Milestone: 4000

Well… I am floored… in just 21 days the blog has received an additional 1000 page views!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SUPPORTING THE  ME AND MY BLOG!

Please keep sharing, liking, commenting, etc.  

Here’s to another 1000!

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part VI

In the wake of the tragedy of Aurora, Colorado, I give you another reason why people aren’t Christians.

I could spend all day everyday on why Westboro Baptist Church makes it hard for the rest of Christianity. The members and leader of Westboro Baptist have made waves for protesting homosexuals, preaching that homosexuality is a sin and because of this sin God is punishing the United States by allowing terrible acts to occur and not protecting US soldiers in the country’s current conflicts overseas. Because of this belief, this group has also begun a tradition of picketing at solider funerals which has caused national outrage.

Well the people from Westboro are at it again.

According to their fearless leader, Fred Phelps, the membership of Westboro are going to Colorado to protest during a vigil for the those killed at the “Dark Knight Rises” premiere. See the tweet below and read the story here

One of the many problems I have with Westboro Baptist Church is that in my humble theological opinion they are completely distorting the gospel message. Their message is one that is egocentric and one where to have a relationship with God one must also be completely afraid of messing up. This is not the relationship that God is calling humanity to be in. This theological construct makes God look worse than a bully god, rather this particular understanding of God is one where God is a supreme overlord of hate and destruction. No grace, no love, no care, no forgiveness, no acceptance of others. To the members of Westboro Baptist, God is a God who likes things separated into either this or that, your either in or out and surprisingly they believe they are on the “right” side of God, that they believe the correct theological understanding and they have it all figured out.

In this particular situation, how does protesting a vigil aimed at bringing a community together and remember the loss of innocent life bring people to God? Answer in a nutshell, it doesn’t it. Do they truly believe that the family of the 12 people murdered want to hear that God in punishing America because of their ‘wicked ways’ and this same God chose their loved ones out of the 300 million people in the United States to suffer this punishment? Where do they get off thinking that they have the audacity to speak this vile non-sense to the people of Aurora, Colorado? And who would ever want to worship this particular God? And isn’t convenient that they just happen to believe the perfect belief system that God is calling humanity to follow?

Westboro Baptist has been one of the several black eyes that has plagued the world of Christianity. Their message is one filled with righteous indignation. I guess their Bible left out the whole “speck in your neighbor’s eye and log in your own” message of Jesus and the one about the unity and ministry of all believers. While they are busy wasting money promoting the anti-gospel, imagine what good they could have done if they had saved their money (which by the way was donated to the church) and used it for a cause like stopping poverty, violence, rape. Why not give the money to organization that provide clean water for millions of people who do not have access to it? Is their God a God who is solely concerned with homosexuality and “wickedness” that the rest of the gospel message doesn’t matter? I find this hard to believe.

Followers of Christ from all walks of life are called to bring the gospel message of love, joy, peace, grace and reconciliation to the world. It through this love of Christ and devotion to God that one makes the choice to live a different life. It is not “live a different life so God will accept you”, rather it is accepting God will cause a life change. It will because of the overwhelming presence of God and the awareness of the Spirit that will cause the change. Changing for the sake of pleasing a mean, bully, hate-filled God doesn’t help anyone.

The people of Aurora, Colorado need comfort in a time of complete uncertainty and loss. It is not a time to put salt in already gaping wound.

I hope that the people of Aurora will do what the people of College Station, Texas did and make a wall of people around the protestors so that family members and loved ones can mourn, remember and grieve in peace.

And Mr. Phelps or any member of Westboro Baptist Church if you are reading this, go back to your Bible and count the number of times Christ calls us to love one another despite our differences. You might be surprised… Christ tends to focus on it a lot.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people of Aurora as well as those who are going to protest.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

What Is Sacred To You?

Here is my latest article for the Orange County Record.


One of the aims of religion is to determine what is sacred or holy verses what is secular or profane.  Debates have been held to try to navigate this delicate delineation.  In Christianity the understanding of holy is pretty complex.  It is generally understood that the source of holiness in itself is God, but outside of that it is a bit difficult to pin down.

