Friday, December 29, 2006

In Honor of Harald Bredesen

Memorial is planned for:
Saturday, February 3 at 11AM
Church on the Way
The King's Place, West Campus
14800 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA
For more info follow at HARALDBREDESEN.COM

Some of my memories with Harald:

We invited Harald to come to Salem to be the main speaker for a conference we held called "Spirit Rising." During the day we were walking down the sidewalk together arm in arm - that is how Harald walked with you. In the middle of the conversation about our church, our city, our mayor, and our dreams for the ministry, Harald cried out with a loud voice- right there on the city street, "OH GOD!..." and preceeded to pray a beautiful prayer for us. Of course, those of you who knew Harald, know that you could not have a conversation with him without an interruption. It was always Harald interrupting God with praise and prayer.

Original Post in Honor of Harald Bredesen

I just received a call from Steve Maddox from Oasis Bridge in Oceanside, CA. Within the last hour Harald Bredesen passed away. You can read more about the situation here.

I met Harald for the first time, when I was helping run a drug and alcohol rehab program in Lake Wohlford, CA over 20 years ago. I was amazed at his gentle, yet bold demeanor, and his unbelievably childlike behavior. Over the years he has come in and out of our lives, and was one of our defenders during the time we were falsely accused. I was honored to know him personally.

I regularly refer to Harald as the greatest example I know of someone living in childlike simple faith. He was considered a primary leader in the charismatic movement. This man with a brilliant mind, and a simple faith sat with kings, presidents, and world leaders throughout his life.

He lived a full life, but nonetheless we have lost a someone I consider a great saint today. Please pray for his family.


Date: December 29, 2006

The Reverend Harald Bredesen, often called the father of the Charismatic Movement whose adherents now number in the hundreds of millions, died today at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California. He died peacefully from injuries suffered in a fall on December 26. He was 88.

In his introduction to Harald’s book, Yes, Lord, entertainer Pat Boone wrote, "Abraham . . . Moses . . . Gideon . . . Elijah . . . I think I've known a man like these. His name is Harald Bredesen. Miracles trail him wherever he goes."

Pat Robertson called his ministry to world leaders “legendary.”

Bredesen was the founder of the Prince of Peace Prize, given to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1980, Mother Teresa in 1989, posthumously to King Hussein of Jordan (with King Abdullah receiving in his father’s stead) in 1999, and to Billy Graham in 2004. Sadat called the occasion he received the award “the high point of my entire life, more important to me even than the Nobel Peace Prize. That was in the political arena. This was spiritual.”

A Lutheran minister, Bredesen became the first ordained clergyman from a mainline denomination to receive the Pentecostal experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, openly tell of his experience, and keep his ordination and credentials in a mainline denomination. In a letter to the editor of Eternity Magazine, Harald Bredesen and Jean Stone Willans coined the term “Charismatic Renewal.”

In the late-1950s, he introduced Pat Robertson to the experience. Robertson went on to found the Christian Broadcasting Network where Harald was a founding board member. In Pat Robertson: A Personal, Political, and Religious Portrait, historian David Harrell wrote, “In the long run it was a chance encounter with Harald Bredesen that had the most far-reaching effect on the life and career of Pat Robertson.”

In his book, Reagan Inside/Out, Bob Slosser called Bredesen, “minister to world leaders.” In that role he touched the lives of many of the most influential figures of his time. A call to prayer that Harald wrote and proposed to his friend Anwar Sadat, was cabled by Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin to leaders around the world on the eve of the Camp David summit. According to pundits at the time, few summits began with so little going for them. Thirteen days later, President Carter announced the breakthrough by saying, “We began this summit with a call to prayer. The results have exceeded the expectations of any reasonable person. I am a Christian. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”

Fresh out of seminary, Bredesen went to work for the World Council of Churches as the Public Relations Secretary for the World Council of Christian Education. In that role he solicited and received the support of President Harry Truman, King George VI, Queen Wilhelmina, King Haakon, King Gustav V, King Christian X, Generalisimo Chiang Kai Shek, Henry Ford, Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and Harvey Firestone, Jr.

Despite his success, Harald felt something missing in his life and walk with God. In 1946, he went to a Pentecostal camp meeting where he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

He met and married Genevieve Corrick in 1954.

In 1957, he was called to pastor the historic First Reformed Church of Mount Vernon, New York and soon invited Robertson to join him as Assistant Pastor. Together with others who had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Harald and Pat hosted Pentecostal style meetings in the old church during off hours. At one of those meetings, they felt the Lord wanted them to go public with their experiences.

The next day, Harald, Pat, and their friend, Dick Simmons, received an invitation to meet with Norman Vincent Peale’s wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, to discuss the topic with her. She went from that meeting to a board meeting at Guideposts Magazine where she spoke with the young writer, John Sherrill. His investigation led to his best seller, They Speak With Other Tongues. Harald introduced John to the young street preacher, David Wilkerson, who, with John, wrote The Cross and the Switchblade, one of the best selling books of all time. (Some sources place the number of copies in print at over fifty million.)

Father Francis McNutt and others credited these two books with sparking the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church now estimated to number over 120 million in over 230 countries. Statistics on the number of Charismatic Protestants are difficult to find, but it is clearly one of the most important religious movements of the last half century.

In its report on the Charismatic movement on the campus at Yale, Time magazine called the students who received glossolalia (tongues), “GlossalYalies.” It went on to say, “They date their experience to two campus visits by the Reverent Harald Bredesen.” The Saturday Evening Post dubbed him “Charismatic envoy to the campuses.” Encyclopedia Britannica’s first article on the Charismatic movement featured a photograph of Harald.

Bredesen hosted the long running Christian Broadcasting Network television program, “Charisma.” He authored the books Yes, Lord and Need A Miracle?, the CD “Toolkit for Eternity: A Walk with Harald Bredesen,” and the video, “How to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

He is survived by his wife, Genevieve; his children, Dagni, Margaret, Christopher, and David; and five grandchildren.

Information regarding memorial services will be given later.

Is Warfare the Spirit of Christ?

Dave (who wears a pleated skirt) mentioned the point of this post in a comment to my last post on spiritual warfare. Concurrently JJ the Smu is running a series on spiritual warfare.

"But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village."

Now there is some question whether the response by Jesus is to be found in the text, or whether it was added later, but as Dave (who loves Haggis) mentioned it certainly appears to identify the heart of Jesus. We know that He rebuked the disciples for wanting to call down fire.

Their plan was to toast the heretics. His plan was to seek and save the lost. He spent His ministry breaking down the barriers which man-made religion created - those barriers which kept people from experiencing God. They perceived the rejecting community of Samaritans as heretics who could not scale the walls of true religion to make it in. The disciples saw an us versus them scenario. Jesus saw people He would be willing to give His life for.

Any sense of warlike behavior which identifies other people as enemies needing a violent spiritual remedy, does not appear to be the heart of Jesus to me. Anyone who falls prey to the us versus them thinking appears to have lost some kind of battle already. They perhaps are unnecessary casualties of their own fight, and are taking down other people with them. When we should be helpers together with the rest of the human race to find the way toward God, it seems to me that creating a spiritual war which includes identifying other people as part of the enemy system is something worse than friendly fire - it is almost a kind of treason.

In my city, the enemy is sometimes perceived by Christians to be working closely with the Pagans who live here. I believe in devils, but I do not believe that devils work closely with any human, rather if any work happens they work against all humans. I will not be treasonous, and treat other casualties of any trouble evil spirits cause as enemies themselves.

I believe that Jesus must have said these words, and that they speak to us today as much as anytime in human history. "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Bride of Christ Acting Like a Whore??!

On Christmas Eve Hank and Gloria came to the morning service, which we didn't have. I was there just in case someone showed up. They had been away on their Honeymoon cruise. While I walked them through our meditative experience we called the Stations of the Manger, Hank and I talked with David.

David is one of Salem's unique characters. He calls himself an evangelist, but he does some strange things. On that morning he wandered through Salem with a sign around his neck. It said "I am the Anti-Christ." He does these things to watch the response on people's faces, and begin conversations.

Sometime in the midst of our discussion Hank said, "The Bride of Christ has been acting like a whore."

I said, "Hank, you are going to end up on my blog." So, Hank - here you are.

Then on Christmas I read Webb's post on Missional Christmas Carolling. Webb's story made me cry. You have got to read it. If you do not read Webb's blog strange protesting Welshmen dressed as women will invade your home.

Webb has some great comments on this very topic, and I told him I would be sending you to read his story. If you like his story, please leave a comment and let him know.

The above picture is from what may be the greatest silent movie of all time - "Metropolis." If you have not seen it you must. It is filled with Biblical imagery, and this is the depiction of the Whore of Babylon.

