Loving the Bible the way God loves it.

Old-Album

Suppose you came across an old family photo album entitled “humanity”…

In this photo album there were all kinds of photographs, some from very very long ago, even right at the beginning of when photography was actually created. As you glance through the photographs you would find pictures with captions on them, many dating back several thousands of years.

As a good student of photography and history you decide to take the album to several places to have it checked out, you take it to an antiques store and then to an arts store, later you take it to a museum of photography and allow the learned men there to analyse the pictures and the writings to see if it is authentic or a fake.

Glancing through the album of humanity you discover odd captions on some of the pictures, things like “Jesus Wrassles a bear”, and the picture is kind of blurry and smeared, still later in other sections you find captions that say things like “Jesus beating his negro slaves” or “Yeshua destroys his enemies with hailstones” and again the pictures are quite blurry and shadowy with no distinct character at the center, you’re not even sure which character is Jesus or Yeshua, many times the captions say things that do not relate at all to the picture itself, but there they sit in the timeline of the album.

As you flip through the album the pictures towards the end start showing a character named Jesus and the pictures many times are quite crisp, pictures of him healing many people, or arguing with religious leaders, there are pictures of his disciples and pictures of him teaching, in several sections there are pictures of his trial and execution all from different angles and camera’s, including black and white, and color, some in dark light some in pigmented light, some of the pictures are even abstract with captions like “Jesus cleanses the Temple” and the colors are sepia like the old fashion colors used by the photographs in the Amos and Hosea sections and the clothes and style even seem to be staged, like Jesus is play acting as one of the old prophets pictures.

There’s even one picture where Jesus is making vintage wine in a matter of moments at a wedding party.

Some of the pictures are underdeveloped, some are overdeveloped and there is way to much light. Some of the pictures have stains on them and block out part of the frame, many of the older ones have thumbs in them covering up parts of the main scene.

But as you go through the photo album of humanity it becomes clear that Jesus is the central character that humanity has been taking pictures of even though the captions mislabel him, all throughout history, each phase of photography reflects the style of the day, even the captions reflect the culture and habits of the people who took the pictures.

Many of the pictures are strange (like Jesus wrassles a bear) some sections are COMPLETELY staged as if the artist only had one lense and a few negative metal slides to use so the everything in the picture was set up beforehand rather than a natural event being captured (even though the caption implies a natural event).

The science folks and experts write a report and tell you, yes the pictures are from an authentic period in humanities development, but it is obvious the photographs were staged because that was the common practice of the era when they were taken, and all the clothing points to a certain style of “Artistica photographe” rules of light/stage/actors/setting/etc. They tell you the composition of the captions and ink are all similar to period photography from the Ur of Chaldees and Babylonian historical photography books, the use of light and staging to create a “natural” moment that is anything but natural was a common practice and they show you books where “Marduk wrassles a bear” and another where “Anu wrassles Tiamat” (From the book of Enuma Elish) the photographs shown are similar in lighting, composition and blurriness.

They also tell you about the captions and the way the people who took the pictures saw the photographs and even how they staged them in the frames of the book a certain way and order. In the report written by the handwriting experts they tell you that the captions are as authentic as any they have ever seen, all of them consistent with the handwriting styles of the era, they are quite amazed at how well preserved the album is.

As you ponder over the pictures it becomes clear that a story does in fact develop and it is the story of how humanity see’s Jesus, with the pictures near the end of the book being the clearest.

The pictures about loving your neighbor and the resurrection of all humanity in Jesus are in stark black and white, yet there are a series of pictures near the end where all of the photographs are staged again, and the style is reminsicant of “Jesus wrassles a bear” but the pictures are definitely Jesus it’s just the captions that are strange, like one where he is a little lamb with blood pouring out of his wounds but the title say “Jesus the Lion” and all of the pictures in the section entitled “Revelation” are staged in the old fashioned mode like before.

The experts at the arts store tell you that there is a rare level of artistic genius in several of the pictures, genius that is on a level beyond anything they have ever examined, the pictures at the beginning of sections show a similar genius at work even though the pictures are separated by many thousands of years of film quality and development tools. They want to know how is it possible that the same exact style of composition and light could be reproduced in an exact “natural” moment, they are stunned that all of the pictures are public domain and are not in a  museum somewhere.

Not all of the pictures are the same quality though…some are very bad polaroids and some are very fast high quality film paper, some are cheaply developed and some are exquisitely framed, a few of the pictures are old fashioned metal plate and some are actually hand drawn… many are signed and some are not.

There are pictures that suggest a different alternate reality, pictures that are confusing because they seem to be taken in a very strange environment, almost like a different planet where there are two suns in the sky, two moons, two earths and yet the experts all agree the pictures are authentic and have been taken right here on our earth because there are landmarks we know that are real, but the surreal landscape inside the photograph challenges your view of science, physics and life itself, and the experts all say the photo has not been tampered with, but because it is in the album where we know things were staged it is not to be taken seriously, but you wonder. Many of the captions on these alternate pictures say things like “The kingdom of God is within you” or “A new heaven and a new earth”.