Some people believe that God is calling Christianity to a particular way of life: abstaining from certain actions, alcohol, foul language and pre-marital sex.  However others believe that if the followers of Christ should hold true to the commands of Jesus himself.  Others hold to the teachings of the writers of the letters and epistles more than anything else.  And still others believe in a combination of all three.  As you can see the sacred is not something that one can put in a check list and hope to attain easily.

For every person that proclaims to be a follower of Christ, there are that many understandings of God and expressions of what it means to serve Christ faithfully today.  On top of that, the notion of what is sacred varies from person to person as well.

This however this is not a bad thing when it comes to Christianity.  Too often the church is seen as a place that dictates laws or recites laws that they believe are from God.

The church is not a place that makes rules or establishes what it means to be holy, rather the church is a place where people can come and share their experiences and their expressions of faith.  By changing the mind set about what church is, people might have a better understanding of what Christianity is really about, trying to live as faithfully as possible to the teachings of God and Christ.

The problem that the church has found itself in is that it is trying too much to remove itself and fellow followers of Christ from the secular society, to try to make a holy community.  The problem with is that if we cannot agree on one proper interpretation of scripture then how can we begin to broach the question of what is sacred?

Each person has their own understanding of what is sacred.  I recently attended a seminar in which the keynote speaker stated that every person has their own personal canon when it comes to faith expression.  By canon I do not mean a weapon but an authoritative guide of what is holy.  For Christians the canon which guides their life is the Bible.  But even with that said, the Bible is different between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations. The word canon comes from a word that means “measuring stick,” so when we claim that the Bible is a canon, then we are stating that we use it to measure our lives and actions against it.

Many things can be sacred to people: scriptures like Psalm 23, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4.  Things like music, art and dancing can bring us to a place of connection with the Divine; they can renew our faith and soul.  All of these things transport us to a deeper relationship with God and you may never have to set foot into a ‘church’ to find it.  During our life when the hard times set in we will all return to that place of comfort and rest; we will go to our sacred canon.  We will return to that place to seek out God once more.

Most people’s canons will grow and change over time and that is just fine.  Our relationship and understanding of God can never be static.  As we mature and have differing life experiences our view of God will change; this does not mean that the central driving message of God’s love for all and the acceptance of all people changes, rather the way that we understand God moving and working in the world does.

What is sacred to you may not be sacred to me.  What connects you to the divine may not connect me.  But by having conversation with the central understanding that we are all serving and worshiping the same God, then we might actually learn from one another.  I might not be a practicing member of an Orthodox church but I can learn from their liturgy, I might not be a practicing member of a Catholic church, but I can learn from their devotion to prayer and confession.

In the week ahead come try to find those places what connect you to the divine.  Do not try to find them in a list of rules or commands, rather in nature or art or in the so called secular world around you.  If we claim that God is everywhere then why are we only looking for God in a set of rules?  God is found a stream in the forest and in a painting by Van Gough.

Where will you see God and experience the sacred?  You might be surprised where you have overlooked God.

“What Does Your Church Believe?”: Part V- Ministry of All Believers

This is my final installment of my church newsletter series “What Does Your Church Believe?”


This is the fifth and final installment of my “What Does Your Church Believe?” series. So far I have looked at the importance of open communion to DOC theology, the notion of freedom of belief, the belief in the oneness of the church and the understanding of baptism in the DOC. Today we will look at Disciples of Christ’s understanding of ministry and how it is extended to all.
The Disciples of Christ is unique in many different ways but for me one of the best aspects of the denomination is how ministry is done by everyone; this is known as the “ministry of all believers.” This idea comes from the notion that all are unified in Christ and through that mutual understanding we are all able to ministry to others.
Just because I am an ordained minister does not mean that I have all of the resources, gifts, talents and tools to provide effective ministry to all members of the body of Christ. Yes I have been to seminary and have a theological degree but there are some things that God has not gifted me with.
In a Disciples of Christ congregation all are called to be stewards of the word and ministers in word and deed. In our denomination, ordained and lay persons alike can serve at the table, serve communion, proclaim the word and minister to those sick and hurting. Some might say that this is against what the Bible is calling for the church to be. However, this is not how I understand the nature of God and the calling of a follower of Christ to be. In the Bible we find many places where the scripture writers are calling on all of the followers of Christ to be become one and utilize their gifts and talents for the common good of the church and the world.