How does the Bride of Christ behave like a whore? Webb had his thoughts, and I agreed. I wonder how many examples there are in the church today, and I wonder how many may fit me at times.

Perhaps you saw the replay of Anderson Cooper's CNN report last night, "What is a Christian? and where do you fit in?" Examples in that report fit Webb's description of the whoring church.

How does the Bride behave like a whore? Got any thoughts? Any disagreements? Rebukes? Milk Duds to share?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Those Who Pray Together Slay Together

I am convinced that the manner in which we pray has a significant impact upon the manner in which we speak to, and about the people of our prayers. If we pray in grace, and gentleness, then I am convinced it will spill out into our vocabulary about the situations, and individuals who fill up our prayers. If we pray with aggression this too will spill out.

Haven't we learned this same lesson from watching fundamentalists in the middle east? Their speech has reached their actions, and it has been the death of their enemies, and sometimes themselves.

Could it be that a form of spiritual warfare which identifies people as servants of the devil, and curses their actions, also causes the Christian praying in that manner to see people as their enemies at worst, and unwitting pawns of evil at best?

This concerns me in regards to the mission of the church. How can I expect to see the movement of the hand of the God of love with the prayers of Hell? Our task is not the curse, but it is the blessing. Hatred, fear, superstition, and estrangement are not our method; but love, acceptance, peace, and joy are.

So I would anticipate that the prayers which have spiritual power, and overcome the works of the wicked one are prayers which model the heart of God for humanity. Prayers of grace, love, and blessing. These kinds of prayer drive the devils out of me, and call for the hand of God to move in blessing upon others.

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

I have seen the attitudes of aggressive spiritual warfare kill relationships, and drive people away from Christianity.

Of course, the natural point of debate to what I have seen is that those who are driven away are servants of the devil, and until they repent, or the devil is driven from them they will continue to reject Christianity. I am not convinced that is the answer. Instead I believe that as long as we pray with aggression those who pray together will slay together, and people we should be developing redemptive relationships with will be the victims.

JJ the Smu (aka John Smulo) is blogging about this topic as well here

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Target of our Prayers?

I just had to buy this beer the other day. I really was out for a Guinness. Even in bottle I prefer a Guinness. Beer just doesn't do it for me generally - except in some fine micro-breweries. I think there is something about the carbonation in beer which makes it feel like a bad soda to me. But Guinness...Okay I've digressed before I got started.

So here's my non-nitrogenated post:

I'm returning to my spiritual warfare thoughts from previous days.

In my city many Christians have gathered over the last twenty to thirty years to pray against the spirit(s) which rule over the city. Typically the "spirit of witchcraft" is cast out. Demons are wrestled in prayers of tongue-talking Pentecostals (I speak as being one), people see visions of clouds in the sky opening up to allow God's Spirit to move, revival is prophesied, and the businesses of local Witches are cursed with such words as "dry up their business! drive these foul spirits from our city!" A little shouting, and a few prophecies later people pat themselves on the back, and remark on the powerful gathering. The saints are pleased with some unseen window in heaven which has been opened, now allowing the Church to prosper.

Prayer walks have covered the streets of our city. Prayer mapping has attempted to identify the spiritually significant places which hold the keys to breaking the bondage of Witchcraft in our city. Witchcraft shops have been anointed with oil.

Since those prayers began Halloween has increased in size. The number of occultic events have increased. Some Witchcraft shops have closed only to make room for others to take their place.

So the meetings continue, and leaders gather to talk about the need for more prayer, more warfare, and more unity being the only hope for our city to return to its goodly godly destiny.

It seems to me that more of the same which has not worked is a little like a rich man throwing more money at his children when what they really need is time and love. Am I missing something?

I believe that the way we act in the prayer closet sets up our hearts for how we behave in public toward those who are the target of our prayers - and "targets" they have been too often. What are they being targeted for? For cursing? For being publicly branded as transgressors? For being driven out like heretics in an inquisition hearing? How close is a prayer of cursing to a public flogging, or a burning? Is it possible that prayers of cursing carry the same seed of fear, superstition, and maybe even hatred which fomented the Burning Times, the Inquisition, and the darkest hours of the Crusades?

Could it be that the answer to touching people's hearts with the love of God is found in another prayer, another attitude, and another set of actions altogether?

What do you think?

Genius at Work!

Carlos came over and made "Curry in a Hurry." I made some saffron sauce to go over cauliflower, and Bev joined in with a angle hair pasta and pistachio honey nest dessert.

Franko came over, we discussed world peace (because that's Franko's deepest passion). We discussed pantheism, and monotheism with points of whether a relationship with God entailed an experience with "other," or realization of already being one. Carlos and I talked politics, and Carlos is a smart guy politically - he used to work in D.C. He doesn't like Newt, but I do, and that makes me a strange minority. I wonder if I can get any special privileges for liking Newt Gingrich? Maybe a job where they need to fill a quota, because they don't have anyone who likes newt Gingrich in Massachusetts.

Oral was sick, so he and Peter didn't make it.

We were really happy that Franko made it, because I couldn't contact him, and I had to leave a sign in front of the church. It said, "Merry Christmas Franko - call me - Phil and Bev.

He called. He came. We had a good time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas, Your Christmas

Today our Christmas is different than previous years. Elijah (our son) who turns 22 today! is in North Carolina with Rhonda and his mom-in-law. Today a few people from the church will be coming over.

Carlos who has been with us for a few months is from Aruba, and is a Salem State Sociology Prof. He will come over about 3pm, and we will cook with whatever we find in the house - so it's all a surprise. Then Oral and his 6 year old son Peter who are from Jamaica willl join us as well. I also left a sign in front of the church asking Franko to call me. We really want Franko to join us, so hopefully he will see the sign.

That's our Christmas - what's yours like?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas: The Uncomfortable Alliance with Ancient Pagan Gods

Christians all over the globe celebrate Christmas. Most celebrate with great joy and anticipation, but there are some who struggle with the origins, and the activities of the season.

Fundamentalist Christians from Pentecostal and non-Charismatic backgrounds look to the history of this holiday, and consider its Pagan origins. They consider the ongoing practices of Christmas and wonder which ones have their source in Pagan worship.

Meanwhile they often continue to purchase gifts, decorate their Christmas Trees, and tell their children stories of an old white bearded gentleman magically flying around the globe, and sneaking down chimneys each December 24th to give gifts.

Many of these same people believe that the origins of the celebration of the birth of the Son of God stem from the attempt to reinvent the Roman Pagan festival Saturnalia during the time the Emperors and Popes were Christianizing Western culture. Saturnalia commemorated the birth of the sun.

Further evidences of the pagan influence are feared in evergreen trees, wreaths, and caroling in their connection to frightening away evil spirits, commemorating the Pagan wheel of the year, and a celebration in fertility rites respectively.

None of these Pagan connections are solidly proven in history. The origins are shrouded in the same dark cloak of unknowing as the uncomfortable fears which they generate. So it seems to me that for a religion which prides itself in bringing new birth to individuals, and redeeming culture, that even a celebration once possibly having Pagan origins now bearing a Christian message is a statement of its adaptive, and redemptive power. The joy of Christmas giving illustrates God's giving of salvation in the birth of the Messiah, and is evidence that whatever Pagan beginnings Christmas had, they are long lost to most of our culture in the message of this Christian Gospel.

Not all the followers of the Bethlehem born Son of God feel this way, and instead uncomfortably wonder if they might be overly compromising their faith with alliances to ancient Pagan gods.

Of course, as capitalism continues to run a greedy course in the human heart, we all uncomfortably wonder if every redemptive message is getting lost in a bustle of commercialism, but that readjustment challenges Pagan and Christian alike.

I was asked to write this short piece by my goodliest buddy Mike (aka Cern) for the soon coming website --> Tapestry of Faiths

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I've Been Tagged by JJ the Smu!

John Smulo (whom I now know prefers to be called JJ - though I probaby haven't known him long enough to attach such personal nomenclature) has tagged me. I now must share five things you don't know about me. I am sure this will cause me to be seen for the strange subset of homosapien which makes up Philip Kevin Wyman (and most of you just learned something you did not know - my full name, though I will not count that in the five things. So you have just received a freebie!)

1. I was not born with the name Wyman. I was born to the name Ward, but I've never met my birth papa. I guess he was a world class figure skater who trained olympic ice dancing skaters. Robert Roy Wyman adopted me when he married my mom when I was two. He's the only dad I know, and he has the most relaxed friendly personality of anybody in the world. I guess that happens when you have a little bit of South Dakota, and a little bit of California in you like he does.

2. I walk around the edge of the perfume section in department stores because they make my eyes sting, and my nose burn. In fact I rub my eyes if I walk into a WalMart, or a K-Mart too.

