Tuesday, December 20, 2011


How about we take this a little further? The only thing we hate more than being wrong is admitting when we are wrong. At least, that's where I have often found myself. Unfortunately, if I am being honest, I’m wrong more than I care to admit. And no matter how wrong I am, I usually try my hardest not to concede. Very rarely do I end an argument with the phrase “You are right!” Even rarer is the occurrence I end an argument with the words “I was wrong!” Even if we know we are wrong, we can argue ourselves into believing we are right.

This has always been the case with religion and politics, because these two arenas are at the core of our being. For the most part, who we are and what we do emanates from them. No wonder it is difficult to admit there is even a possibility we have missed the boat when it comes to these topics. If you don't think that's really the case, look at the history of Christianity! The Church has been responsible for far too many atrocities to mankind. Off the top of my head comes: the crucifixion (although good for us, I’m sure it really wasn’t that great for Jesus). Then there's the whole disagreement about the earth not really being the center of our solar system. That debate didn’t end so well either. And let's not forget two scars most people refer to as The Inquisition and the Crusades. Did the church ever miss the point on those ones? Last, but certainly not least is Martin Luther’s reformation. Now tell me that religion isn't divisive and we hate to concede when individuals take a stand and speak out!

As we begin this discussion, I need you to see why it is essential we question things and seek the truth--no matter the cost. First and foremost, we (rightly so) claim Christianity as the Truth. However, if we are going to be so arrogant to make this claim, it is imperative we know why! The other reason being that many of us, in the Church, have been spoon-fed. Sunday morning has served as an indoctrination of sorts, in which everything spoken from the pulpit has been taken as fact. Understand, in no way am I claiming this is everyone in the Church. Neither am I saying heresy is purposely (or unintentionally) being taught from every pulpit. Nor am I saying we need to debate every idea or principle that comes from those in leadership. But we should, on our own, take the time to weigh things against Scripture. The Bereans did this when Paul (the guy who wrote most of the New Testament) spoke. And God credited their earnestness and sincerity for the truth as righteousness. Shouldn't we be all the more eager to do the same?

I spent four years at a Christian university and was required to go to something like two-thirds--I think somewhere around 50--of the chapel services every year (most of which I enjoyed). I give you this information in hopes you will realize I have heard my share of preachers and I'm not just spouting off about one fortuitous incident. And not to be stereotypical or hate on televangelists, but far too much of what I hear from those broadcasts is the Pepsi One of Christianity; it just isn't quite the same as the real thing. Names will not be mentioned, but some of what I've heard preached from a pulpit or seen proclaimed on television is a far cry from the Gospel I read in Scripture. Hopefully you realize I don't have the market on Jesus or Christianity either--so, by all means, question and research it.

At the onset, I admit some of this, I probably misunderstood. On the other hand, some of the teachings were impossible to misconstrue.

During this particular chapel at college, the guest speaker proclaimed "Jesus wasn't really asleep before the disciples woke him and he calmed the storm." Apparently he was just laying there, half awake, with one eye open waiting for the disciples to come to him for help--even though Scripture says Jesus was sleeping. Now, this does not create some large theological riff, but it simply isn't true. Another interesting thing I heard spoken from a pulpit was that, at the wedding party, Jesus turned the water into grape juice not wine. In my professional opinion, that is no miracle. Give me 15 seconds, a can of juice concentrate, water, and a spoon. Again, this doesn't really take away from the overall message of Scripture, but it could make one wonder how we are to believe the Bible is accurate when it comes to something more sizable like salvation. Of all the ridiculous things I've heard preached from a pulpit, the worst was...well, before I fill you in, make sure you are sitting down. This particular service, the message was concluded with the shocking statement that “Jesus didn't die for you!" No further explanation was given even attempting to clarify his point. That was it! Following the concluding prayer, the shocked listeners ushered themselves out of the service and went about the rest of their day.

Hopefully, I have made my case as to why it is crucial we question things (I reiterate, not necessarily in public--there is a time and a place for everything) and weigh them against Scripture. Even the most well intentioned Christians get it wrong from time to time. I warn you, asking these questions is no easy task. Answering them is even more difficult. But, as Martin Luther said, "Peace if possible. Truth at all costs."


