent PG with no discernible game outside of 12 feet).

 The guy is 36 years old and has developed into one of the most valuable players on a very young and talented Nuggets team. He is our best back to the basket player on the team, and at the end of the game, I personally want him or Gallo to have the rock (mostly because they seem to be the only guys knocking down FT's consistently). This may sound crazy, but I think he has a punchers chance of going into the Hall of Fame. He is currently 10th all time in assists and his win-share (go here for a description) is comparable to Bob Cousy, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, and Earl Monroe. Basically, he has been as valuable to any team as this list of guys, which is pretty good company.

Yet, nobody really talks about him in this light. My opinion, because his game lacks explosiveness and highlights (other than lobs to Javale and Faried). He plays the game like an old soul only concerned with doing his part to win. He's a coach on the court knowing time and place in the game. He seems to know when he needs to make an impact and when to defer to the hot hand. Along with Alex English, Mutumbo, Dan Issel, David Thompson, and Carmelo, I think Dre will go down as one of the best Nuggets of all time. Kiki had a decent run, but it was short in the 80's. The 90's other than the 1994 playoffs and one of the 12 losses of the 70 win Bulls were forgettable, and Carmelo really dominated the 2000's thus far with the WCF run in 2009.

 So here's the old school, gym rat, 24" vertical, old man game of Andre Miller. Keep grinding and let's shock the NBA this playoff run!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Follower

My boss wore a Sweater Vest today.  I think I'm taking this video very seriously

That's all.  Carry on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post election dilemma

I was thinking about this during my travel week after the election results came in.  No, not the hilarity of Evangelicals quickly playing the God is in control card after the Obama victory.

I'm talking about the legalization of MJ in Colorado.

The questions began to run through my mind:

How do we disciple people through this issue?

What stance will our church take on it?

Will we treat it like alcohol and tobacco (usage is fine within reason and control and not addiction)?

What are other pastors going to do with it?

You see, there's really no clear Biblical mandate against MJ.  The biggest answer has always been, "Don't do it, it's against the law and we shouldn't break the law."  I have no idea what the health ramifications are against this issue, but I would imagine it's similar to McDonalds.  Are we prepared to outlaw McD's and fast food along with MJ in the name of health?

Now, I'm not going to go out and get high with guys on the weekends while we watch football with our families.  I'm not even proposing usage at all!  I'm just curious how the church will address this issue in Colorado.  The easy answer is that it is still against federal law, so just don't do it.  But is that enough?

Color me confused and hopeful we will come to a conclusion

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I want to be God

The way of Cain, the error of Balaam, the rebellion of Korah
I want the way it’s been, witches of Salem, ignoring the Torah
Living in sin, with no Selah, even though im cared for like Flora
I need to win, swallow this clam, and retire to Bora Bora

I wanna be God
There I said it.
I want to be God
I’m barely qualified to be mayor, or even a CEO
Or the guitarist for Slayer, or the leader of my local PTO
Yet my actions always say that I want more
More money, more problems
more of me, less of G to the D
And if I’m not careful, He will give me what I want
Me as God and He with me not

So I go to his Word to prove MY points, like I’m the writer
I want His ways to be my Ways, the horse leading the rider
That’s why I always read with my highlighter
Ignoring the verses I don’t like, like having to obey my Father
I wanna be God
I’ll keep saying it
I want to be God
I’m barely qualified to be president or the leader of the house
Or a country club resident or playing Mickey Mouse
Yet my actions always say that I want more
More money, more problems
more of me, less of G to the D
And if I’m not careful, He will give me what I want
Me as God and He with me not

Did you hear about so and so, we really need to pray for them
Prayer group gossip, so I can feel better about my sin
Winning people to my way, not to Yahwah, so I win
Keep your enemies closer, rise through the ranks, then tear it down in rebellion

I wanna be God
I’ll finish saying
I want to be God
I’m barely qualified to be a doctor or lawyer
Or a test proctor or to write a book about Tom Sawyer
Yet my actions always say that I want more
More money, more problems
more of me, less of G to the D
And if I’m not careful, He will give me what I want
Me as God and He with me not