3. I may never want to move back home to Southern California where I was born, because I am so happy not to live with allergies 9 months out of the year.

4. Little creatures make me happy. I caught a young possum under our sink a couple years ago, and that made me really happy. I was trying to discover if possums were tameabIe, because he kept coming back to the house. I am always happy to find a snake, and I catch them and show them to people who don't like snakes. I catch moths in the house, and open the door to let them out instead of killing them. Sometimes I talk to them too. I do this with most bugs, and I try to use traps which don't kill mice, because mice are so cute, but my wife is a farm girl, and just wants to get rid of these pests. Spiders don't always get the same treatment, so I guess I have a terrible prejudice against spiders.

5. I feel really bad for being a monoglot American, and I am working on changing that slowly. Cymru am byth! (special links to your blog for the first person to translate that!)

So does this mean I have to tag five others? Dang I haven't blogged long enough to know people who probably haven't been tagged. Okay but I'll try. So here's the tag to Carl, Mike, Steve, Zachary Forrest y Salazar "Johnny the Beloved", and Jenelle.

You're it!

JJ the Smu was the first to figure out "Cymru am byth!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day of Penance Would be a Start

A day of penance would be a good starting place. For two years the priest abuse scandals were on the front page of newspapers here in the Boston area. The Pope listened to a message from his personal preacher calling for a day of penance from the church. See story here

This would be a good beginning. Apologies make for some of the best apologetics in the church today. Some things are not defensible. They are only redeemable through repentance and reconciliation. Some people may never make the turn to forgiving the institution for this scandal. Some may never enter a church again. But, some will hear the words asking for forgiveness, and find their way to a pew somewhere.

I am thankful that God does not live in a church, and that he can meet us whereever we sit.

Dreams, Tarot Cards, and Other Weird Moments of Direction

She turned over the first card, and said to her customer, "You've lost your faith." The lady sitting across the table nodded, and began to pour out her story of false accusations, treachery and abuse at a local church on the South Shore of the Boston area. She was an evangelical Christian, and most evangelical Christians would not consider going ot a Tarot Reader at a Psychic Faire, but here she was pouring out her story to a Witch.

The Witch brought her to the Confessional Booth we were operating. The Psychic Reader knew we could help her. We did.

The Young man stood in line with his friends for a Dream Interpretation. He was dressed in the regalia of the season - full length black cape, and large chains with amulets around his neck. His long hair cascaded into the hood of the cape. He leaned upon a tall wooden staff.

We talked about what he believed, and he discovered I was a Christian. He was a Neo-Pagan of the eclectic variety, but then again most Neo-Pagans are these days. They draw their sources of practice and belief from any number of places which interest them. He and his friends were visiting Salem for the days coming up to Halloween. He believed that the unseen realm of spirits, gods and goddesses was benign, which meant that any spiritual experience must by necessity be beneficial. I'm not so sure he came to his conclusions, because he philosophically considered the consequences of his beliefs, or if he simply trusted his spiritual experiences, and thereby came to the conclusion that everything must be nice in that place he couldn't see.

"Do you do these dream interpretations also?" he asked as we were talking.

I was monitoring the line this time, as others were interpreting dreams inside the tents. "I do."

And we were off.

He began to share his dream. He and his friends were at Red Rocks, a natural amphitheater in Colorado. Over the hills behind him black helicopters appeared. Realizing that these helicopters were not friendly, he and his friends began to run. Some of his friends were wounded by the helicopter fire, and some even were killed. He and one other girl escaped into a cave, and hid out until it was safe.

As he finished his dream I responded with one simple sentence. "The unseen realm is not benign, it is often malignant."

His eyes opened wide. His silence lasted a moment, and then he said, "Wow, you're right."

We talked for 20 minutes longer about lies, deception, and oppression coming from spiritual beings. We talked about both lies and truth coming from beyond, and the necessity of listening to the right voices. These concepts were new to him. He had been convinced that the other side was all good.

I could have tried to convince through Bible verses that his philosophy was messed up. In our discussion before he asked if I interpreted dreams, I could have gone preachy on him. But this young man rejected the voice of scripture as a true guide for his life.

His dreams on the other hand - he believed his dreams, and he walked away with a world view a touch more biblical than he previously possessed. He took away a few Bible references which backed up this new philosophy as well.

"Can I get in touch with you if I ever return to Salem?" he asked.

"You bet. You're always welcome to hang out with us."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One Big Sorry Church

It was no new idea. We read about it in Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz. James was the one with the idea of trying it in Salem over the weeks of Halloween events, and I thought it would work well, but we had no idea how well.

James bought a few monks robes. We had the tents and tables. James and Brooke brought some candles and incense. We made signs, "Free Confessional Booth."

At first people walked by and laughed. Occasionally someone would say nervously, "I don't have the time. It would take all day."

Then a few people began to trickle into the tent, and sit for a confession. They would walk out with big eyes, and occasionally some tears. Things began to gain some momentum when some of my friends who run a Psychic Faire decided to give it a try.

"What do you do in there?"

"Confessions." Jeff said frankly with a twist of wry. Jeff does wry well.

"But what happens in there?"

"I can't tell you. You will have to experience it for yourself." Jeff said, and after a pause, "But it's not what you expect."

"What do you mean?"

"I can't tell you. Are you up for giving it a try?" Jeff asked with that wry smirk sneaking out from the corner of his mouth again.

They entered the tent as a group. Three sat together in support of one another. Witches entering a Christian confessional booth need backup. Who knows what gallows, or stake piled high with dry faggots hides behind the tent?

James spoke first, "Thank you for joining us in the confession booth. I'm sure you nervously entered expecting to share your deepest, darkest secrets, but here we are offering another kind of confession. We want to confess on behalf of the church."

This was the beginning of a deeply moving time for my friends the Witches. I found them half and hour later standing in front of the confessional booth with tears still streaming down their faces.

"This is the most moving spiritual experience I've ever had," she said dragging long on her cigarette.

"I have been waiting for so many years to hear something like this. This is the high point of my Samhain this year." His makeup was running as he continued to cry.

James and the other monks confessed the sins of the church over the ages to my Witch friends. He apologized for the Burning Times, the Inquisitions, and the Witchtrials in Salem. He apologized for the Crusades. He apologized for the prejudice and fear in the church which has caused people to treat the Witches with anger, and personal attacks. James confessed for being part of church which imposed its morality upon the Witches, even though they made no decision to follow Jesus.

Later that day other Witches began to come through the tent. An entire Psychic Fair of Readers and Seers went through the tent. Witches from shops around town heard the rumors circulating about the confessional booth, and came to visit. The tears were many, and the hearts of people generally antagonistic to Christianity were endeared to us.

Toward the end of the day a Tarot Reader brought one of her clients into the tent because, "she needed to hear this."

We are one big sorry church, and that has been our strength.

Even as this post was in my mind, and not yet on paper Sally made comment to the same subject on the comments section of her blog.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are We Dying on the Church Hill?

Church on a hill
Originally uploaded by mafleen.
Hey Friends from Blogland,

Since a few of us made some noise together about syncretism, and Christianity there have been follow up posts to the subject which I find interesting. I responded to those, but thought that I would put my thoughts here as well.

Shannon (who I haven't met in blogosphere yet - I don't think) vented about His feelings about church critiquing, and then John responded feeling a bit guilty for dissing church. Next Sally asked, "what is church, where is church?

I am not sure I agree with the critique of critiquing church. My reason is a preeminently a missiological reason.

I can not tell you how many people I have met, and the people in our church have met who hate "church," are uncomfortable with church, yet have in interest in spirituality. I have found that my ability to identify with them by agreeing to the obvious validity of their complaints defuses the tension, and allows me to get to the Person of Jesus, with Whom they generally have no complaints.

Knowing enough people who appear to love, or at least admire Jesus, but at the same time hate church, I wonder if I have already lost the semantic battle for the English word "church." If I have lost the battle for that word, is it worth defending it? I have to say there are times when I defend the word, but it is usually to Christians who have a twisted ecclesiology. People who are angry at the greed, and the abuse in the church both historically, and recently are correct in their complaints, and no degree of coaxing can cause them to love "that church." They are convinced, and they are correct that the church they hate is not the church Jesus would want to see with His Name on it.

The etymology of the English word "church" does not have its source in the greek word we use to define it in our typical evangelical ecclesiology. Ekklesia is not the source for our English word church. Truly there is nothing Holy about the word church. It is not the same as defending the name of Jesus which is a transliteration of His name from the Greek. In fact, many of us have given up on even that semantic battle, and refer to Jesus as Yeshua when speaking to Jewish people, because they have a terrible history of having been oppressed under the name Jesus.

