church nonsense

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Dogmatism

I’ve been too knackered to read or write anything these past two weeks.  I won’t go into the details but it has to do with my mom falling and injuring her hip (CT scan next week), both of my dogs having a nasty bout of diarrhea (clean-up in aisle 2), and me working just about ’round the clock to prepare for a presentation.

Profound exhaustion.

But then last night I went to the newly renovated Strand Theater in the newly rejuvenated Pontiac to see Phillip Phillips. Just Phillip, Dave Eggars, a guitar, a cello and a voice. In an intimate setting.


It was outstanding.

Brian Vander Ark opened with skills of his own.

So today I had enough rejuvenation of my own to read a little something and I read this:

“Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.”

I was only three paragraphs into the article and I was exhausted again.

Because I’m tired of statements like that one.

Untrue overstatements to support a point.

Correct, the phrase “personal relationship” is not found in the Bible (lots of phrases to which Christians adhere are not found in the Bible), but that doesn’t mean the whole Biblical witness runs contrary to it.

When God rebuked Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12 He said, “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face…”

In Exodus 33, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

Isaiah wrote, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend...” and in another place, he wrote “look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.” [emphasis added]

God said of David: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

John referred to himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  When Peter, learning how he would die, looked at John and asked, “What about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

And there was Job who, after a long personal discourse with God said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

A quick survey of the whole biblical witness (and these are just the first few that come to mind)  reveals that God had many unique, personal relationships.

Oh, oh, oh I just thought of more: Jesus revealing Himself personally to Mary at the tomb and then to the disciples minus Thomas and then to Thomas personally with a personalized revelation tailored to his specific need to believe…

We know from Scripture that He made promises to individuals as well as to nations.

He still does.  He still has unique, personal relationships with individuals AND He has corporate relationships with nations and with the church at large.

Things are rarely one or the other when it comes to the way we practice religion.  They’re almost always a little bit of both.

Which is why dogma wears me out.












church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men


I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.



church nonsense

We Don’t Need No Nitpickin’


I have a friend who works at the Cru HQ in Orlando. This morning he shared this on Facebook:

“Donna and I saw a pre-screening of [“The Shack”] last night (in theaters March 3). It was emotionally powerful and well-acted all around. I pray it becomes a fantastic God conversation-starter for a very long time!”

Good prayer. Great desire.

One of the brethren immediately chided him:

“That book was a theological disaster. I encourage you to read Tim Challies review before recommending the book or movie to anyone.”

He provided a link to that review.

We don’t need no theological nitpickin’.

Half of this country is in a frenzy of fear because they don’t know and/or trust God.

Right before the election, many, many, just about all of my Christian Facebook friends – Republicans and Democrats alike – posted something like this: “No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne.”

After the election, those who hold that truth did not gloat or panic.

Those who don’t hold that truth did.

In the midst of this fear-filled frenzy, we don’t need no stinkin’ nitpickin’.

The book is a NOVEL.

Since when do novels have to have every theological i and every theological t dotted and crossed correctly?

And by whose theological standards must they be dotted and crossed?

The novel beautifully portrays the caring heart of God.

Who wouldn’t want the caring heart of God portrayed in theaters for all to see?

Fifty percent of this fear-filled country NEEDS it.


When Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name to Cru back in 2011, the purist accused them of bowing to political correctness, of being ashamed of Christ’s name. HQ received angry phone calls, critics took to social media.

You can read about it here.

Back when Amy Grant released a pop album – one in which every single song wasn’t overtly about Jesus, or Christianity, the purists dropped her from their playlists. She was selling out, ashamed of the gospel.


She was trying to reach a wider audience WITH the gospel.

Christian Purists:

Take the straight jacket off the Truth already.

Stop loading the gospel down with burdens it’s not intended to carry.

Stop guarding the truth so heavily that no one can penetrate it.

People need to come into the safe arms of Jesus and you – however loyal you think are being – might be standing in their way.

They will know we are Christians by our L.O.V.E. LOVE.

And they just might know God cares by our “theologically disastrous” songs and books and movies.