At the end of the day you realise that you have an enormous treasure on your hands, it is both an evolution of humanities attempt to take a picture of Jesus but it also has some incredible pictures that seem to suggest He is in every selfie taken in our culture, that he is a very real person, but he can also be found in the rivers and oceans, the sunrise and sunset, but most of all in humanity itself.

It is a stunning book that shows you history, some strange costumes, and cultures and also a strange new world that is not visible to your natural eye but is apparently just as real as what you can see now.

It is art, it is poetry, it is history it is future technology, it is about Jesus and humanity, but thats not the strangest part about the album, as a matter of fact those details pale in comparison to what you have found…

See the really strange thing about the photo album is the pictures that you are in…this is why you took it to the experts in the first place and yes they have verified that the pictures are all authentic, that there has been no “photoshopping” or manipulating of the film but there you are right in the middle of many of the frames, some good some bad and you hope the experts don’t notice it’s you.

But there are favorites as well…

In the picture labelled “Abbas 1st grade class resurrection 30 AD” there you are in the front row missing your teeth from the baseball that hit you just like the pictures at home.

In the picture labelled “Love your neighbor as yourself” you can clearly see yourself wearing your favorite blue jean jacket from your freshman year at college, and it’s authentic.

Then there’s the picture of you getting healed of palsy, or delivered from alcohol or saved from depression and drugs, clearly you are in the photo completely healed even though in real life some of those troubles persist.

Authentic.

You are stunned that you are in so many of the pictures, even the execution picture your face is in the crowd screaming for blood…and the picture of Jesus being beaten and whipped, there’s your back, definitely it’s yours you recognize the curve of the spin and then the chiller is the picture of Jesus on the cross forgiving his persecutors…it’s your mouth asking the Father to forgive them…

The photo album seems to be magic…yet it is clearly not, it is simple pictures in a leather binding…and the experts all agree it’s not a fake but it’s just a big book of pictures.

But once you see yourself in it…you love it and this is exactly why the Father loves the bible, because it is a family album of his favorite kids, yes it’s about humanities search for pictures of Jesus but it’s also about you and I…who wouldn’t love that book?

Deus Ex Humana

leonardo-da-vinci-anatomy.4-300x251

“Deus ex machina” is a latin phrase that means “God from the machine”, it refers to the practice of rescuing the plot of a play by introducing a divine character into the act via a machine of some sort, often in Greek plays when the author had painted himself into a corner with the script the entrance of a new character that moved the play forward was a tactic used by playwrights in order to salvage the scene, the origin was a god/godlike character was lowered onto the stage via a “machine” of some sort and thus the play ended or the story was rescued.

Used in theology the term refers to God stepping into the world in such a way as to rescue the story, sort of a divine escape clause written in that defies all logic, but it begs the question does God intervene in the affairs of men and if yes how, if not why? We all know of people who will claim Divine intervention saving them from an airplane crash or some other trouble but it drags into the light the question of the others who did not survive and when you shine it on the stage of Auschwitz it does not play out so well, where was God in all of that?

I will admit to struggling with this idea for a while now, I have moments in my life where I prayed for a distinct miracle and saw results that were miraculous, but also have run aground on the reef of unanswered prayer just as often, this idea “Does God intervene in human affairs” is not a subtle question to ask it requires honesty and an openness to both sides and frankly I am not sure we are ready for any concrete answers one way or another, to suggest “No” is to assign ourselves a fatalism that burdens our hope (and to ignore the entire point of the incarnation), to say “Yes” is to ignore the reality of unanswered prayer and a robust theology of the cross in favor for a theology of Glory and it bends hope into a magic dust rather than a serious tool for advancing humanity.

So I’ve been thinking about it a while, and I have not solidified my conclusions but want to offer some idea as to where I think a healthy discussion can take us.

Recently I have been going through physical therapy for adhesive capsulitis aka “frozen shoulder” it has been a slow and painful process, both discouraging in the amount of pain/work I am required to engage in but encouraging in that I can probably avoid serious rotator cuff surgery and get back to full use. For those who might not know me, I have never gone to doctors, mainly because i never needed to, but also because I was raised in a deeply pentecostal background where the instinct was to reach for the anointing oil before you went for the aspirin.

I remember my first real self healing experience was when I was about 19, I was working as a cabinet maker running a shop and I got one of those intense debilitating migraines that plagued me growing up, but this time I was under deadlines and only one there, I was in no condition to even drive home with the coming darkness.  The pain was overwhelming…(what I say next please bear with me there is validity behind some of it)…I had been reading some of Kenneth Hagins books on healing and confession, I was on the outskirts of town and normally in a migraine crisis all I could do was take 4-5 tylenol bury my head under a pillow in absolute silence and darkness and sleep it off, but that was not an option this time. Instead I went out into the middle of a nearby field and began to declare “By His stripes I am healed”…I declared it for 15 minutes bringing it to a feverish shout, determined that His reality of pain had the power to displace mine and then suddenly something snapped I was instantly free of pain, my sweat broke and I started laughing, it was the last time I ever had a migraine in my life.