We are potentially under a similar struggle, having lost the semantic battle for the word church long ago in many people's minds.

Depending upon where we live, and who we are hoping to share our lives with, we may be able to save the word church from missiological extinction, or we may need decide that this is a hill not worth dying on. I find myself making that determination from person to person, and people group to people group. If I have a choice between keeping the word church holy in my own eyes, or reaching someone's heart by identifying with them in their legitimate pain over a failed institution, I will always choose the latter. I will choose the latter not because I think that the ekklesia is a corrupt institution, because I do not think that the ekklesia is an instiitution at all, but the church as defined by my hurting friend is a corrupt institution and they are correct.

On a Christian-Pagan dialogue The Gathering sponsors (The Gathering is our "church") ;-), this topic is being discussed now as well. The fruit of this approach is evident because people are identifying with trying to find God apart from the institutional structure which is called church.

I personally don't care if I win the semantic war for this word church. It is not a hill I will die on. I will die on one Hill, and someone already beat me to it. If it comes to dying, I will die next to Him defending that hill.

That's my take - what's yours?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Favorite Blogs This Month

I just have to give kudos for my Blogs o' de month. So here we go. I am only going to announce two of them based upon something which captured my attention, challenged me, or made me laugh. So here they are...drum roll please...

  • Matt Stone's Eclectic Itchings

  • Matt gets the nod for his links to Televangelists stuff from YouTube - especially the spot from Chaser's Team. Thanks for the laugh Matt. Chaser's War on Television Evangelists

  • Philip Johnson's Deep Missiology

  • Phil gets the mention for his unbelievable side bar. Jeepers who has the time to compile that many links to so many apologetic sights? I'm glad somebody does, because it is a great resource. Thanks Phil - may you be inundated with people from alternative religious backgrounds! May the cults find your door! and a spot next to you at the coffee shop.

    There are too many of you blessed bloggers to mention, so next month I do it again.

    God for People Who Hate Church

    Destroyed Church Kosovo
    Originally uploaded by Berlinär.
    I am discovering more and more people who have an aversion to church. Some outright hate church, or any form of organized religion.

    I can not find fault with them. At least not in their evaluation of what is wrong with church. Nor in their struggles which are based on sad experiences of the past. Living in the Boston area a number of them have come to hate the hypocrisy which became evident on the Priest Abuse Scandals. Yet Protestant and Evangelical Churches have not been a display of integrity recently either.

    So I look across the landscape of Christianity as I know it, and I have to ask, "Is there a place for people who hate church to find God?"

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Excitement Versus Manipulation: A Struggle for Us All

    fire and brimstone
    Originally uploaded by Ivan V. Butterfly.
    I hate being manipulated. I hate being manipulated in a church service even more. The rising excitement leading up to the offering for a building fund, complete with exaggerated statistics and cheesy music. To me it smacks of human effort attempting to do God's work, or perhaps magic attempting to masquerade as a miracle. I don't like whoop 'em worship services. If you are Pentecostal, you know what I mean. The kind of services where great effort is made to get people shouting, clapping or any number of interesting and indescribable maneuvers.

    Yet, I do not like boring services. I enjoy all the arts (except musicals, country western music, and rap - I suppose I would have throw a few things like macrame, or needlepoint in there as well, but these other things are more tolerable to me.) I think the arts should have their place in the presentation of the truth, and more specifically the Gospel. I do believe that worship should be expressive. Dance is acceptable to me - even if the person simply does one of those weird leg kickin' hops that looks like a mix between an ugly chorus line, and a clumsy Rabbi. I like hands in the air, and clapping is cool with me. If someone shouts in a worship time I'm down with that, or should we use a more sanctified prepositional phrase like "up with that?" Sometimes I think churches get the people excited so that the leaders look good, and feel good about themselves.

    I enjoy open format services, in which beaucoup de interaction occurs. I tell people they can interrupt my sermons for questions, or pertinent additions to the topic, and this happens with some frequency. I like the idea of everyone coming together to participate in a worship experience. Yet I realize that a spontaneous experience will probably only allow a limited number of the people to participate, because there are only a few who are comfortable doing something unprepared.

    So I am back to preparing a service which is not boring.

    My challenge is this: What is the line between arranging a creative worship experience, and manipulating people to do what I THINK is healthy for their corporate worship experience? What is the dividing line between what I want, and what God wants for them? I worry about this more for myself than for others, because I know God honors simple faith.

    The Pensacola revival invited the press to visit and evaluate their actions - bad move. They were typical in their organized orchestration, andmanipulation of what appeared to be revival from the very beginning. See this article from 1997.

    Now I am not convinced that this or the many other articles prove that nothing really happened in Brownsville Assembly of God, but I am convinced that it wasn't God alone working. I don't want to be the manipulator of people, and whether we are Pentecostals, or Reformed theologians, or emergent I think we still walk a fine line between being relevant and being manipulative.

    So when I see manipulation I wonder who's fire are we starting, and what is it consuming?

    Only One Year Left to Blog? and more on raising little Inquisitors

    If you haven't read this prediction about blogging coming to its peak by next year you should. You especially should because you are reading this blog right now, and that makes you a blog savvy person.

    So I guess we only have a year to change the world. From there on out we'll have to meet real people.

    One more story on the concern over Last Days: Eternal Forces video game. Some people seem to be thinking that this game could create a few more Matthew Hopkins in our generation. Now that's something we don't need here in Salem!

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Syncretism in the Evangelical Church: The Consumerism of the Altar Calland the Sinner's Prayer

    altar call
    Originally uploaded by jemica02.
    A couple weeks ago a group of us from The Gathering served at a Wealth and Real Estate Expo in Boston. Donald Trump, Tony Robbins, George Foreman, Marshall Sylvar (the Millionaire Maker Hypnotist), and a number of other famous millionaire/billionaires were there to present their ideas, and sell their millionaire making programs. You could make millions on commercial or residential real estate, e-bay, stocks, tax liens, or government grants. Each millionaire maker would describe his product, present testimonials, give out a few secret techniques, promise more information, and finish with the push to buy their seminar, tape, or video program for the special seminar price of $1,999 - or more.

    Tony Robbins had the crowd on their feet for most of his 3 hour message, and had them reciting his mantras, and screaming in excitment. The sales pitch at the end of each speaker's message had the fervor of an evangelistic campaign. Except for George Foreman (who sold nothing), and James Smith (of the "no money down" fame) mention of God was nearly non-existant, and that was the only thing separating the experience from a high-powered evangelistic crusade.

    I am a fan of the ministry of Charles Finney. Not as much for his theology (which was probably a precursor to today's Open Theism, and that's not terrible to me as it is for some of you), but because of his theories of revival, and his ability to identify the emotional, and mental mindset of his generation in respect to the Gospel response. He helped popularize the Altar Call. It was his way of separating the interested, the "convicted," and the repentant from the crowd. Between the revivalism of the 18th and 19th century, and the ministry of Charles Finney the Altar Call eventually became the staple of evangelicalism.

    Today the Altar Call is the standard practice of much of evangelical Christianity. It is recommended by many preachers to be placed at the conclusion of every service. Some evangelical Christian leaders demand the Altar Call as the only appropriate ending to a worship gathering. For a ritual not clearly found in the Bible narrative, and as new to our faith as 170 years ago, I find it strange that it has become the standard practice, and a part of our evangelical dogma. So I wonder to what degree it shows how American Christianity has adopted the culture of our Capitalistic/Consumeristic society. Is this the syncretism of the American Church with our American Consumerism?

    I am not opposed to the Altar Call. I am sure that there are people who identify with a sales pitch culture. Just a couple weeks ago I served 14,000 such people at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. They laughed, they screamed, they stood in line at the altar of American consumerism to purchase life-changing courses which would direct their future toward prosperity. There must be thousands more people who identify with a sales pitch ending to a church service, but I am not one.

    If the phone rings, I answer, and I hear that tale-tell sign of a short delay of silence followed by background noise of many voices in a busy room I quickly hang up. I know a teIemarketer is calling. I do not want to be bothered with the sales pitch. Once stuck with the forceful telemarketer I feel rude hanging up on them.

    How many people have felt the same tension during a long winded sermon, or standing in front of a monologuing Christian?

    Altar Calls and Sinner's Prayers come with salesman-like terminology. We call it "closing the deal." Like the salesman attempting to make the moment of magic work, we tell people that the deal may not be available for much longer, "Today is the day of salvation," we say, "you could die in a car accident on the way home."

    This style of evangelism has been called Decisional Regeneration by its opponents, with a hint of reference to the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. Dangers have been suggested such as confusing a profession of faith for saving faith, or the creation of a false sense of assurance. Yet these are not the issues I find alarming.