During my tenure as a youth pastor a while ago, I went to several conferences. At one of these said conferences, in Indianapolis, I was first introduced to Bobble-Head Theater. What exactly is Bobble-Head Theater? It is a series of nine videos in which bobble-heads do what they do best. You guessed it, bobble! Well, that and other things. I’m not sure who created the videos—my guess would be a fellow youth pastor—and posted them on YouTube. Of this I am sure, they are quite comical (I have to warn you that you may find them to be, what’s the word--dumb). In each video the main bobble-head, Davey, learns a somewhat valuable lesson.
Episode six, titled What If You’re Wrong, inspired me (que cheesy inspirational music). This episode would serve as a spring board of sorts for me. After leaving the conference, I began rethinking and retooling some of my beliefs. For years I had just accepted the pat answers as fact. Finally, I was able to muster up the courage and actually do some research to find honest answers to my honest doubts.
This episode involves Davey asking each of his friends (which include Mr. T, The Lucky Charms Guy, and Hank Williams, to name a few) “What if you’re wrong?” about their various endeavors. Like Davey, at the end of the episode, I got to thinking, "What if I'm wrong?" What if some of my deeply held beliefs weren't really true at all? Could some of my beliefs be slightly skewed? How would that change things? Having said that, let me give you a disclaimer: in no way is this an attempt to discredit the church or Christianity! My desire through all of this is only to find the truth!

It is here, I have decided to add to the discussion and raise some questions. Take what you will, from the posts that follow, and discard the rest. Through them, I hope to clear a few wrong theologies that have weaseled their way in, thus making our paradigms either blatantly false or at the very least, somewhat skewed.

Now, I know there are some who just cringe at the very thought of asking "What if you're wrong?" Why? Perhaps it is because you, like me, have been raised to believe it is wrong to question your faith or what the Bible says; but most of all we never question the church. Or maybe it is just easier to go with the flow and not rock the boat. Then again, we may not want to honestly answer the question because pride stands in our way. We are right and that’s it; end of discussion. Or we have been avoiding this discussion because it only goes to show we don’t really know it all. And furthermore, we aren’t as in control as we think or would like to be. There is also the possibility we would actually have to alter the way we have been living our lives. You never know, asking the tough questions might even support and strengthen everything we already hold to be true.

If you care to check it out, here's the episode.

To be continued...

Friday, December 9, 2011


As I have previously mentioned in my blog, I don't just get ink for something to do. Let's be honest, having needles breaking your flesh repeatedly isn't the most enjoyable activity. While some aren't too painful, I could still think of other, less painful, things to do. And in case you weren't aware, tattoos don't come cheap either. Actually, let me rephrase that, good tattoos don't come cheap. For that reason, you don't see me with any tribal designs, some popular brand or logo, or various Chinese characters (no offense if you have any of these). Granted, the aforementioned tattoos can have some sort of significance or story behind them; I even know a few individuals like that. But, for me, there wouldn't be a point to them.

Today, we will pick up with the tattoo on my right forearm. More often than not, this is the tattoo I have random people ask me about. It may have something to do with the fact that it isn't in English. Or maybe it's the fact that most of my tattoos are covered and I don't walk around shirtless. When I inform them it's Hebrew, I get two common reactions. The first is a shocking look followed by the question, "Are you Jewish?" (this one never fails to amuse me.) After they come to the realization I'm not, they usually follow it with something like, "The Hebrew language is so beautiful, isn't it?" Remember, I'm a dude! Getting some lettering because it is beautiful isn't my style. While I want my tattoos to be aesthetically pleasing, how beautiful the letters are isn't in my criteria for choosing them. All of this was to tell you that I took a while to decide on this particular phrase. A lof of time was put into researching this and making sure I got it right. This was something, I needed to be constantly reminded of.

Permanently on my forearm is the phrase 'B'tzelem Elohim.' This Hebrew phrase, used in the creation account, is deep with meaning. Essentially, it is a summation of Genesis 1:26-28 where God turns his attention to the creation of man. When translated, at it's most basic level, B'tzelem Elohim means "created in the image of God." I realize this is a pretty basic truth; however, it's the most basic things we have the tendency to gloss over. Reality is that many of us struggle with this truth on a daily basis. Our understanding of its importance is lacking. And, let's be honest, this is a truth we all forget pretty day in and day out. My thinking, then why not get the constant reminder?

This phrase came to me at just the right time in life (funny how God does that). At the time, I was really struggling with some identity issues. To a point, I was unsettled about how things had been playing out lately. To be completely honest, life wasn't how I had expected it to be at that stage in life. I had been out of ministry for over a year, which was kind of rough for me. Afterall, that's why I went to college. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do through most of my college career. But, this was making me question why I spent an exorbitant amount of money for that degree to just hung on my wall. Over several months, the questions began to surface. Did I totally misread God on my calling? Who am I without ministry? What am I really doing with my life?  Am I making a difference at all? Am I a disappointment to those around me?

Every time I look at this tattoo, I am reminded that none of that matters. What is truly important is the fact that I am created in the image of God. Not just any god, but the God. And my identity is solely defined by that reality. Nothing else! A glance at this tattoo eases the need I sometimes have to perform. It reminds me to take my focus off trying to please others and live in the reality that the only one worth pleasing is the one in whose likeness I have been created. And the funny thing is, because of this amazing thing called grace, that will never change...as long as I'm pursuing my creator.