No you can smirk and make all kinds of comments you want about the “name it claim it faith movement” but the experience changed me, no one else was within miles of me and I was able to get the work done in a noisy shop without any symptoms again…there was no medication, not even any lunch just prayer.

I bring the story up to point out that my history requires me to examine the question of Gods intervention with an affirmative, but how I interpret that is really a bigger question and thats where the idea of “Deus Ex Humana” comes into play for me.

Just today on several posts on facebook (Michael Hardins page in particular) the question of Jesus cleansing the temple has come up, and for most of my life I have read that passage as most of my contemporary violent retributive evangelicals have read it, Jesus is so passionate about the Fathers house rules being broken he is willing to break a few noses himself…BUT…I am changing my tune on all of that because of what is happening to me in way of current healing…here’s why…

See I went to Bethel, to all the healing gurus to get my shoulder fixed by Deus Ex Machina, because, well thats what we believe as charismatics and Pentecostals, we believe that no matter how bad the situation God can step into your play and change the ending of it to a “Everyone lived happily ever after” sort of thing because, well let’s face it, thats what a Savior is best for, ie saving us.

I did not get healed.

Nada…nothing…I confessed “I am healed by his stripes” until I fell asleep in weariness and pain and nothing got better, things actually got worse…I was peeved, I was ticked, actually I was pissed.

While it is nowhere even on the radar of “Where was God during Auschwitz” the question unquestionably bubbles up, where is God in my pain and why am I not getting healed? Frankly to tell me that “Jesus is there suffering with you” is pretty lame in my opinion, I don’t want someone to suffer with me I want to not suffer, yes I get it He takes sides with the victims, but as a realist I want solutions not a partner in pain.

So what does this have to do with the cleansing of the temple vignette in John, how does this relate to us in our pain and suffering? Well the reason Jesus said he was doing what he was doing was because the place of prayer had become a place of merchandise, a place where the human and the divine could commune had been warped into a place of of commerce where an economy of exchange determined the success or failure of the communion, and Jesus did not simply point to an individual place of prayer but he said it was to be a house of prayer “for all nations (Mark 11:17)” and then in John he immediately begins to speak about his own physical body as the temple that would be both destroyed and raised back up.

Follow with me a moment, Jesus is doing a prophetic act, he is cleansing the place of prayer/communion with God from an economy of exchange and pointing to the moment where it will be accomplished, his death and resurrection.

When the bible refers to Jesus as a perfect sacrifice we should not see that as something God required, it is what WE required, and by “perfect” what is meant is “mature/final/exactly what you asked for”, the death and resurrection of Jesus is NOT God demanding a sacrifice and some exchange, it his ultimate answer to our prayers, it is the perfect answer to every demand of religion and justice, it overturns the tables and says “I have given you EVERYTHING you have demanded, will you be healed now?”

Now if we are honest (and we should be) this creates all kinds of problems for LOADS of our pentecostal/charismatic/evangelical prayer theology, prayer can no longer be about “Seven Steps to Answered Prayer” because ALL OF THAT is based on an economy of exchange, in other words it’s NOT like that scene in Beverly Hills Cop II where Gilbert Gottfried’s character says “Is there something in THIS hand that could sort of make you forget about all those tickets in THAT hand?” where we by fasting, confessing our sin (or the sins of our fathers/generational) loud entreaty, seriousness, determination wrestle from God our healing or deliverance. Like Randy Clark will say, to beg God to heal us is to imply we have more mercy than He does.

Jesus goes right to the heart of the economy of exchange AS IT EXISTED IN HIS OWN CONTEMPORARY RELIGIOUS SYSTEM, do you realise that people were required to bring certain sacrifices when they went to the temple? The fact that Jesus would not let them carry any of the sacred vessels is another clue as well, he is pointing out that not only is the economy of exchange obsolete, but so is sacred violence of any kind, and the two go hand in hand (The only vessels in the temple were for carrying the blood or offerings)

Basically Jesus is telling us that the Fathers house does not have system whereby you can barter with God and get prayers answered, there will be no “buying and selling” but instead a place of prayer.

Now before people get up in arms about lumping our prayer theology into an economy of exchange we have to ask what is it we are supposed to be doing when we pray?

If you believe in sacred violence then you have no choice but to expect an economy of exchange, and you are not the one who gets to draw the perimeter of what is required for the exchange God gets to, and it is this formula that has introduced confusion into the pain/prayer/healing equation, what confuses us is “What do you want from me God in order to heal me?”

This is where my title takes us a new direction, it is no longer “Dues Ex Machina”, God rescuing us via some machine, it is now “Dues Ex Human” God rescuing us through humanity itself, the new humanity of the resurrection, God was in Christ (Deus Ex Humana) reconciling (healing) the world to Himself.

All sickness and disease, whether social or individual, whether national or biological is simply a part of creation as an enemy of God, something God has already overcome.

“Your kingdom reign on earth as it is in heaven”, that is prayer and it is not calling God to come and bail out the earth with a crane lowering Him down, it is asking Gods nature to coalesce into whatever part of earth you happen to be, or be in. His kingdom come means come reign in love through this bit of dust and earth I am made of…and that CAN look like painful physical therapy, or it CAN look like an 19 year old declaring his body is healed of migraines until it is.