    The Altar Call has evolved from the "mourner's bench" or kneeling log of the old Brush Arbor meetings, and has become a well honed sales pitch. The Boston Real Estate and Wealth Expo exemplified the Altar Call well, but the pitch was to sell classes, CDs, DVDs, and wealth building seminars. Could it be that our Jesus appears "for sale?"

    With the McDonaldization of our culture have we adopted, and perfected the style of ministry which feeds our souls with quick service, and drive through spiritual satisfaction? Does the well-timed musical background behind the smooth compelling voice smack of hypnotic sales techniques used by ad agencies? Could it be that we have adopted a get-spiritual-quick scheme as the model of our religious experience in evangelicalism today? If so, we stand to lose the people who despise the sales pitch, and reject the pressure found in "closing the deal."

    In 1972 the Academy Award for the Documentary of the Year went to "Marjoe." Marjoe Gortner's story was a cathartic confession of a life of huckster evangelistic crusades, which began when his parents forced him into the preaching business at the age of 4. Marjoe proves that preaching can be simply a sales job, and good people can be fooled by the show.

    Some of the Witches and Neo-Pagans I know here in Salem feel that a pressure packed Altar Call, or a push to close the deal with a Sinner's Prayer is a form of malevolent magic. They feel pressured against their will. This certainly precludes their participation in typical evangelical Christian circles. Are we losing even larger numbers of people than we can imagine by adapting the culture of Consumer Capitalism into the ritual of the church?

    There may have been 14,000 people at the Boston Convention Center who were excited at the rally for wealth, but there are undocumented millions who did not have the money, or the desire to attend the event. Evangelical Christianity modeled toward the consumer will continue to have relevance to people in our culture, but the number of people interested in it appears to be slowly dwindling. Could it be that our insistence to dogmatize what was once an evangelistic cultural adaptation will only marginalize Evangelical Christianity more than has already occurred.

    I like Altar Calls, and perhaps to a lesser degree Sinner's Prayers - in their right place. The right place may not be in my church, and we may all need to ask ourselves whether it fits into the context of our own Christian experience.

    That's what I think. How about you?

    To leave a comment and join the dialogue go to the bottom of this post, and click on "comments"

    For more reading on syncretism in the church follow the links below:

    Sally's Journey on "Time out from Tinsel"
    Matt Stone on Family Values
    Steve Hayes with an interesting turn about on where we find syncretism!
    Mike Crockett on Church and Culture: a double-edged sword
    Carl Nystedt on Syncretism: Pros and Cons
    Billy Calderwood - It's the Economy Stupid...
    John Smulo's Blog
    John Morehead's Musings
    Mike's Musings - some positive experiences in the Mall

    Teaching Kids to Go on Bloody Crusades: Christian Warfare for Christmas

    Raise a little Constantine! Your kids can learn to conquer little Pagan children by the sign of the cross, and this Christmas is the time to give them the skills. Step over deTorquemada! Here comes the end time fighting crew!

    You might not be able to get this video game at WalMart this Christmas, but your local Christian Book Dealer will certainly help you out.

    Even if your kids are Left Behind, they will at least be ready to wipe out the heathen hordes. Of course, your children could pray for people and make special 'spirit points,' but what little boy wouldn't want join the anti-christ side just to shoot a gun?

    Yep, this is my idea of discipling little kids. I really want to raise a little "Hellraiser."

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Territorial Spirits and The Strange God of Real Estate

    I thought that God was in search of the humble human heart for His dwelling place, and that the cathedrals, and temples of this world were hollow attempts to make a place for God to live. But I must be wrong. I was sure I read something about that in Isaiah 66, and in Stephen's last message to the Sanhedrin, and in Peter's message about "living stones." But apparently I was wrong.

    I thought that it was foolish to get over concerned about angelic, or demonic beings. But apparently naming them, and fighting them is the right thing to do, I thought Colossians reference to "going on in detail about visions,puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind," or as the KJV puts it, "intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind," was talking about an imbalance in connection to the unseen realm. But apparently I was wrong.

    It appears that demons want to take the land from us. They are battling to hold the hills around our cities, and the entry points to our towns. It seems that if they do that they will be victorious.

    So, I guess God is into real estate. He is going to use us to take the land beneath our feet before Jesus returns.

    Since God likes real estate, He will need the most important places. High mountains, busy street corners, influential buildings, historically significant places, and beautiful edifices. As the end times draw nearer we will need to spend our "talents" on such important purchases.

    Now I know that Early Church was a failure because they didn't have any property. The church in China is laughable because they have been hiding away in dingy little corners, and backrooms for decades. Saint Patrick, and Saint Francis were loosers too.

    Do you know how I know this is true? Well, because someone told me that I needed to battle against territorial spirits. Until now I thought God was after human hearts. All along he wanted a really cool piece of Beachfront property.

    Sheesh, how could I have gotten things so backwards?

    Neturei Karta: Apolitical Orthodox Rabbi's

    Wow, this story blows my mind. Orthodox Rabbi's at an anti-holocaust gathering, because they believe that the establishment of the Jewish state (Zionism) is contrary to the Talmud.

    On one hand they look like Emergent Rabbi's from their political position. On the other hand they view Zionists as heretics. Gee Judaism has the same struggles as Christianity. Zions and Rabbis and Heretics - oh my!

    Is This Where Emergent Comes From?

    "Marijuana" pizza shop
    Originally uploaded by Naruwan.
    A study in the UK suggests that half of all young dope smokers are experiencing blackouts, and/or paranoia.

    Uh-oh. I'll bet that most of the Emergent Church gang inhaled when younger. Us old timers who are into emerging are probably emerging from the haze days only to find that things are just as freaky as when we were younger and still freaking, and I know a few younger emergent people sitting at the NORML tables at festivals. Does that mean that most of us are deluded? Is this how we believe that we are hearing from God?

    We might want to rethink what we think is NORML - uh, I mean normal.

    Consider this a further note on Spiritual Warfare. ;-) Dope on the brain may make you paranoid. Of course, perfect love does cast out paranoia - right?

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Spiritual Warfare: Yelling at - Who Knows What?

    How did we get to the place of yelling at demons? Even trying to wrestle them down? When are we told to study the history of a locale, and by that history discover the evil spirits which hold authority over cities, counties, and countries? Did I miss that book in the Bible where Jesus, or Paul prayed against territorial spirits in order to assure a free proclamation of the Gospel? I can not find that book.

    Where does it tell me that my subjective experiences, which include the strange adrenaline rush of fear which comes each time I am confronted with something I don't understand is actually the Spirit of God telling me that some evil force is at play? Where am I to find the methods for naming demons, and identifying the spirits at work in people who are involved in the occult? Where am I told to avoid contact with people involved in the occult until I have bound the evil spirits working through them?

    I appear to have missed these books. Maybe that explains why I pastor small church. I didn't read that book in the Bible.

    If you find these passages in the Bible, please enlighten me. I am sure that I will be more fruitful then.

    My tongue is deep in my cheek, could you help me remove it please.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Synchronizing a Blog on Syncretism

    Attention all Blogmeisters!

    On December 14 (which is a Thursday in my universe, in my locale we call this 12/14 because Americans do not place the numbers in sensible order, for you this might be 14/12 because you might drive on the wrong side of the road which is quite fun to do, especially in Antigua where the roads are narrow and lined with deep drainage ditches, goats, and mothers with babies - now back to December 14) some of us will be putting up a blog on the subject of syncretism in the Australian/Canadian/British or American Church.

    We are looking to identify in as many ways as possible the syncretism of today's church with today's culture.

    If you are up for the idea let me know. I will be coordinating the effort, and making sure everyone who wants to be in will get linked by all the other bloggers. There will be some e-mails going out as well sending people in our direction.

    On this blog you will be finding a discussion on "Syncretism in the Evangelical Church: The Consumerism of the Altar Call and the Sinner's Prayer."

    You can also find this request at Sally's Journey.

    Please send me this info: your name. your blog site, the specific subject you will cover on that day of December 14th - you know either 12/14, or 14/12.

    or leave your info in a comment on this blog.

    What's so Spiritual about Warfare?

    Yes it is true. I am a Pentecostal boy - sorta, kinda.

    The idea for the movie Jesus Camp creeps me out, but I have a feeling that I will like the movie when I see it. I think that I will be certain that all Pentecostals should see it. It might give us an idea of how we look to the world around us.

    The concepts of Spiritual Warfare are presented in the movie, and we are allowed to see ourselves through the eyes of others. The strangeness of it all captures my heart, because it is here where we establish many of our Christian superstitions. I do wonder what is so spiritual about war.

    I have recently been questioned, and presented with the traditional Pentecostal ideas of spiritual warfare from a few different avenues, and thought I should write about it. Besides my new buddyJohn Smulo is writing about it too.

