Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Confess!

To all who are angry, hurt, and confused about Jesus and His Church,

I’m a pastor, a guy, a father, a husband, a friend, a person, an American…and a jerk. I have a confession to make: I don’t love people like Jesus did, and like I should as a follower of Je
sus. I say I love Jesus, but I haven’t loved you. I’m so terribly ashamed. I don’t expect you to just be happy now, but I have to get this right, with you and with God. I repent. And seek your forgiveness.

To those of you who want to have nothing to do with Jesus, and as well, to those would like to understand more about
His life and His purpose, but have not asked, and have now lost interest because of the mess the Church has made the last 2000 years, I apologize for me and mine.

You may not choose to follow Jesus Christ or call Him Lord. You may have no official connection to a church. You may not even know why you’re reading this. You may have no interest at all in Jesus. You may even hate Him. That’s Ok. That could be partly because of “us” so please hear me: I apologize to
you for a Church that seems as if she could care less whether you meet the Savior of the world or not. I apologize for a Church that seems not to care if you go to the heaven we preach or the hell we avoid. Sometimes we act like we’d like you to go to hell. We should be ashamed. I am. And I apologize.

I apologize for our self-centeredness and wrong-focus. We’ve told you to obey the commandments of God without the God within to show you the way and to empower you. We’ve tried to make you sing our horribly outdated music, and told you that yours sucked because it was about your life. Or worse, told you it was from Hell. And then we copied some of it and made lots of money! What greed and short-sightedness! I apologize.

When you visited us we’ve told you to give money for our grand building programs, when people in our cities were starving. We’ve tried to make you listen to long and boring sermons, as if you even knew what the Hell we were talking about! We’ve tried to make you throw away your records, your CDs, your movies, and your friends – all as if in doing these things you would be pleasing to Jesus – while all the while teaching that God is not a God to be appeased by our human effort! “For by grace we our saved...” Which is true, but we have none it seems. What hypocrisy. We have sinned against God and against you. Please forgive us.

I apologize for our two-faces. When you’re addicted we call it alcoholism, drug abuse, or substance abuse. When we overindulge, we call it recovery, or a minor set-back, or worse: liberty. For this I apologize. We’ve placed more importance on our comfort than on your eternity, and on our prosperity, than on your need for love and kindness and deliverance from the things you hate, but can’t deny for some reason. We’ve excluded you from our lives and from our fellowship and from our activities because we’ve not wanted to soil ourselves. We have been wrong – dead wrong. And I apologize for me and my family, for me and my church, and for me and my ancestors in the Church. We were wrong, very wrong, and we repent.

My Jesus would have never treated you like this. He would have eaten with you, sat and talked with you, even skipped church to hang with you. He would have loved your simple attempts to be human. He would have come to your Superbowl parties and your birthday parties and your graduation ceremonies. He would have wept at your pain, touched your hurts, been patient with your habits, eaten at your tables. He would have loved you so much that you would have loved Him in return, I know you would have. But now you’re confused and mad. I understand. I’m afraid we – the Church – have painted a very poor resemblance to the real Jesus. I’m so sorry for our wrong portrayal of our Master. I repent to Him and apologize to you.

You see, I’ve forgotten that people touch the heart of Jesus. Whatever touches the heart of Jesus should get my attention and prompt me to action. His passion is to be my passion. His mission is to be my mission. And He loves people – all shapes and sizes, all colors and languages. With His help, I will clean up my act. I will love you. I hope you can see the real Jesus in me someday soon.

Very Sincerely,


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Change what?...Why?

I have previously confessed that I am a 100% Jesus freak. I worship Him as LORD, and endeavor to follow Him as Master. I also believe that the Bible is authoritative as the Word of the LORD; and therefore, my basis for authority in life and work. (I know! I’m horribly out of touch and old fashioned!) BUT … this doesn’t mean that I believe or act like my Master calls me to act. I am inconsistent and fail often – daily! However, I refuse to let my failure, whether it comes from bad habits, bad behavior, or bad attitudes cause me to give up on the truth I have chosen to follow. I at least want to remain consistent over the long-haul of life. I choose to blame my inconsistency on ME, rather than that the God I serve has not the power to reign me in when I’m being an inconsistent, inconsiderate jerk! It means I have chosen to exercise my freedom of choice and be an inconsiderate jerk! 


I often fail to love people who don’t fit in my little window of appropriate, or relevant, or cool. I get pissed quickly at people who don’t put their shopping carts back at Fred Meyer! And especially irritated at the stupid people who cross the street anywhere and anytime they want to and force traffic to stop. They just saunter by, flipping us off with their eyes, if not for real - as if they have the right to make you and I choose not to run their sorry hide over! I want to roll down my window and yell, “Use the freakin’ cross-walk, idiot! That’s what it’s for! Or I’ll use my front bumper on your sorry butt ‘cuz that’s what it’s for!” 


Yet, all the while, I allow myself not to forgive! I allow myself to lust, to engage in greedy, selfish behavior, to lash out in anger over something petty, or to ignore someone who just needs a compassionate greeting, or a kind act to help them get in line at a busy intersection. I sometimes allow myself the supposed right to be impatient at someone I deem undeserving of such forbearance. 


Why all this confession? Am I guilt ridden? No, not particularly - now at least! And no, I don’t think organized (or disorganized!) religion has helped the world by blowing the horn of “moralism” in the face of people who need Jesus! But that’s not what this is about. Today, I simply want to take my place in the crowd of humanity stained and drained by rebellion towards God. I want to get in line for some wisdom about how to continue the journey of faith that was long ago begun with more zeal and less wisdom and experience. As 2007 begins I need change, or to continue the process of change with more focus and effort. 


Whether you believe in making resolutions at the beginning of a new year or not, it’s an important part of anyone’s human maturity to pick times to evaluate life - how we are living it - how we must change - how we must hold on what is good and forsake our unhealthy, self-destructive, hurtful and morally wrong patterns of behavior, as we head speedily towards the ultimate finish line? I just want to start with myself and focus on myself. That’s a good change for all of us!

The resurgence of talk about resolutions every New Year convinces me that Blaise Pascal said way back in the 16th century was correct: that even people without God, have a vacuum shaped like God within them: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Pascal and many others like him have long encouraged us to admit the failure, corruption and emptiness of life, and to let God be THE source, to let God be the substance, so that we can live a long life if possible, and more importantly, a full life.


So, I am asking myself a few questions all over again: If no such ‘Pascalian vacuum’ why do I desire to change? Why do I even think about it? Why should I make an effort to change certain behaviors and drag certain habits to the recycle bin? So what if my behavior hurts other people – even the one’s I love? Why is it so terribly hard to change obvious patterns and behaviors? Where can I get wisdom to know how to change? Is there any time when we will have to give an account for our lives? Or, are we sentient beings who have no ultimate sentient source of origin to whom we must face one day? Does anyone doubt that life is short, unpredictable and difficult? Does anyone know the moment they will take their last breath? 


My response is that we desire to change because imbedded within us, is the desire to progress. It comes from our Creator-God, who will always give us the power to change, when we chose to - when we see that the paths we’ve chosen haven’t been working for us, and for those we love. That being said, we must go to that Creator-God for the wisdom needed to make change and make it stick.