Like I said I have not worked it all out with any sense of finality, but I am getting a glimpse of the end game as I go…“The last enemy that will be destroyed is death…(1 Cor.15:26)” …

Gradually as I watch the development of humanity I am seeing more and more the defeat of all of His enemies, slavery, poverty, diseases, sexism, lots of data is available that these things are changing and a lot of them have changed in the last 100 years alone (infant mortality and poverty are on the way out all across the globe)…let me ask you a question:

What happens to humanity when we finally get rid of death? I don’t mean simply learn how to overcome aging or something like that, no what I mean is what happens to us as a species when we find a way to live with ourselves, creation and our God without requiring death on any level? Death is an enemy, but not simply the fact of it, the very IDEA of it is an enemy as well, what happens when we can come to a place of communion with God and others that has no death in the equation?

Let me stop here with this thought about “Deus Ex Humana”  Saint John Cassian said:

““The Doctor of our souls has placed the remedy in the hidden regions of the soul.”

What I’m getting at is instead of a theology that has God rescuing us via some artificial system that includes an economy of exchange, we must entertain a theology that has God recalibrating what it is to be truly human a creation of love itself with no economy of exchange at all.

This gives us a path to explain healing of humanity (which happened BEFORE the cross) through humanity as the agent rather than requiring a crane of prayer to lower God down to the stage and rescue the plot, and what this does is allow prayer to return to a communion table rather than a barter table, it gives me a path to explain the miraculous answers I have encountered without imposing a cost analysis upon them from God.

Christós anésti ek nekrón,
thanáto thánaton patísas,
ké tís en tís mnímasi,
zoín charisámenos!”

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!”

In the tomb of disease and human suffering a better solution than always needing to come rescue would be simply placing healing in the tomb itself, maybe that is what eternal life is supposed to do, displace death…some of that can be done by rearranging the DNA through faith and declaration, and some of that will need to happen through therapy…and that is my final thought to ponder here…what if the cleansing of the temple was simply therapy for a part of humanity that had gotten “frozen up” on Gods nature and prayer?

My therapist smiles and tells me to repeat after him as he makes me hurt in ways that bring tears to my eyes “I love therapy”…lol.

When Jesus pee’s in your car

12--The-Combat-Zone
Recently my youngest daughter posted a facebook status about taking her dog for a walk late evening…she noticed a girl passed out on the side of the street, apparently to drunk to even get home…Ariel decided to help her and long story short she found a way to get the girl home but in the process the inebriated dame pee’d in Ariels brand new car…

Lots of people commented on her act of kindness, but truthfully she was kind of complaining about the pee and inconvenience of the late night episode…I immediately thought of the good Samaritan story…do we imagine that a guy beaten by violent men was completely without a mess? I wonder if he had compete control of his bowels after being beaten and left for dead…?

What about giving a drink of water or visiting the prisoners that Jesus says will determine if you get “eternity affecting bliss” or “eternity affecting burn”…the whole sheep and goats vignette says absolutely NOTHING about your doctrine and what prayer you prayed while every eye was closed, instead it suggest your destination is determined by how you treat “the least of these”.

(If you are still in the hell cheering fanclub do us all a favor and look at a few things, first when in his ministry did Jesus talk about it? Who was he talking to? And what did he mean by it? and get off your duff and watch Kevin Millers Hellbound)

The least of these are messy.

They pee in your car.

They throw up in your living room or on your couch (I have had many a drunk young man stay over when my girls were in school and I got the call “Can so and so sleep it off at our house?”…the answer is always yes.)

Not all “least of these” folks are pleasant…I had one homeless guy whom we fed and let stay for a week begin to deride me and yell at me because I would not cancel my commitments and drive him to another town to meet up with a friend…my girls stepped in and told him to shut up…and I had to help him leave…I got him a motel room and gave him some money…but never felt guilty about it like he tried to make me.

I once paid for a week in a motel for a guy who was stranded and claimed to be a believer who later told me he was in fact Jesus Christ come the second time, why was I not worshipping him? He was not kidding and not completely well, but preferred to get back on the road and live under the overpasses…

Messy.

Thats what it looks like.

I like how my friend Michael Hardin describes sin, “Sin is how we manage our pain” (And he says he heard it elsewhere)…

I think we each one of us get so used to our own pain that we fail to see everyone else is in just as much pain at some point…my own natural father died an Alcoholic…THAT is where I would have been if God had not let me pee in His car…

Pee in your car…thats Jesus, and frankly he’s not embarrassed about it, he gladly claims it, he says “Do it for them, it counts as to me”…

I think this also says a lot about the incarnation…Jesus came into our pain with a very human bladder…and made wine…go figure.

As usual your mileage may vary.

Anthrodome

snowglobe-bokeh-07
(For those of you expecting my response to last years Great Awakening post, it is coming, I just thought I’d give the prophets a few more days for the benefit of the doubt)

I had a dream this week, it was interesting because I had a faceless, nameless guide whom I recognise as the Holy Spirit, it was what I would like to consider “forth-telling” in that it suggest something that is happening/has happened/will happen but I cannot put my finger on it, I just sort of sense it is real.