    So here are my first thoughts about spiritual warfare in Salem, MA where I live.

    1. Yes there are demons causing trouble for the saints. The spiritual realm is not benign. It is malignant often.
    2. Demons may hang out in Witchcraft shops, but I'll bet there are more in many churches.
    3. I will not assume every little difficulty which comes my way is demonic.
    4. If a curse comes my way Jesus told me to bless in return.
    5. Don't curse things, cursing is not my job.
    6. Love people, seek to serve them.
    7. Draw near to God.
    8. Stay Simple.

    Sure there's more, but that's all I can think of this late.

    oh yeah - I've got a really cool big sword. The church gave it to me. They are even cooler than the sword. Cymru am byth! and all that.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Why I Love Witches, Druids, and other Neo-Pagan Types

    I've taken more than a small dose of heat over being friends with Neo-Pagans. Now the small dose of heat I have taken has been nearly enough to start a decent bonfire around a stake, and I am quite glad to living in the 21st century. Nonetheless I thought it might be wise to put out an explanation for why I love Witches.

    If you are uninitiated in the manner of Neo-Paganism let me define Neo-Pagan to you. Neo-Pagan tends to be an earthy religion based on ancient pre-Christian cultures. Today's Witches practicing Wicca, or doing Witchcraft on their own (called Solitary), maybe even those who have had it passed down from their parents or grandparents (Family Tradition Witchcraft) are under the Neo-Pagan umbrella. This is also true for the people called Druids of both Celtic, and Nordic persuasion. There are Ceremonial Magicians, practitioners of Strega, Asatru, and many more besides, but these are all categorized as Neo-Pagans. They like magic and often do it. They practice earthy rituals based upon the seasons of the year. They do not identify with the Christian God, except for a couple small groups which call themselves Christian Witches, or Christo-Pagans, and usually neither the Witches nor the Neo-Pagans understand them. Pagans don't believe in the Bible, or even in Satan, so they are not Satanists either.

    Neo-Pagans are often tree huggers. They care for the environment more than most of our population, because they revere the earth itself. To many Neo-Pagans the trees, and rocks, the water, and the sky are filled with spirits. The earth itself is sometimes viewed as a goddess, and our careless abuse of the earth is seen as both a destruction of Creation, and an abuse to the holiness of all things.

    It may be that the Neo-Pagan understands the Judeo-Christian concept of shepherding the earth better than most Christians do. For this reason I must give them the nod, and admit they are way ahead of the Christian Church on obedience to this biblical command to be shepherds of the earth.

    Neo-Pagans are generally peace loving. They despise war, and encourage love and peace. Love and peace are fundamental values of the Christian life, but often we as Christians neglect to see these as powerful responses which have the potential of changing nations, stopping wars, and ending oppression. Could it be that my Neo-Pagan friends have greater faith in the power of love and peace than I do?

    Having attended a number of Neo-Pagan gatherings and events, I have discovered that people are accepted almost unconditionally. No one casts the wary eye over the person who looks strange - of course, a number of people look strange at many Pagan gatherings, and the strangeness is celebrated.

    Strangeness is often rejected, and most often discouraged in Christian churches. In fact, that which is different is discouraged. Pagan gatherings celebrate that which is unique, and perhaps more closely resembles the heart of the Creator God, Who gave us the strange parade of characters in creation such as the Duckbill Platypus, the Seahorse, and the Ostrich.

    I have often wondered if our Christian approach to the world around us blinds our eyes to the myriad miracles which daily dance around us. The Neo-Pagan sees the magic in Creation: in the wind-blown leaf, and the trickling water coming from the hillside. Wind, wood, water, stone, and earth pulse with the heartbeat of magic for many Pagans. Yet few Christians I know revel in the miraculous wonder of nature. Could it be that my Pagan friends have seen the wonders of God more deeply than many of my Christian friends. Could it be that Christians have defined those wonders, but do not experience them, while Pagans have experienced those wonders leaving them undefined?

    Because Pagans are green, peace-loving, accepting, and sense the magic of the world around them I can not help but love them. Yet, these are not the real reason I love them. I love them because God loves them, and I see them through the eyes of divine care. My Jesus loves the Witch with a deeper conviction than I can muster, and I merely attempt to follow His footsteps into the heart, and mind of every Witch, Druid, Wiccan, and Pagan I meet.

    Of course, people will wonder if I have been influenced by this post-modern Neo-Paganism. I suppose the answer is yes. They have caused me to see that the church has shirked it's responsibilities in the environment, and world peace issues; and that we have lost our ability to be accepting at the cost of our passion to be orthodox in beliefs and practices. They have also taught me to be sensitive to the little miracles in each day.

    If this is heretical, I am a heretic. But as to other issues of my faith, I am more fully convinced of the basic tenets of my Christian faith than I was before I met my Neo-Pagan friends, and of course I would enjoy worshiping the Jesus I know together with them, but I am not sure that the traditions of most Christian churches speak to the deepest yearnings of their hearts.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Jackson Browne and The Rebel Jesus

    "Now they call by the Prince of Peace
    and they call Him by the Savior
    And they pray to Him upon the seas
    and in every bold endeavor
    and they fill His churches with their pride and gold
    as their faith in Him increases
    but they've turned the nature that I've worshipped Him
    from a temple to a robbers' den
    in the words of the Rebel Jesus"

    These words come from the song "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Browne. It's a Christmas song, but I think that it is now my theme song - at least for this season. Perhaps it will become the new theme song for our church.

    Strangely the song ends (or perhaps not so strange at all) with the words, "I bid you pleasure, and I bid you cheer, from a Heathen and Pagan, on the side of the Rebel Jesus."

    Could it be that in all our attention to the detail of doctrine, that the church has become like the Pharisees, who did not see God at all? Could it be that there are indeed "Heathen and Pagan[s]" who are more on the side of the Rebel Jesus than we ourselves?

    Perhaps the church has lost its edge of rebellion against the Pharisees of our age in order to "fill His churches with their pride and gold." Jesus sided with the oppressed, and rebuked the religious leaders. I wonder if He might do the same today?

    I think Jesus might be looking for a few good Rebels.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    What Kind of Church has Sci-Fi Movies?!

    That was the question presented tonight. My atheist buddy Jonas (He's the guy who wears the "Friendly Neighborhood Athiest" T-shirt) brought some friends to movie night. I think they enjoyed watching the classic cult Sci-Fi flick "Robot Monster" in a church. After all churches are not supposed to show Sci-Fi films, so the movie had a sense of forbidden pleasure attached to it.

    How did churches ever get to the point that we couldn't do normal things which are typically attributed to good clean fun? I am sure Jonas' friends never thought about why they feel churches do not show Sci-Fi films. It is simply an expectation about things churches do. Of course it was a Jewish perspective, and an Atheist perspective, but last week someone said the same thing when we showed "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." Last week it was a Pagan acquaintance who struggled with how a church could show the fruit fight movie. (Yes - tomatoes are fruit.)

    Jonas's friends stayed around until last, and we talked, and I learned some interesting things from them, and we even mentioned God a few times, and they didn't run away, or feel uncomfortable. They told a few atheist jokes about prayer, and Christianity, and I laughed - the jokes really were pretty funny, and too often true to form of much Christianity. I didn't get nervous or defensive by the jokes. We all had fun, and I am sure they think a little differently about churches now - well okay maybe only about our church, but that's good enough for me.

    What do you think? Is it okay to show Sci-Fi flicks in a church?

    I am wondering if Ro-man has the power to touch people for Jesus? I suppose all things are possible with God. Of course, we don't show the movies to get people saved. We show the movie to have fun, and make the church a meeting place for the community. Maybe that's why it seems so strange to show "Robot Monster" in a church - we didn't do an altar call.

    Thursday, September 28, 2006

    Afraid of Exposure?

    Dan was my friend in Oceanside. He and I talked for hours and hours about religion, and the Bible. We would read the literature of his church, and debate about whether it was an accurate reflection of Biblical thought. Other than the Bible, we never read the writings of my faith together. Dan was a Jehovah's Witness. He was taught that writings of other churches were "spiritual pornography." I had actually seen Dan, and few of his Jehovah Witness friends recoil when I presented some of my own writings, or the books I was reading. A few times I admit I did it on purpose. It was funny to watch. An innocent bystander might have thought I had suddenly pulled an explicit porn mag out of one of those plain paper wrappers.

    I have friends who are Witches, and Neo-Pagans. I have noticed that people from my same Charismatic brand of Christianity treat the writings of my Witch friends with the same nervous fear Dan, and his friends had toward my innocuous materials.