Ministry today is too complex to be left to one person or a group of carefully selected people. Why would God create someone with certain abilities just to have people in the church leadership say that they were not good enough for God? Ministry is not about seminary, it is not about power, it not about standing in front a group of people, it is about faithful expressions of praise, care, love and worship.

Let us empower all of the followers of Christ to use their gifts for the glory of God.

In Christ,
Rev. Evan

Sermon- Man Vs. Wild

Today I preached a sermon entitled “Man Vs. Wild” based on Matthew 4:1-11.

Sermon Link

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

America’s Only Hope?

My latest article for the Orange County Record


As the election season is about kick into high gear, the number of political attack ads will increase exponentially the closer we draw to November.  The claims will begin small by showing voting records and then will grow into personal attacks.  There is 141 days until the general election and it is only going to get worse.

One of the claims that political figures like to postulate is that they are the only hope for the future of America, their ideals and the country.  Each side of the isle will believe that they are the sure fire answer for America.  The other day I saw a bumper sticker and a yard sign that caught my attention.  It wasn’t for a certain political candidate or party, rather it read “Prayer: America’s Only Hope- 2 Chronicles 7:14.”

I looked up the scripture and it reads, “if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land,” (CEB 2011). This scripture is taken from a declaration from God to King Solomon.

There are some problems, however, with using this scripture for the sole advancement of the United States.  First, this scripture is taken out of context; this verse is taken from the middle of a sentence that God spoke of Solomon.  The complete sentence is “When I close the sky so that there is no rain or I order the locusts to consume the land or I send a plague against my people, if my people who belong to me will humbly pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (CEB 2011).  The author of 2 Chronicles is showing us that to the Israelite people there is a connection between what God is doing and what God can do.  The hinging factor in all of this is the willingness of the Israelite people.

Secondly, what “wicked ways” is this scripture calling humanity to turn away from?  Is there a list somewhere that I am not aware of?  Some would argue that it should be the scriptural laws contained within the Bible, but then which ones do we follow?  Does this mean that every God fearing Christian should be held to the 600+ laws contained in the Old Testament?  Or are these “wicked things” just a smattering of what certain religious communities and leaders believe is the true will of God?  Given the sheer number of Christian denominations and expressions how could one list ever be completely agreed upon?

With this said, this scripture cannot be applied to today and the current American economic or political landscape.  If we are to take the theology of this segment of scripture then we are stating that God is a vengeful, bully God.  We are staying that God is a God who will only do things for humanity if humanity acts a certain way.  Proponents of this theology believe that the problems faced in society and the world can all be solved if the world would just repent and turn back to God, then and only then would God be nice enough to grant the world peace and harmony.  Is God really that mad about so called “wicked things” that the one recourse God has is to send plagues and do nothing?  Is God punishing America for Harry Potter or Magic Mike?   I have a hard time believing this is the case. This is not the God that I know, love and serve.  Where’s the unconditional love that is espoused in churches and what about that amazing grace we proclaim?  Is that out the window because of the “decline of American values?”

God is not a God who sits on a throne and waits for people to mess up so that God may send a lightning bolt to the evil doer.  I am not saying that prayer is not a useful tool to connect with the Divine and to enter into a relationship with God, but thinking that just because you lied or stole a piece of gum when you were a child means that the suffering you are going through is your fault is far off the mark.

In a world where we like facts, to know why something is the way it is, we have a hard time understanding the movement of God in the world.  Why is there so much poverty in such a prosperous land?  Why are there so many cases of disease?  Why are children going to be hungry at night?  All of these questions and many more can keep us up at night but the fact of the matter is, the answer is not that they forgot to repent for some “wicked thing.”  As followers of Christ we called to bring wholeness to the broken, completeness to the incomplete.  This is not done by placing a bumper sticker on our cars or a putting a sign in our yard.  It is done by serving faithfully and boldly in a world that is desperate need of a ray of hope, care and love.