Just as the first Christians knew Jesus was the Son of God by His theologically disastrous teachings and Sabbath healings.



church nonsense, Light

Horny, Ornery & Honorable

When it comes to how they relate to women, the Bible portrays at least three types of men:  the horny, the ornery and the honorable.

The ornery are know-it-alls who have no use for the wisdom of their wives.  They see them as mere adornments.  Take Xerxes for example. You can read all about him in the book of Esther.  You can also read about him in history books.  He was extremely tall and he came from an extremely brutal lineage.

The book of Esther opens with a pair of massive parties, thrown by the king.  All the men of Xerxes’s kingdom were invited to attend – presumably so he could get them onboard with his plans to invade Greece.

The party dripped with opulence, alcohol and testosterone.

In the middle of one of the feasts, Xerxes had an impulse to show off his amazingly beautiful wife, Vashti.  He called for her to come and parade herself in front of him and all his drunken guests, wearing her crown.  She refused to come because a.) She was busy hosting a party of her own and couldn’t exactly leave her guests, and b.)  It was in poor taste.

Some commentaries say she was to come wearing only her crown, but I don’t think so.  Even fully clothed it would have been improper for her to parade herself in front of the cat calls of a bunch of drunken men.

Scripture doesn’t say in what manner she refused the invitation – perhaps it was tactful, perhaps it was not.  But it does say that Xerxes made an angry, drunken, impulsive decision based on the advice of his seven drunken advisors.   A decision that Scripture hints he may have regretted (Esther 2:1).

Unfortunately, guys like Xerxes don’t admit they made a mistake, and they don’t act against the approval of their buddies.  His buddies wanted him to set an example for all the men of the kingdom by subduing his wife right off the throne.

So he did.

He booted Vashti and replaced her with another beautiful ornament.  His choice of a new queen had brains as well as beauty. If you know the story of Esther, you know that she was really God’s choice and that God chose her for a specific reason.

You also know that Xerxes’, evil advisor, Haman, hated the Jews.  So with his slimy, slithering, forked tongue, he manipulated Xerxes into issuing a decree to destroy them.  The decree was signed and sealed – no taking it back – and the annihilation of the Jews was imminent.

But yay for God!

He used Esther to outsmart Haman, save His people, and keep Xerxes from doing something very regrettable.  She was the kind of divine help Genesis 2 is talking about.

Xerxes was a lame and impulsive know-it-all.  The kind who will take the advice of his buddies without consulting his queen.*

Have you known anyone like that?  I have.

Some churches are full of men like that.

Some churches insist upon men being like that.

Some churches teach that Adam’s sin was in listening to his wife.  And they extrapolate that into teaching that godly men are the head of their homes and they make all the decisions and they don’t listen to their wives. Ever.

But not so fast. In Genesis 21:12 God told Abraham to listen to his wife.

There was nothing wrong with Eve speaking and Adam listening to her.

The problem was that Adam listened to his wife in general, the problem was that he chose to listen to her even though what she said was in direct opposition to what God had specifically told him.

In the NIV, verse 17 reads, “Because you listened to you wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you…” I think God emphasized the “you”.

Remember, Eve did not get the command first hand, Adam did.

It’s time to stop telling men to “man up” when manning up means ignoring the wisdom of their wives. Men feel pressure from their buddies or from their church to get control of their wives when deep down they know they can’t and shouldn’t. But the pressure is there, so they pretend in public and then they sometimes turn to pornography in private.  Phone sex girl is not going to give anyone a hard time – unless some poor soul pays her to do so.  But that’s a post for another day.

– excepted from my Bible study © 2010

church nonsense, life, Light, Revelation

Or Maybe It’s the Church’s Sins

I wasn’t going to write about the unholy trinity this week because I’ve been feeling kinda’ lazy. But then, just before I left for church this morning, I saw another “Why You Should Be in Church” post. This one posited that perhaps the reason “you” aren’t in church has to do with your sins.

Or the church’s sins, was my first thought.

And then, for the whole twenty minute ride, I kept thinking. Out loud. The hub didn’t mind.