    Okay, I do believe that it is true that the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps my writing is not completely harmless or uninspired, but there is an interesting connection between Dan's response to evangelical Christian books, and my fellow Charismatic and Pentecostal brothers' fears of Witchcraft material.

    I had to study American and European Neo-Paganism, because I live in Salem, and I have friends who practice Witchcraft. Perhaps such studies are not for everyone, but neither is Coasteering, or Spelunking. The connections between jumping off rocks into the wild Welsh Waters off Pembrokeshire, and reading occultic literature in order to learn how other people think may not be easily divined by anybody but evangelical Christians. We truly are afraid of Pagan literature, and Pagan people in most cases. But I have to ask myself, "Why are we so afraid?"

    Are we afraid of being exposed to something dangerous? Or is there something deeper going on here?

    I have noticed that Pagan literature, and Pagan adherents have some accurate critiques of Christianity. They identify real problems, and abuses by the church over the centuries. Some of these abuses still go on today.

    Could there be a deep fear not so much of being exposed to something dangerous, but of being exposed by something we might read in another religion's writings, or by interaction with the people from alternative religions?

    I don't find my fundamental doctrines changing because I have friends who are Witches, and because I have read their material, but I do find I have been exposed at times. I have had to change, because their critique of Christianity was pretty darn accurate. I didn't look much like Jesus. They were able to put the finger on me.

    Could this be a problem in the church today? Are we satisfied with our current church culture? Are we unwilling to entertain the idea that there just might be something wrong with the way we are doing things? Could we be afraid of being exposed not "to", but "by" Pagan thought? Is that what we are really afraid of?

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    The Evening of the Night and Day

    Evening is evening with day. The time of night has caught the time of light, and they stand in equal balance in our day. Slowly our nights grow longer, and our days grow shorter.

    Until this very moment I have not been ready for the coming of the Fall with itas threat of Winter. I am a Southern California boy living in New England. The Fall has always been my favorite season, but the shortness of the Salem Summers have taken me by surprise.

    I am ready now.

    Today's new Pagans celebrate the cycle of the seasons. The longest days, the longest nights, the equinoxes with their evening of the day and night all speak to them of change and life. The holy days of the Jews were set at harvests and at memorials of historic events.

    As American Christians, we only really celebrate historic events or human resource. Days are based around great men: Martin Luther King, George Washington, Columbus, Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims, the 4th of July and our founding fathers. Days are based around human activity: Memorial Day and war, or Labor Day and work. Of course, our biggest days are founded in God's movement on history: Christmas and the Manger, and Easter and the Cross. I certainly want to honor the wonderful works of my fellow man, but I wonder if perhaps the days we celebrate are far more humanistic than that which the Pagans celebrate.

    Neo-Pagans see the seasonal changes moved by the hands of God (okay, in their case it may be the gods, and goddesses.) We celebrate days based upon human activity. Even the celebration of Easter and Christmas are the celebration of the Man Christ Jesus, and most of us barely recognize the God Who is above and beyond humanity. Strangely, the only holiday we celebrate in common is the holiday which most evangelicals flee for fear of it having a demonic source - Halloween, the last harvest celebration.

    Could it be that our understanding of holidays (holy-days) here in America is sadly anthropocentric? Is it somehow all about us, and lacking in a view outward to God and HIs Creation? I wonder if we might learn a thing or two if we could balance our celebrations between man centered, and creation centered holy-days?

    I am happy for the coming of the Fall now. I am reminded that though dark, cold times may come, I have a place to hide away by the warm fire of God's love. Somehow labor day was devoid of such lessons for me. I barely noticed that day go by, but the autumnal equinox vividly catches my imagination each year.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    The Aberrant Concept of Loving and not Liking

    Aberrant. I think that it is a way to call someone a heretic. At least that's the way it was used on us.

    We said that we were making friends with Witches, Druids, and Pagans of a variety of traditions. They questioned us for quite some time about what we meant by "making friends."

    "How can you be friends with a Witch?" someone asked. Jeff and Diane, and Bev and I looked at one another. We each wondered, "How could we not make friends with the Witches?" We live in Salem. There are quite a few of Witches, and we know a number of them. We like them, and some of them like us.

    We thought that was a good thing.

    Some of the people sitting around us at the council meeting were not quite sure. Some were supressing a low level antagonism toward our friendly approach to Witches. Some were simply trying to figure out where they stood, and a few agreed with us, but were afraid to say so.

    Somehow the concept of loving people without liking them had its insidious grip in this dialogue. There are Christians who actually believe that it is possible to love someone without liking them.

    Yeah right.

    I thought this idea was rejected by the the Bible's most famous love passage. Doesn't it say that we can give our all goods to the poor, and our bodies to be burned, and still not exhibit love. Okay so if I sacrifice in my presentation of the Gospel for another person, this still does not mean I have loved them. So what's the missing component of my loving them if I give them everything? Isn't sacrifice love itself? According to Paul - apparently not.

    Love is not just preaching, or giving, or even sacrificing yourself. These things are not love, in fact they may simply be rote activities of know-it-all Christians, or actions we force ourselves to do because we think it is the way to live the Christian life.

    So what does love look like? Believe the best for others, be patient with them, and perhaps even want to spend your time being with them. In other words - like them, really like them.

    I think that aberrant teaching allowed a group of people to sit us down, and question our motivations for making friends with Witches. I know some of the people in that group really believe that you can love someone without liking them.

    Walking to The Vault today from home, I considered the passage from 1 Corinthians 13, and wondered if this silly idea that teaches we can love someone without liking them is one of the reasons that the words of the church are like a clanging gong in many people's ears today.

    If so, I would imagine the teaching is aberrant.

    Saturday, September 09, 2006

    Radio Man and Relearning Christianity

    Radio Man has been with us three times now. He visited The Gathering for a Sunday morning service, for our Thursday evening Lectio Divina meditations, and tonight for our Movie Night.

    After watching War of the Worlds, and having a pretty good turnout. Radio Man stayed around to help out. He vacuumed the whole place. I thanked him profusely for his spontaneously generated help. He replied simply, and straightforwardly, "I wanted to give back."

    We sat down for awhile and talked about church life, and his experiences. He had been a part of a local church in Salem, which was agressive, and hyper-Pentecostal. For 4 years he attended, and always felt like an outsider. The church was very small (between 5 and 12 people), but the greetings, and goodbyes from the pastor were always very formal, and distant. The sermons regularly attacked other groups such as gays, Witches, Catholics, and even other Pentecostal groups. (Our own church was on the list as well.)

    When Radio Man visited on Thursday evening, he shared during the Lectio Divivna that he was not a Christian anymore. Tonight he explained this by saying that somewhere along the journey through 15 years of AA, and 4 years at the church he had attended, he lost faith. He thought that he was agnostic, and perhaps even an atheist on some days. Tonight he also said that he believed he needed to relearn things some things, and hoped that this might occur at The Gathering.

    I think that I need to relearn some things too. Radio Man's open confessions about his struggling faith might be one of those things I need to learn.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Superstition for Your Kids?

  • Armor of God PJs

  • I am certainly going to buy a hundred of these, and give them away to parents of young children. Perhaps if we start early training our kids to be afraid of things that go bump in the night, they will grow up wearing holy PJs, and feeling protected by their 100% cotton armor.

    I'll set aside a set for the Gentry's coming addition.

    Anybody else want a set?

    Superstitious Christians

    Sitting at the table late tonight I discussed superstitious Christianity with Mizumi. She had just come home around midnight from her long hours as a Home Depot manager in Reading.

    I believe in all the experiences of wild mysticism which are found in the Bible - prophets seeings angels and demons, miracles of healing and exorcism, dreams which come from God, and even the trance-like visions such as the Book of Revelation or Ezekiel. Yet I have to ask myself when it is that one passes over from being a practical mystic into the more dangerous realm of being a superstitious Christian kook.

    I know superstitious Christian kooks, and in fact have experienced the destructive power they wield when they sit in seats of power.

    I tend to believe that superstition in Christianity has some common starting points: 1) a belief in the intrinsic supernatural power of physical items, events, and/or locations, 2) an over exaggeration of the importance of circumstances, 3) a frequency of attributing supernatural sources to mundane events, or 4) an unresonable fear of people involved in occult practices.

    I have seen all of these things happen in churches. Are we becoming too superstitious?

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    You Don't Know Jack or Why I Like Clive Owen as Arturius

    I have to admit it. I do like the 2004 demystified movie version of King Arthur with Clive Owen. Of course, it helps that there were actual Celtified type people in the movie like Ioan Grufudd.

    My real reasons for liking the movie are more serious than actors, or my celtophile leanings (unfortunately it was filmed in Ireland, rather than North Wales, or in Scotland near Hadrian's Wall).