I am not saying that prayer is not needed in the world today, but claiming that God will restore the world when all of humanity thinks one particular way about God is a bit much.  It puts a lot of pressure on the followers of Christ and on God.  Let’s just work for the betterment of the world and stop blaming one another.

And One More Time… Camp: Part III

Here we are again… I am going to my third camp of the summer but at this one I will not be speaking at it.  I am looking forward to this particular camp because it will be held at the camp I grew up going to as a youth, Disciples Crossing in Athens, Texas.

This camp is the Leadership Seminar for youth servant leaders from around the states of Texas and New Mexico.

When I attended this seminary back in High School it was great to meet people from all over the state and hear how they were running their camps and how they were being a part of the body of Christ.  I hope to have the same expereince as an adult leader.

Be sure to check out my twitter page (click here) for updates along the way!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Mission Trips For The 21st Century

Here is my latest article for the Orange County Record.


When I was in High School I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and New York City.  This was no ordinary trip; it was not a family vacation or a school sponsored trip, rather it was a mission trip hosted by my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  High School students from Oklahoma and Texas met in Dallas to begin our adventure.  The theme of the trip was “Poverty and Homelessness in the Big City.”  During our trip we were going to meet with people and organizations that had devoted their lives to the cause of serving the poor and the homeless in DC and New York City.  This was no ordinary mission trip; it was something that I still remember clearly to this day.

During our week long journey, we served meals to people from all walks of life; we talked with them about their life, listen to their stories of hurt, pain and even struggle with addictions.  Coming from a medium sized town, I was not exposed to the homelessness on the scale that I witnessed in New York City.   Sure I knew that they more than likely existed but it wasn’t something that I thought about.  Because of this trip, I became more aware of the people in my city that needed assistance.

Now that it is the summer, churches are gearing up (or already have) for mission trips.  Generally the appeal of mission trips to go different places to see a different part of the country or even the world.  Mission trips, especially for youth and young adults, are essential when it comes to faith development.  These experiences, memories, discussions and connections provide a foundation for what is means to be a follower of Christ in the 21st century.  Seeds of faith are planted as a result of these trips.

In 2007, I was blessed to go to the continent of Africa, more specifically the country of Malawi.  I was there for about two weeks, touring the country, visiting with local missionaries and church leaders.  I saw people who lived in one of the poorest countries in the world cling to their faith in God.  At one of the churches I visited, one of the leaders showed us an area in the back of the church.  It was a small room but it was filled with bags of corn, wheat and flour.  It was recently harvest time and the members of the church donated ten percent of their crops to the church so that the church could use it to serve other people.  When the group I was traveling with return to the United States we had conversations about our experiences.  Many of us agreed that we went to Malawi to find a way to help the people in that country with some need that had rather it was water or sanitation, but all returned changed.  The people of Malawi through their generosity and bold faith in spite of what was going on in their life transformed us; we were not the same people when we returned.  Our hearts were filled with the goodness of the people, our souls were renewed by the faith that was expressed and our eyes were opened to a culture and people full of life and devotion.

Mission trips in their inception were started by people who wanted to share the message of Christ to those who had not heard it before.  Missionaries would risk their lives going into areas where the story of Christ had not been told before.  But now, mission trips have evolved.  There are not areas where the gospel has not been spread to, there not places were missionaries have not already been, so what are the point of mission trips now?

Mission trips have the power to impact those attending the trip just as much as those who are being served.  These trips have a way of exposing us to things that we rather not see or talk about.  If we are going to be followers of Christ in the 21st century then the idea of mission trips has to change.  The idea of swooping into a place and announcing that you have all the answers is not what people are looking for.  Anyone can build a house with Habitat for Humanity or even feed the homeless.  The focus of the mission trip should be on what God is doing the world and how we as followers of God can join in.  Missionaries of old believed they were bringing God to the people, but now the mind set should be finding God where we go, knowing that God as been there for a while now.