I’m not sure how much that passes as “prophetic” in modern Christianity really is, there are several camps, some look at the prophet speaking to power as the real prophetic…others look at eschatology for it…and still others see it as kind of telling the future in a charismatic kind of way…this will really be none and all of those since it was a dream.

First the dream, then my thoughts.

It was really a simple and rather short dream, but in it I saw this huge “globe” over the earth, it looked like perfect crystal but it wasn’t…then the finger of God came and simply touched it and the globe/covering/dome shattered into millions of little pieces, what was amazing was it was very much like safety glass, small harmless pieces broken all over the world…but the interesting thing about it was it wasn’t glass at all it was water…but they retained a semi-solid sort of form that you could handle…

The glass/water/crystal broke at power centers…like if you were to take a baseball bat to a windshield you have the initial impact spot where things spider away from…windshield/safety glass is specifically designed to break into very small harmless pieces, but until it breaks away it has this impact spot where the damage clouds the transparency…where ever the hardest impact is the transparency is always the worst…once the entire thing shattered transparency was completely unhindered…

So get this picture in your head, a giant dome-like crystal covering gets impacted by the finger of God and shatters into millions of pieces of living water that are small and scattered all over the world…pieces that you can hold in your hand and become living water, yet all part of the same “crystal sea like glass” before the throne in heaven…thats the dream…each piece distinct and clear yet part of a whole, no longer “over” humanity but instead within the grasp of humanity.

There’s a ton of things I could point to in the dream that are significant, the lack of transparency until impacted by the “Finger of God” (which is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit)…

It reminds me of the Genesis narrative where the waters above are divided by the waters beneath and then later on in the Noah vignette the waters “above” are broken up…

A fun “mechanical” read of Genesis 7:11 in the Hebrew says this: “In the year of 600 years to the life of Rest (No’ahh) in the second new moon in the seventeenth day to the new moon, in this day all the springs of the deep sea cleaved abundantly and the chimneys of the sky had been opened, and the rain showers existed upon the land forty days and forty nights”

My take-aways are simple…the finger of God touches over the power centers and the immediate result is a lack of transparency, if you were to watch it in slow motion it is a gentle touch but as pressure is applied it eventually causes a “breakthrough” (and no not the charismatic kind more of a point of no return kind)…right up until the dome can longer support the pressure it maintains it’s connection and covering, but once it happens the pieces that make up the dome are all equal but separate, all within the grasp of humanity, all living water and available…

I find it interesting that the pieces which were actually living water, did not become drops of water but retained the “safety glass” shape until someone picked them up in hand…once they were in the palm of the hand they became water.

Now here’s what I think it points to…in my understanding of Cosmology God has always had parallel paths of “spirit and truth”…this has always been the Fathers intention for humanity, worship as part of our DNA but both in pneuma and ontology…breath and body, water and blood, heaven and earth, these are all metaphors scripture uses to describe realities that are bigger than our consciousness is capable of grasping…so the dome in some capacity represents humanity and the power of God working with us…

Wherever power is “over” humanity Gods Spirit is interested in “breaking” that and releasing power back into the hands of people…whether that is in science and technology or government and community, even on to church leadership and ecclesiology.

Because of my own close proximity to certain charismatic centers of cultural power I noticed that it was in those places the finger placed it’s pressure first, I saw the reactions of leaders/pastors/etc as they tried at first to maintain the dome’s “authority” only to watch as they all ended up equal in smaller portions like everyone else…it’s hard to explain…it was not a power struggle or even a fight to keep the machine running, it was simply a touch from God that demolished the whole thing and could not be denied…many were even laughing about it…because ultimately it placed power back into their own hands, power to be human again.

(Just a side note I expect you can see more and more teaching of submission to “favor” and financial giving/tithing as memes in the next few years, financial stewardship to the organisation will be a requirement of mentoring and leadership, empire will demand it)

The phrase that came into my mind as I thought about the dream (half awake) was “Quantum parallel power”…now for those of you who do not track much with computer technology something I have been interested in is parallel computing…I currently have been investigating using video cards for computing because our primary CPU’s have almost maxed out how fast they can go (Most modern computers are very close to microwave speeds in the main processor, there is actually a physical limit to how fast they can go)…

Most of you reading this will be doing it on some kind of computing device that is probably in the speed of 1-3 Ghz…and some of you are using “Dual-cores” meaning you have at least two separate computer chips doing this…(a “core” is a single processor, right now two are standard but there are chips that have many more) but all processes like word documents or web pages or math stuff all goes through the two main processors…and so that is why they are incredibly fast…but the gaming industry has developed a separate path for all the heavy graphics on the Xbox/Playstations/Wii’s/Etc…they do most of the heavy computing on a bunch of smaller computers inside the graphics card, so instead of needing a super powerful single/dual chip they can get by with an average speed because they distribute the computing needs to many, many single slower processors that work together, each one doing a single job instead of a super-duper chip doing everything.

Most people have heard of the super computers that can do billions of computations in micro seconds and cost millions of dollars to build and use…but what most people don’t know is that parallel computing can do the same kinds of things for 100’s times less the cost by using thousands of smaller computers…this is the idea behind many of the programs looking for alien life in outer space of “cloud computing”…many thousands of less powerful computers linked together each one doing it’s own job is much more powerful than one or two super computers…”Big Blue” cost millions of dollars to build, but now you can build a computer that can do almost the same kind of computing for about $10,000 by using multiple core processors in parallel.

This is the path forward for humanity, distributed smaller power in the hands of everyone, both in faith and science, spirit and truth, heaven on earth.

It started with the cross which was the finger of God breaking the powers and principalities that had been over humanity for ages…it continues even now…

Think about it…look for it…and watch it manifest…the church is next in my opinion and not a day to soon I might add.

Puppet on a stick

biblical_puppets

When I was growing up part of my responsibility as the Pastors kid was childrens church, so I learned how to do puppet ministry…usually retelling gospel stories or something along that line with puppets for children…one thing I have never seen is a puppet re-creation of the crucifixion for obvious reasons. There are some things we tend to hold at an arms length from our cultural adaptations and puppets re-enacting the passion is one of them…or so we think.

Recently I have noticed the primary political parties using Christianity as a driving backdrop for votes, I’m sure it’s nothing new but because of where I am in my journey I see things from a little further away from empire than I used to and the political mechanism is quite apparent to me now…I am honestly not appalled by it, simply amused.

The reason the political exploitation of the gospel amuses me is because it is generally launched from the umbrella of the church itself, it is typically doctrine driven denominators dressed as compassion or concern, either we are being persecuted, or apathetic, we are being shouted down or shouting at, we are either judging or being judged and each and every group/person/party/perspective depends upon one thing for the foundation…and that is Jesus on a cross.

In just about any doctrinal or political debate you can find yourself at the end of the road discussing why Jesus went to the cross, and just about everyone has an opinion and it is usually the right one…no one wants to be wrong about the cross, because if they are, then it is obvious they have made Jesus a puppet for their doctrine, a puppet on a stick.

Here’s where it starts to fall apart for me…the cross is confusing…it is a mess, it is a human execution where religion, law, society, Empire with violence coalesce into the murder of an innocent man who we have come to declare was God.

It does not make sense…and all of our doctrines stand in defiant certainty declaring that it does make sense that it was all part of a plan laid out from the beginning and because God is perfectly logical and many other attributes of perfection He knew exactly how many lashes, splinters, flies and saliva would need to intersect at exactly the right moment for divine atonements cogs all fall in place and humanity get a reprieve from whatever it was we were running from in the first place. At this point Jesus becomes Gods puppet and is thrust upon our particular stick of theology with heresy defying logic and finality.

Once you can prove your stick, then you get to hoist Jesus up behind whatever doctrine or theology that serves your agenda best…

But what if it’s not all settled and carved in stone from the foundation of the world, what if at the moment the Spirit “hovers” over the face of the deep God has basically said “Let’s wing it” and after almost 4000 years of Torah failing to make a significant impact God says , hey lets wing it some more and he hovers over a maiden in Galilee and steps into the random mess itself?

I have a hard time making the execution of an innocent man into a linchpin for all my theology…I sorta need a God who is part of the audience and not the grand puppet master I have accepted into my heart with every head bowed and every eye closed.

God is probably no different on the cross than he is in my heart and in the random events of my life…He does not need to have it all worked out beforehand because He is the definition of genius, He can figure out probably seven different ways to work it all out while they are driving the nails into his hands.

I think it’s time we took our hand out of the puppet God and stopped being so certain of things declared hidden mysterions…

And it is definitely time to disengage the puppet on a cross from our pet driving mimetic desires, you do realize you exploit an innocent mans death every time you declare that your theology is right…?

When I look back at the history of the faith it is clear the smartest and wisest were less sure than our culture tends to be…they somehow managed to keep from using puppets to push their agenda…well up to a point…

Here’s my final point…the non-religious as a general rule respect the cross a little better than we religious folks do, they avoid all exploitation of it because on some level they hope for something sacred, they want a God who can step into uncertain things without causing all of it…for them the cross remains a sacred moment because it retains it’s mystery…and for the record there is no such thing as a sacred puppet…the minute you “use” the cross you have removed the “holiness” the “apartness” the sacred from it…

I’m not suggesting there are not things we can know about the cross, but I will say that our certainty needs to be taken back a notch…some of it will be a mystery until we see it from Heaven itself…

Until then…I’m suggesting that on some level we “wing it”.

Theologia Carta

old-ancient-sea-chart-magnifier-6983732
A few weeks ago I made a comment on a friends page that we have traded theologia crucis for theologia circus…for those of you who don’t use words from $50.00 books it basically means that (in my opinion) Western Christianity has traded a Cross centered belief in God for a Circus or entertainment centered view of God.

The idea that we see God as entertainment is really not to much of a stretch, we use stages and high powered lights and video announcements even in small churches now, overhead transparencies have been replaced with smooth transition worship software flowing out of video projectors, Vox AC 30 amps have replaced pianos and organs and most of our worship leaders are now under the age of 40 sporting really cool spiked hair and tats, not that there’s anything wrong with that…we like to look cool and appeal to the gen-XYZ crowd…whatever be thy name.

I see the issue as being much more serious than entertainment versus discipleship/sacrificial life/etc…the issue as I see it is our gate-keepers and leaders have failed to lead us into anything deeper than a new feel-good-bless-my-dream-Gods-favor-conquer-my-mountain matrix devoid of serious liturgy or depth of history, when was the last time you left church and your brain was challenged or your paradigm of life?

(Before I leave this point can I ask you honestly why did you go to the last church service you went to and what was the result? Did you go to get noticed? Is the service you provide/attend really doing anything for the community except sustaining a particular model that is limited to a particular group of folks who come together? What is the long term result of the last church service you attended, does it go beyond a Sunday meeting? And down that road is it possible that what happened of note could possibly have happened in a different setting with less flourish and more community? When was the last time you took a long hard look at why you go where you go?)

I’m all for the new worship, heck I led it for years as a worshipping song-writer-pastor, but beyond the worship and meetings and latest conference on writing your own book/finding your dream/conquering your mountain/ somehow we stopped growing up intellectually and forgot the shoulders we were standing on.

No I’m not talking about Smith Wigglesworth and Kenneth Hagin, John Lake or Aimee Semple McPherson, I’m talking about folks much further down the road, names we never hear like Athanasius or Origen, St. Jerome or Basil, not even Karl Barth or Bonhoeffer get a mention, let alone Polycarp or Luther.

We occasionally get a nod to CS Lewis, I’ve never heard GK Chesterton mentioned in a Pentecostal church though…how are we supposed to even gauge the depth or the breadth that’s available if we never talk about the cartographers who mapped it or the sailors who sang about it?

Lets set aside the intellectual poverty for a minute though and look into the face of whats coming…generation XYZ has been challenged by their friends to give a reasonable defense of a God who tosses people into hell like we dispose of empty water bottles, Calvin and Anselm, Augustine and Constantine are being questioned in the public square and they are wearing our blazers (or rather we are sporting theirs) hell, same-sex marriage, equality of genders, empire and the tithe all of these issues are coming up to the generation in que for our seats and we have not prepared them with anything close to a serious answer let alone given them the substance of a theology that the first four century saints easily died for.

We have not given our children a theology that is different than militant Islam, our fundamentalism and inerrant doctrines lack superiority of heart and mind, we have failed to provide a theology of the cross and instead offered a theology of feel good faith in our own well being.

Our God looks like a American version of Allah…just listen to Duck Dynasty if you doubt me, the God of contemporary Western theology guarantees my right to bear arms to defend myself, my right to prosper and my need for validation, He not only likes me, He is LIKE me.


Now before you think I am suggesting it’s all die-for-Jesus-martyrs-are-the-only-way I believe in the resurrection as the first real creative act of God since Genesis, we have at our potential and in our possession a new man a new creation and a new humanity, but we cannot get there via the entertainment driven theologia circus, we must embrace the theology of the first century and frankly that is the theologia crucis…the theology of the cross.

The map is quite clear you cannot get to the New Man except through the cross, we have been raised up with him IF we have died with him.

I’m all for healing, inner and outer…Jesus already paid for it we should ask for it.

I’m all about miracles and a “courts of heaven company moving things in prayer”…we are called to pray and to do it like grown ups who remain expectant like children.

I’m all for worship, intercession and prophetic acts, it is our heritage this honor have all the saints…

But when it’s all said and done we had better have a reasonable answer for the hope we are supposed to have and that hope needs to extend beyond some empire based model of getting my dream on or conquering my mountain or becoming successful in my ministry (none of which shows up in the New Testament) that hope needs to go beyond the veil because any hope that cannot stand up in front of the blades of Isis and love is not authentic enough to last.

Revelation says we overcome by the blood of the little innocent lamb, the word of our testimony and we love not our lives unto the death…any theology that does not anchor us in this triumvirate of God as victim, our agreement with that and our willingness to join Him there will not sustain a future for us let alone the generations that follow…it’s time to stop playing feel good church and start unpacking the gospel of the saints who willingly laid down their lives in persecution, death and defiance of the beast of empire.

Or not.

We can just keep playing churchy-feel-good with better songs, crisper videos and shallower theology.

As for me and my house…we’ve already launched out into the wild wild sea…we are in over our heads…I have had to toss doctrines and beliefs like ballast to simply stay afloat…but at least we’re moving…and I have some old maps…all in latin with sea monsters and warnings of rocky shores disguised as comfort.

Scapegoats, red ropes…and peace.

Scapegoat_--_Natesh_Ramasamy

 

I’m in the midst of several pieces of art, one is a multimedia sculpture/painting that utilizes newsprint clippings and wire with paint to make a point…it is entitled “scapegoat”…also writing a song about the same thing.

Rene Girard has a fascinating book by the same title where he traces the cultural phenomenon of sacrificing a victim to stop conflict and restore peace in the community, it traces the idea into culture and points out that the Judeo/Christina myth of this is the first place that God demonstrates the victim is innocent.