So now I’m writing after all, but I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Revelation 13 opens with the defeated dragon standing on the sea shore, contemplating his recent failures. His failure to destroy the woman and his failure to destroy her offspring. He needs a new plan and he needs a couple of recruits.

A beast arises from the sea. A Jesus-wannabe. It has a fake fatal wound on one of its heads and that fake wound is fake healed. Everyone is in awe of it. People start to worship the dragon because of it. The beast imprisons some of God’s people, it kills others.

A second beast – another cheap imitation of Jesus – comes out of the earth looking like a lamb. It acts more like an unholy prophet.

These two beasts gain political power through intimidation and economic sanctions. One requires everyone to get a tattoo on his or her forehead or right hand in order to participate in commerce.  They use spiritual deception.

And here’s the part I was telling the hub: The second beast – the unholy prophet – made the inhabitants of the earth worship the first beast – the one who faked a resurrection.

Forced worship. Spiritual intimidation. Guilt trips. That’s the m.o. of the beast.

It’s not God’s m.o.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Perhaps some aren’t going to church because they find no rest there.

To the experts in the law Jesus said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

Perhaps some aren’t going to church because church just piles on. Or because it feels smug. Or because the Spirit just isn’t there.

I was not going to a church like that. To a church that was just playing church.

But I’ve found a new church. One where Jesus bids me to come and learn from Him. Gentle, humble-in-heart Him.

church nonsense, life, Light

Hold the Popcorn

Back in Christianity Run Amok, I wrote, “…perhaps some are skipping his church because they are browbeaten at work Monday through Friday and they don’t want to be browbeaten on Sunday, too.”

And I asked, “Who wants to be called a selfish sinner in church when they can be out on the streets of Detroit offering a plate of food and a few minutes of conversation and dignity to a homeless man?”

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that I’ve grown tired of church nonsense. And you can imagine my delight when, late last night, whilst gently holding a bag of frozen peas to my left eye, I read this:

“Christians do not measure humanity by the worst words and actions of Adam down the ages of history but by the utter faithfulness to God and humanity found in Jesus Christ. He is the truest measure of every person, of the intention of God when he made you.”-Kenneth Tanner

It has been my sad experience that lots of Christians measure humanity by the worst words and actions of Adam down the ages of history. Lots and lots of Christians. But thank God for this quoted one who does not. And thank God that He does not.

I don’t remember if I told you this story before, but I was absolutely horrified when a woman in my Sunday School class said something along the lines of the this: “I’m going to get myself some popcorn and a front row seat  on a heavenly balcony and watch the apocalypse unfold.” She was looking forward to seeing some carnage, to cheering as sinners get theirs and I shuddered. I asked her if she would still enjoy the show if some of her loved ones were among those sinners.  Maybe my question was not Sunday School polite, but someone has to break the chain.

Here’s more from Kenneth:

For those who follow Christ there is no “them” separate from “us.” To love my neighbor is to discern the image of Christ in every person and to comprehend that they are already related to Christ before the gospel is announced in two inalienable and unalterable ways.
Christ is their creator and Christ is their human brother. These two dimensions of his love—of creator and brother—cannot be undone by any effort of human will, of spiritual darkness, of natural cause.
These two ways in which Christ is already related to every human person are eternal and cannot be broken; even though every person has the dark capacity to reject these gifts and alienate themselves from Love, these graces are irrevocable.
Every human is loved as the artist loves his handiwork, and every human is loved as the artist becomes what he has made in order to love what he has made to the bitter but transfiguring end, living and suffering as one of us.
In Christ there is no “other” against which we can divide ourselves because God has already acted in Jesus Christ to fashion every person from clay and to be made like his brothers and sisters “in every respect,” and it is for love of them all that he has given all of himself.
If we would follow Christ, we must appropriate this wisdom. This means we learn it by *practicing* the kind of radical identification of God with humanity that comes to us as Lord in the unique divine and human person of Jesus Christ. -Kenneth Tanner

I’m going to appropriate this wisdom. I’m going to practice looking at humanity through the lens of God’s identification with us. I’m going to practice looking at individual people the way Jesus did/does. I’m going to find the bright places in my heart and mind where boom bands are playing. I think I’ll like people better there. How about you?