On most of the mission trips I have been on it wasn’t always the big service projects that made the most impact.  It might have been a nightly devotion or story of why a homeless shelter was started.  So as many churches send their members off to serve others, let us remember that God has been on this voyage long before we arrived, let us be open to the transformation that is possible when we open ourselves up to what God is doing and has already done.

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part V

It has been a while since I have had to write in this series… but alas, Christians are giving Christians a bad name… again.

I want to thank my friend Amy for sending me this story, you can read it here.

Today we venture to the state of Alabama, known for its tolerance and racial equality… right?  Think again….

A Christian ministry based in Alabama held a ministry conference.  There was however one stipulation, it was for white people only… that’s correct, a white only Christian conference.

After doing a bit more research and watching some news videos (one posted below) I was shocked (sarcasm) to find out that the conference had KKK ties.

I respect every human beings right to believe what they want but the KKK is one that I have problems wrapping my brain around.  The notion that one particular race is the superior one and that it was ordained from God is logic that escapes me.

For starters, Jesus Christ himself wasn’t white. (I dont care what Hollywood or pop culture tells you… examples here, here and here and even the most popular one here). You would think that if God was going to make the white race the superior one, that God would indwell in a white man.  Secondly, if God is pro-white as these people claim, then why did God create other races to the begin with?  So they could be picked on, ostracized, killed, and tortured because they have pigment in this skin?  Wouldn’t it have just been easier for God not to create the other races and have a pure, white race to inhabit the earth?

Also, where in scripture is this supported?  I can not remember Jesus ever saying “and white people shall inherit the earth…”  In the video below the news reporter tries to ask this question.  The reporter brings up the fact that in Galatians 3 it states that  there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  There are numerous passages in the Bible that speak of the reconciliation of Christ and the unity of all believers.  Sure Christ was seen a counter cultural radical to some, but not a white supremacist.  He didn’t even preach that God was 100% pro-Jewish people either; remember the woman at the well and the parable of the Good Samaritan?  There are other instances where Christ was showing that the God of all the world is wanting to connect with all people of the earth.

The leader of the conference told the reporter that he was taking scripture out of context and was abusing the Bible… isnt that like the pot calling the kettle black? (no pun intended…)  I mean come on… really?  Is this even an argument?  The Bible has been used for and against pretty much every issue under the sun.  However, the notion that in the text there is a decree or teaching that to be a true faithful of God is to have a certain color skin, goes against the foundation of the gospel message itself.  This distorts a text that people have turned to for centuries to connect with the faithful of old, to understand (or try) the movement of God in the world and learn what is means to be a follower of Christ in the world today.

At the conclusion of this event, the white members where going to hold a “sacred cross burning.”   Umm…. OK….

Seriously?  Do they think that if they put the word ‘sacred’ that everyone will be ok with this?  Like sacred murder is ok because it is sacred?  Sacred grilled cheeses taste better because they are sacred?  This is a blatant attempt to justify a practice that has stood as the symbol of hate, racism and bigotry.

All of this is not what Christianity stands for.  Yes, there was a time when the church was on the wrong side of history and supported segregation and even slavery.  But as the church has grown and changed, so have our understandings of God and how God interacts in the world.  For the mast majority of Christians, the idea of burning a cross or segregating people based on skin color is appalling.  Some would argue that the church has not left its segregation roots; many churches today are still prodominately one race or another.  While this is true, it is not mandated by law and there are plently of integrated churches holding worship services together.  Because of this, it shows me that the church has a little more work to do in the area of race relations.  (The Disciples of Christ in 2001 cast a vision of being a “Pro-Reconcillation/Anti-Racism Church, read more about it here.)

The cause of Christ is one that aims to restore all people to wholeness and completeness, to show them a way to connect to the Divine.  Christ welcomed all and so should the church and all of those who claim to be Christ’s followers.

I dont care what color you skin, hair, nails, or clothes happens to be all should be welcomed to experience God.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan



Sermon: “Let’s Celebrate!”

Today I preached a sermon based on Luke 15:1-10 entitled “Let’s Celebrate.”

Enjoy!

Sermon link

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan