Monday, July 30, 2007

Pharisee Part 9 - Church

I owe this post to my friend Dave.

I am thankful for many things. My wife, my daughter, my family and my friends. My wife made it home safely from her trip to Guatemala yesterday. On Saturday, I spent a great day with my daughter snorkeling the reefs off of Key Largo, in some of the most breathtaking waters in the world. I served dinner for my parents and my wife's mom on Friday, and my awesome niece Emily. We then watched Peter Seller's The Party. It was a great Friday night.

Yesterday while attending worship service, I got up to take my daughter to children's church. My friend Dave stopped me as I walked down the aisle. "Marcos", he whispered, "Here's that Cuban leaf cigar I told you about." Dave handed me a beautiful cigar, right after a time of worship, as our pastor began praying in preparation of a message on spiritual and physical healing. in speaking of spiritual healing, my pastor spoke of the need to be healed from things like self-righteousness, resentment, anger, jealousy, anxiety; you know... some of the feelings that may be creeping up in you right now at the thought of a cigar being handed to me in "church".

This weekend I went to church. Everyday, from Friday over spaghetti and meatballs and good wine with my family, to Saturday swimming among the bright colors of God's underwater creation with my little girl, to worship on Sunday with the added bonus of a cigar, culminating with the safe return of my wife; all of these things created elements of what it means to have church. They all brought me to reflect on my God and his amazing love and grace extended to me.

We cheapen the idea of church when we limit it to walking into a building for 2 hours on a Sunday. We miss the grace and love of God when we spend our time thinking about church, instead of enjoying church.

Thanks for the cigar Dave.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pharisee Part 8 - Nietzsche

"I do not know how to make a distinction between tears and music", said the nihilistic philosopher and thinker.

The hardened heart is the result of a slow and silent decay being caused by life's many painful and disappointing moments. Nietzsche is the ultimate example (at least in word) of this hardening; a brilliant man reduced to death by insanity.

So it is for the Pharisee; the slippery slope of cynicism, sarcasm and opinion. The Pharisee's world of judgement and self-righteousness becomes what defines him. He becomes an island unto himself, and no one is allowed to vacation there. In time, no one really wants to visit there. It is after all, a very dull and dreary place.

The Pharisee brings himself to the point where "tears and music" gel and eventually dissipate; emotion is nullified. God is an ogre, and we are the worms he devours. The man who was once mystified by the love of God forgets his First Love, and over time, silently and subtly, is reduced to a walking opinion that no one really cares to hear.

The Pharisee becomes irrelevant.

"As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message." - The Apostle Paul

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pharisee Part 7 - On Being and Doing

James 1:22, King James Version

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 1:22, New International Version

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Both translations say the same thing. But, depending on how you read it, one sounds more "active" than the other.

Be ye doers sounds so... sweaty; like you're about to start working on an assembly line at a chocolate factory (doopity-doo).

The Pharisee is like -- well -- one of Wonka's Oompa-Loompas. He works feverishly and emotionless at making sweets for children. He is tireless and relentless in his work. The difference between the Oompa-Loompa and the Pharisee however, is that the Pharisee usually only pretends and gives people the impression that he's actually working. The Pharisee spends more time making sure everyone knows he is "holy".

The only difference between a Pharisee and any other believer is the mask the Pharisee so desperately works at keeping on. The Pharisee spends more time focused on making sure everyone focuses on his mask -- the mask that says "I am a good Christian" -- then actually doing any good work at all.

Even though "Be ye doers" sounds ominous and daunting, it simply means to obey the word of God. James goes on to say "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

The perfect law that gives freedom is the one perfected in Christ, freely given to us, requesting nothing in return. That is what we are to be "doers" of; living in his grace.

So there is no need to fake it; no need to wear a mask. You're not impressing anyone worth impressing. Loosen up! Don't be so uptight. Come to grips with the simple fact that Jesus loves you, and live joyfully in that knowledge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pharisee, Part 6 - God the Giver

"To give to God is to take from God's right hand and put that very thing back into God's left hand" -Miroslav Volf

The Pharisee in me demands that I give to God. This giving on my behalf is required of me in order to get something in return; God's love and acceptance, a job opportunity, the warm-fuzzies, a ticket to heaven, or the love and admiration of people. The Pharisee in me says, 'You better give to God by following these rules, or else _____________ (fill in horrid results here)".

We fail to see that whatever we may be able to give to God, whether it is given in a moment of fear and doubt, or out of some warped expectation that God may "return the favor", or even out of genuine worship, could not be given by us if He did not give it first.

God is the giver. We give nothing to him that he needs, or demands. Yes, it's true; God doesn't need you. Whatever God gives or does for us, is out of complete and perfect love for his children.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pharisee - Part 5 - My Self-Sermon

"When a man or woman is truly honest (not just working at it), it is virtually impossible to insult them personally. There is nothing there to insult. Those who were truly ready for the kingdom were just such people. Their inner poverty of spirit and rigorous honesty had set them free. They were people who had nothing to be proud of."
- Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel -

Are you poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)? Am I? Do you find yourself on "off days" sitting in judgement of "sinners", churches, your neighbors, that guy with the tattoos, the smoker, the adulterer, the self-righteous, or whoever may be "insulting" you on any given day? What is the greater insult; the "tresspasses" against you by people you may not even personally know? Or YOUR own tresspass on YOUR own heart as you ravage it with pride, resentment, disappointment, anger and fear? Who are you angry at? And again, "My God, how did I get here?"

"Blessed are the poor in spirit", said Jesus.

"Yes Jesus, but these people really piss me off with their constant disregard to you", says one.

"Yes Jesus, but I'm the only one with the "right" theology; so I must instruct these people in the error of their ways", says another.

"Yes Jesus, but these evangelicals are so judgemental and harsh. And those conservatives are heartless", says another.

'Yes Jesus, but that guy is gay, and he should burn in hell for his sin", says yet another.

"Yes Jesus, but I have to guard my heart, because if anyone knew who I really was they would hate me or I would be ashamed", says... everyone.

What hardens your heart? What hardens my heart?

Something to really think about.

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." - Jesus

Monday, July 09, 2007

Marketing and Image

Photo of Al Gore on one of his websites, "SOS", The Movement for a Climate in Crisis presenting Live Earth".

Photo of Brian McLaren on one of his websites, "Deep Shift, The Everything Must Change Tour"

...I'm just sayin'... ummm, is this the new "face" of "Hey kids! This 'Christian' rock star sounds a lot like this secular rock star! Buy the CD and check it out!"

I think Y-O is right; we are in deep shift.

Marketing is evil.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pharisee, Part 4 - Self-Righteous Without Religion

This is a quote from a website called Al Gore, The Movement. Read it carefully:


The parenthetical remark "OR "THE SELF RIGHTEOUS", was not added by me. The owner of the site put that there. So glad to see those on the left are so not self-righteous.

The Pharisee comes in many forms; not just masked with religion. The Pharisee creates his own laws, and demands that his views be observed by everyone, or else.

I once observed an anti-war protest on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles. As I sat outside a cafe on the sidewalk lined with celebrity stars, I watched as peaceful protesters marched, holding signs and voicing their displeasure with the Iraq invasion. Unfortunately, their voices were muted out by those who were crying out for the death of George Bush, holding posters with bloody images of our President, which reminded me of the images I had seen of burning flags and Bush effigies in the Middle East. Watching this march, I could only think of how proud they all seemed to be with their own formulated brand of self-righteousness. How high-brow. How very enlightened. How very frightening.

The Pharisee cloaks himself in righteousness, and misses the point; that our perceived righteousness, whatever it may be, is a creation of our own mind. It's that thing that defines us. In fact, the cloak is the covering; part of our mask. And it is the very thing we have to bring into question about ourselves, lest we get lost in our Pharisaic little world.

There is a Pharisee inside everyone of us; even outside the walls of religiosity. The trouble comes, however, when we come to believe that we are indeed righteous, and lose ourselves.

And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god!...what have I done?
-David Byrne-

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Gimme Shelter... with a pool

Today we begin our official search for a new home. I know, I know; those of you who know us have heard me say that for about a year (or 2) now. But we're actually getting serious about it now.

We're not too excited about it, because we have to sell our current townhouse first. While we're in a buyer's market, it's a catch-22 for us since we have to off-load our place and it may not be that easy. But, we'll be positive about it and see where God takes us on this little adventure.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pharisee, Part 3 - Knowing God

It seems like everything I've been reading lately relates well to this subject. Here is another chunk of wisdom, this one from Tim Keller:

Jonathan Edwards argued that both the rationalist fear of religious experience and the
emotionalistic excesses are incompatible with gospel-shaped faith. Edwards knew that, on
the one hand, the gospel has a content--it is a body of information that must be delved and
grasped, and that takes thinking and reflection. On the other hand, if a person studies the
gospel and it does not thrill and amaze and comfort them, that means that the gospel was
not understood. This is true because the gospel does not just bring God’s power, but it is the
power of God in truth form. This means that a Christianity without deep and abiding
emotion and passion is not true. But passion is never to be “worked up” directly. Rather,
passionless Christianity comes from a lack of understanding of the gospel. Nor do you work
up “discipline” by a sheer effort of the will. Rather, an undisciplined Christianity comes
from a lack of understanding of the gospel. Only if you truly understand the good news does
it enflame the heart and engage the will.
- From Tim Keller's Study on Galatians

For so many people, belief in God is an emotional trip. For the Pharisee, he has become a logical conclusion and an idea to argue over.

Belief in Christ and the desire to experience his reality results in a passion beyond any human emotional stirring (i.e. "I cried when I heard that song") or seminarian rambling (i.e. "Let me tell you what the Gospel is really about").

I like the use of the term "enflame the heart and engage the will". God is an experience in reality, not an idea on paper.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pharisee, Part 2 - Morality and Habit

Some great quotes from Donald Miller:

"The hijacking of the concept of morality began, of course, when we reduced Scripture to formula and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules. It is a very different thing to break a rule than it is to cheat on a Lover.” In Search of God Knows What

“I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into a habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.” - Blue Like Jazz

The last quote really got me thinking. What is my habit? Can I even ask that question sincerely? Do I have the ability and humbleness of heart to acknowledge that I have a habit that keeps me "wasting time"?

So often I'm concerned with sins and behavior. Many times, I'm concerned with those of others, sometimes with my own. But in my efforts to be "religious" or "pious" or "learned" or "Godly", am I missing the opportunity to examine myself? Who I really am? Who I have become?

Is my faith based on a formula, or a love story? Am I losing sight of who I am; a child of God? Are my efforts, whatever they may be on any given day, stifling my ability to engage God?

One more quote, this one from Mike Yaconelli:

“Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace." - Messy Spirituality

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Revelation 3:20

"There must have been a door there in the wall,

When I came in."

from "The Trial", Pink Floyd- The Wall