If you’d like to read more from Kenneth Tanner, and you really should, you can follow him on Facebook.

P.S. The peas. My lower left eyelid went under the knife yesterday in the same manner that my upper right eyelid went under the knife last summer.  I’m fine but my vision is blurry today – which is going to put a damper on my plan to lay low and read posts all day – with peas on my eye for 15 minutes out of every hour – but I’m going to do my best. I hope you guys wrote some really good stuff.

church nonsense, Jesus


This came up in my Facebook feed today:


With this caption:

“When I die, my kids will never have to wonder why certain books are in my library.” -Nate Pickowicz

It’s just the sort of thing that makes me reluctant.

Even so, I’ll try to never stamp “Pharisaical garbage” on anyone’s book (or Facebook post) because Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And even Paul said,

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”


church nonsense, faith, Jesus, Michigan

Christianity Run Amok

I read a sour post this morning entitled, “The Selfishness of Skipping Church.” It was written by a pastor, a young buck, and it was harsh.

There is a great line in the movie “Remember the Titans” about attitude reflecting leadership, and it makes me wonder whether the problem with church attendance lies there.

As I read, I thought that perhaps some are skipping his church because they are browbeaten at work Monday through Friday and they don’t want to be browbeaten on Sunday, too.

He said skippers are selfish because they aren’t serving. Sometimes I skip so that I can serve. As a female in a Baptist church, I wasn’t allowed to use my gifts for the benefit of the church.  I was relegated to the pews Sunday after Sunday, giving audience to those who had far less Bible knowledge and far less leadership training but far more testosterone.

So I’d get antsy and skip. I’d find the bright places, where boom bands are playing.


Who wants to be called a selfish sinner in church when they can be out on the streets of Detroit offering a plate of food and a few minutes of conversation and dignity to a homeless man?

My grandma used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Yes you do, young buck, yes you do.

church nonsense, Light, war on women



The hub read the first two chapters of Job aloud while I sipped my second cup of coffee.  Then he flipped ahead several pages and read the end of the story.

“Don’t worry,” he said.

I recognized those words as a reference to yesterday’s post which, he said, brought Job to mind.

“I know I’ve said it before,” I remarked, “but I’m always struck by the ending. Before Job’s face to face encounter with God – when his ears had heard of Him, but his eyes had not yet seen Him – back when he spoke of things he did not understand, his daughters were not in the party hosting rotation, they were always mere guests.

But after he saw God and spoke with Him face to face, he saw things more clearly. And suddenly his new daughters were named in Scripture and they were given a portion of his inheritance.”

Because once you really know God, you understand the value of women.

Which is why I am disenthralled with pastors who hold so tightly to the mis-teachings and/or mistranslations of Paul when it comes to the role of women in the church. They have heard of God, but they have not seen Him. Their knowledge of Him is limited by their loyalty to the traditions of men.  Like Job, they are going through the motions. And, like Job, I am sure they are sincere in their reverence for God. They just don’t know what they are talking about. Who they are talking about. And I have a hard time sitting in their audiences.

If those pastors had ever really seen Him, they, like Job, would completely change their minds about God’s daughters and give them an equal share of His inheritance – and an equal opportunity to host His parties.

The hub said, “Amen.”

And then he went fishing.

But before he left I told him I am asking God to unveil Himself in a mighty way in Detroit on July 25.

Being a man of action, the hub immediately made the sound of something exploding. “Maybe the statue will be struck by lighting, or disintegrate before their very eyes.”

I, being a woman of contemplation, added, “or maybe He will do the Damascus Road thing – you know, speak to the leaders of the event and ask them why they are persecuting Him.

Whether it is a spectacular external sign like the one with Elijah on Mt. Carmel, or a subtle internal movement like the one in the heart of the thief on the cross, is up to Him.

Either way, or both ways, it will be powerful.

Copyright 2015, Light & life