In Leviticus 16 Aaron is instructed on offering a sacrifice and he is to take two goats, one for the Lord and one for the “Azazel” or scapegoat , the Lords sacrifice is slaughtered and the blood offered up, the goat for the people is called the “scapegoat” and it has all the sins of the people pronounced upon it’s head and then it is led away into the wilderness to die on its own.

Tradition tells us that “Azazel” is a demon, the Jewish Rabbis saw Azazel as a expression of the satan, and the name implies a high cliff, some speculate that the goat was taken to the wilderness and thrown from a cliff…we can see a reflection of this meme in the life of Christ at *Nazareth where he passes through the crowd before when they attempt to take him to a high cliff and cast him over…tradition also suggest that the scapegoat is tied with a scarlet woolen thread around its neck to identify it should any traveler encounter it.

Girard will postulate that the the death of Jesus and his resurrection dis-empowers the basic structure of this ritual by exposing the innocence of the victim, that God has demonstrated he is on the side of the victim by raising Jesus from the dead and now this construct is no longer valid…I like that idea, but have yet to see it manifest…see we are still using scapegoats all the time, the church is really bad about it to be honest.

When power and peace is threatened in a congregation the typical response is to find the threatening agent and expose them, to label them (put a red scarlet thread on them) and then begin the process of alienating and exiling them…this is the exact scapegoat mechanism at work in all of humanity, from Palestine to Politics we all want a bad guy to blame and are looking to get rid of them so things can get back to “normal”. Girard calls this “satan casting out satan” and says it is only temporary at best, I agree.

When I look back at my personal history I see this exact mechanism at work at least three distinct times in my life, places where if I had not been rooted deeply in my love of God I would have despaired of life itself due to the intense isolation and rejection that I felt.

Think about it…we are created to be “known”…intimacy is probably one of our highest drives in life at some level, we all want someone to “into-me-you-see”…and when we employ this tactic of isolating and exiling, cutting off relationship, we have essentially sent someone to hell…to the wilderness of the demonic to be devoured because they threatened us…we put a label on them that is borderline demonic itself calling them poison/rebellious/heretic/dangerous and these labels function very much like a scarlet thread to tell others, “do not associate with this person”, but even the man shacking up with his dads wife, Paul admonishes the church to take him back…it seems even in the New Testament there is no place of final exclusion, Paul saw the danger of “shunning” and cutting off and saw it as an opportunity for someone to be destroyed.

I have been called up in front of entire congregations and told by leaders that “God would destroy me” if I did not submit…and at this point in my life I can truly laugh at such nonsense, I can squarely look at any leader offering such nonsense and say “I don’t allow you to have that authority over me, I am a child of the King”…but at the time it did nearly destroy me and the problem is walking the thin line between being true to yourself and finding acceptance in the community of faith…ultimately you must be true to yourself, anything else will kill you in the demonic desert that will surely come if you ever ask honest questions.

This post is mostly just some meanderings in our current church culture, your mileage may vary, but if your authority is threatened by those “beneath” you, I will suggest you really have no authority at all, Jesus will say “No man takes my life from me”…which implied that he had risen past the scapegoat mechanism I think it’s time we begin the process of dismantling some of these models, at some point the church should be different from the world and this should be the primary place it happens how do we treat those we disagree with, do we exile them to the high cliffs or do we allow questions and become transparent, letting our fears be exposed and healed?

“But Mark, if we allow questions or confusion anarchy will take over”…really? Is our kingdom so fragile we cannot allow honest questions? And on the issue of power and authority, I really think you have to warp scripture to establish that one person has authority over another in the church, yes that flies in the face of almost ALL of our models, but frankly it’s time we took the words of Jesus serious when he said “It is not to be this way among you…” his reference is DIRECTLY pointing to lording over one another…”arche” from where we get hierarchy…in other words Jesus flatly refuses the model of having one believer lording or ruling over another…do we believe him or not?

When Paul submitted to James in Jerusalem it almost got him killed…it’s time we recognize that those who appear to be “somewhat” are fallible, gullible and prone to protecting history rather than moving forward into the new man.

So what happens when the scapegoat wanders back into camp? Not sure it’s ever happened before…oh wait, yes THAT might be one of the major themes of the resurrection…the victim comes home fully alive…now what are you going to do?

By the way…just a thought…the word “scapegoat” is really not in the Hebrew, seems Tyndale got it wrong the idea of a “goote of departing” is not in the original…the word Azazel is a proper name in the Hebrew, the Rabbi’s believed it was a demon prince…so think about it…when you “scapegoat” someone it is possible you are really sending them into the realm of a demonic prince…something to think about the next time you hear a label of sin tied onto someone you know.

 

 

 

* Many scholars speculate that the Nazareth cliff scene in scripture is an addendum by the writers since Nazareth as we have discovered it has no cliffs, I am not one who subscribes to this variety, since there have been numerous archeological discoveries that could support the site of nazareth being in a different place…the jury is still out on this and I think I prefer to accept the story as written rather than extrapolate a modern re-rendering of the story due to somewhat faulty data…Nazareth as a village with a synagogue could be in several locations now and the standard historical location should be reviewed in my opinion.