    I like this movie because it carried a theme of freedom, and because Arturius was a follower of Pelagius. I have felt for quite some time that Pelagius got a bad rap. He was treated as a heretic in the 4th and 5th centuries by such notables as Augustine (certainly not a favorite church father of mine!) He was exonerated and then later treated as an heretic again. Gee, I know how that feels.

    The gracious teaching of the freedom of human will which was taught by Pelagius, was presented as something which King Arthur believed in the movie. Arthur is portrayed as a follower of Pelagius, not knowing that Pelagius was already killed in Rome for being a heretic. (The time and manner of Pelagius' death is not actually known, though some surmise that he was killed by his detractors in the catholic church.) The idea that we are all born free is Pelagian doctrine. It is not Augustinian doctrine. In this issue I side with Arturius.

    The reference to the round table, and fact that it was designed round to put all men in equal position is a beautiful concept, and another reason for my appreciation of the movie.

    Having babbled a bit about a movie, I now progress to my point.

    We sure could use a Pelagius, or a King Arthur in the church today - someone who stands up for equality among the brethren - someone who sits at a round table, and asserts no special position by sitting at the head of the table. Authority in many church circles today is as grossly managed as it was in Pelagius' day. He was maligned probably because Augustine didn't like him, and Augustine was the big boy in the theological neighborhood. If Augustine didn't like you, or know you, you might have a hard time getting a fair shake.

    There are no Augustine's today. They have other names - like Charles or Jack. So, if you don't know Jack, you just might be in a heap of trouble in the church, if some self-serving religious authority gets his underwear all bunched up over something you've done. Like it may have been with Pelagius, you just might get a bad rap too.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Where Judgment Begins

    Years ago, I awoke in the middle of the night, and tossed and turned in a trance-like state. A paraphrase of a passage of scripture was rolling around in my head, and I asked what its meaning was. "Judgment must first begin in the house of God," filled my mind in this dreamy invasion of my faculties. It was from 1 Peter 4:17, which says, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God."

    I turned this way and that in the bed, and spoke out loud repeating the phrase, "Judgment must first begin in the house of God...judgment must first begin in the house of God...." Then I asked out loud, "What does that mean?"

    Soon my head was where my feet had been as I crawled around the bed. I continued to question the meaning of this saying. Suddenly as if from nowhere, yet from somewhere a voice from an unseen identity resonated with authority in my head, "One must go about preaching in the churches."

    Still in a trance-like state I turned over, and declared loudly, "That's it! - One must go about preaching in the churches." I then slid back under the covers, and fell asleep promptly.

    When morning arrived, my eyes opened with an excited start, and I leaped out of bed. From prone to standing the movement occured without intermediary positions. I threw the covers off, catapulted off the mattress, and landed on my feet in the middle of the small room in my Eaton Way apartment in Vista, and declared with complete excitement, "Judgment must first begin in the house of God!"

    All day long that phrase filled my mind, and gave me great joy.

    Okay - what the heck was that about? I love the medieval mystics, but I'm not sure I want to be one. They were kinda weird.

    The bigger question in sharing this story is: What do you think that passage in 1 Peter 4 means? Shouldn't the church judge itself? Is it doing that job, and if so, is it doing it well? If not, what does this passage from 1 Peter have to say to us?

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Being Brainless and Absent

    If you did not read Mike's reply from the last blog, you gotta check it out. If you did, and you are wondering where I've been, the answer is - Heck I'm trying to figure out where I am too.

    For the next two week's I'll be in Florida, and you will not likely hear from me, unless I get inspired, and inspired can happen. Then I will have more time, and may write stuff.

    Otherwise - catch you after September 1st.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Listening as a Teaching Tool?

    We've been practicing Lectio Divina meditation each Thursday night at 7pm, down at The Vault (see, and it has been a wonderful experience for most involved.

    We have a religiously diverse group spanning the spectrum from Pagan to Christian, and filling in the gaps which lie between. A reader reads the passage of scripture slowly, and repetitively, and everyone else listens, and thinks. After some time everyone who desires to share their meditation has the opportunity.

    Occasionally we get someone who wants to correct something they hear another person sharing, and it is usually a fellow born-again Christian who does not understand how to meditate on the Bible in any other style, than to find some doctrinal insight which points to someone else's failures, or shortcomings. This usually breaks the gracefulness of the group, and requires a leadership redirection, or even a gentle correction.

    Why are Christians, who should be the light of the world, such terrible listeners? Isn't someone who can not listen living in the dark? Why do we correct people before we know them, or in some cases even before we understand what they are saying?

    I am wondering if listening might be a better teaching tool at times than talking. Certainly a dialogue beats a monologue, and the dialogue requires both listening and speaking.

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006

    Working alongside other minded people

    Our location - The Vault - is somewhat of an experiment. We are trying to figure out how to make the place comfortable for people from every background - including religiously diverse backgrounds, and still retain our Christian integrity.

    It appears to be working so far, and the little group we are is growing larger.

    But now, we have Pagans, Atheists, New Agers, and Undecideds hangin' around with us and loving it. They want to get involved too. So we are rethinking what it means to do ministry, and serve people.

    Could it be that some people might find God while serving God? That's a unique thought. It sure is stretching our idea of doing church, and doing "evangelism." Eugene Peterson suggested using the word hospitality instead of evangelism. I think I like that idea.

    Traditionally the church has required everyone to be likeminded in order to serve together. Could it be that we have short changed God by not working side by side with other-minded people?

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    Could the Atheists be Correct?

    A newly-found friend and fellow Christian rebel, purchased an atheist on e-bay some time ago. The Atheist was selling his soul. For every $10 he would go to church one hour. (Check out the story at

    This was quite controversial among Christians and Atheists alike.

    As Christians we feel that Atheists are foolish, and we have Bible verses to prove our point. Yet many of the Atheists believe that we are captivated by a kind of despotic mind cult. Our thoughts are not free because we have been brainwashed by this cult of Christianity.

    Could they be right? Could it be that the most common practices of Christian fellowship are based in creating people who all think exactly the same? I know far too many Christian leaders who are afraid to allow others in the church to have a say, to ask a question, or to get involved at anything more than a basic level, unless they have proved themselves to be robotic imitators of their leaders. Is this because we Christian leaders are afraid to be challenged, and so we silence free thinkers? or could it be that we have wrongly assumed that God's goal is make us think and act alike?

    The second reason would be far more noble, even though it would show that we are foolish Christian leaders. The first option of being fearful would show how corrupt we are, and in need of defending our little despotisms.

    I wonder how we can best help Christians become free thinkers. It seems to me that Christianity - the religion of liberty - ought to be able to find a way to free our minds.


    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Looking for a Win

    Win and Christie dropped by last night after church. We haven't seen them for quite some time. They pastor a church in Beverly. Win and Christie are struggling with autheniticity in Christianity, just like we are. He calls the state of American Christianity "the system." They think that "the system" is messed up, and it is part of the problem with Christianity in America today. Well no, they think it is THE problem.

    Thye actually came by to see how Elijah was doing, because they only just heard about our son's hospital stint, and his ongoing health struggles.

    Thye came by to see how we were doing. They were being relational. They were being friends. They didn't care about numbers at the church, or a discussion couched in self-important Christianized phrases. They just wanted to see how we were doing. Win commented that he wasn't looking to build a church these days, he was just looking for friends.

    I don't think that I'm looking to win the prize for church growth either, but I guess I am looking for a Win. More people like Win would be refreshing.

    I think he holds the key to authenticity in Christianity - friends. Friends like Jesus - who act like Jesus - who are there for us like Jesus.

    What do you think?

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Torturing our Own?

    A couple weeks back, we had a short discussion at church about past hurts brought on by churches, and their people. Someone made the comment that the church is the only army which kills its wounded.

    I remarked that we don't kill our wounded. We keep them alive and torture them for awhile. There was a hearty laugh in the room.

    Why do we identify with this sad observation?

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Church Discipline and Soteriology

    Matthew 18 is not optional behavior according to Jesus. It appears to be a mandatory pattern for dealing with one another. Yet the fact of the matter is that there is a style of leadership practiced by church pastors and leaders today, which teaches and models that it is acceptable, and proper to bypass this section of scripture.

    By making an example of people before fully understanding the situation, and before confronting them one on one, we run the risk of isolating them, and potentially driving them away from God. I know people who have left the church, and walked away from the faith on the basis of such treatment, and I would imagine that people are being driven away from God, or brought closer to Him daily by the activities of church discipline.

    Is the world looking on and judging how we love one another, and thereby making a judgment about how much we look like Christ? Is this bringing them closer, or keeping them away? Could it be that the style of one's church discipline has soteriological ramifications?

    I have some thoughts about this myself, and have only briefly touched on it in my other blog.
  • Style Difference or Heresy?