The Backyard Preacher # 186 “The Lost Years of Jesus.”

Ever wonder what Jesus was up to during the years in which the Bible mysteriously remains silent about?  What was he doing during this time?  

The Lost Years of Jesus
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Is Religion Dangerous?

Is religion dangerous? My answer is no; but also a resounding YES. First at the heart of all religious systems the intent is to journey from the profane to the divine. One would think this would be a wonderful human development of seeking a higher power for the good of humanity. The higher power may be on the outside such as a God or God’s, or the divine is finding ones higher self. Religions of the world vastly differ on how one takes this path.

The varying religious paths prescribed towards divinity shows the beauty of diverse cultures. Religion becomes a danger when one religion demands that they are correct and others are not. Secondly the adherents of the religion feels it is their duty to God to impose doctrine by force.

Two religions have been known to cause the greatest amount of danger to humanity. That is Christianity and Islam. People of these faiths have killed and suppressed nations. Subjected mass amount of anguish upon differing beliefs with laws suppressing the rights of non adherents.

Why, it has not always been this way? Yet even very early in Christianity’s history fights over correct doctrine took place. When Rome saw the opportunity to use Christianity as a way to help control and unite the empire the Roman Catholic church became the enforcer of God and king within Europe.

War was waged against Islam the fairly young religion that was sweeping the middle east by force. A fight that is still in place today. All of this stems because religions such as Christianity and Islam are absolute in their doctrines and pathways to God.

In our modern world religion is used in American politics such as the election of Donald Trump. Yet this is not new. Kings would often claim they ruled by divine right and who can argue with God?

My proposal for religion especially that of Christianity which I am apart of, is the elimination of dogma and doctrine. A true freedom of religion that I pray also on Islam. Let each person be his own pope. Let each person decide the best path within their chosen faith. Let each person develop a path to the divine based on their own understanding of their faith. A faith that all is permitted under love.

In my heart this is what Jesus taught.

Why I am a Proud Heretic

Why would anyone within the Christian faith desire to be known as a heretic? Cast out like a leper, always on the verge of getting stoned; and not the good kind of stoned! Sooner or later your orthodox friends will stop arguing with you, they will either accept you for who you are or pray for your eternal soul. Some may tell their friends that it is best not to associate with you because your heresies could lead them astray. I personally have been deleted on Facebook by many people including pastors who did not wish to view or argue my questions. Some have removed me from their social media as they fear I may influence their friends. I am flattered by the attention. I ask questions, but what I ask may not be what I believe. What if I do not know what I believe? What is wrong with asking questions pertaining to the very core of the faith? After all, as a Christian we are devoting our lives to this thing; might as well know what is really going on!

Here is the deal; the last execution for heresy took place in 1826 his name was Cayetano Ripoll. He was a Spanish school teacher who was put to death for supposedly teaching beliefs that were said to be deist. Yes, 1826 that was only about 200 years ago. Up until the modern era people have been frightened by the idea of thinking for themselves. Over the span of hundreds of years we have micro evolved into a people who give religious authority to the supposed chosen. This is very sad. The United States was founded by prominent deist who insisted on a separation between the church and the state. No longer will religion and government mingle; no longer will religion have authority over someone’s life. For the sake of freedom, for the love of country and my fellow Americans I am a proud questioner of the faith. I am a proud heretic!

Those that made decisions during the religious councils were no better than you or I. Generally as Protestants, like it or not, most orthodoxy is derived from the early councils.  These guys did not even have a consensus of the divinity of Jesus. They created the doctrines of the faith based on early text which would become the Bible as we know it today and by the opinions of the members of the ecumenical councils which was led by the Pontifex Maximus. This was not a priest trained in theology this was the pagan Empower of Rome; Constantine. The Roman emperor was the high priest of all the Roman religions and this would now include Christianity.  Of course they changed the name from College of Pontiffs to ecumenical councils to distance themselves from the pagan past. What is important is just as the council members rendered their opinion so you have authority in your opinion. Contrary to popular belief we can have a church with doctrines as different as its members.

A church with different opinions and beliefs, how can this be? Simple, the members of the church only need to live within the love of God. You may not believe the same way as your fellow but love teaches to be forever patient and kind. You may wish to dictate your opinion of the faith, but love teaches we should not be self-seeking. We should not hate, we should not boast, we should not hurt others. We must hope all things, believe all things, and when this world passes away we will one day know all things. Until then we know nothing. In fact we know less than nothing. The first step is to admit to yourself and God that we are lacking. If it is that simple, why do we make it so hard? We are human, that is my excuse. My simple teaching comes from 1 Corinthians 13 because of this teaching I am generally viewed as a heretic. I cause division because I seek to ultimately unite. I would have once been burned at the stake yet here I stand a proud heretic!

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What Would Jesus Think of Church?

Most religious people who take their religion seriously are usually a bit crazy. As a Christian I point to my own faith which I do take seriously although in my opinion most Christians feed into the lies the church tells them. Although I will be merciful and give most Christians a pass. It takes a lot of work which involves serious study to understand that much of what the church tells us is only opinion.

These opinions were first argued during the early days of the church. They would debate a variety of subjects. Who was Jesus? What should be in the Bible? Heaven, hell and everything in between. Yes, literally even in our Protestants churches, like it or not have been heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism. Fear and control are the name of the game.

While Jesus tells us to live without fear, the church is not very receptive. Fear of hell is the major controlling doctrine. But, let’s not forget fear of the opposite sex (for reasons of purity), homosexuality, movies, books, music, anything that may be against the opinions of what the church is. Of course, I have my own opinions of a church and without sounding too much like a hypocrite. I will say that it is virtually impossible not to allow our opinions get in the way. We could agree however not to have opinions that cause fear and behavior modification.

So, what is the church then? The church is you and I; the people. The church is a gathering in the name of Jesus in order to explore how to be as Jesus was. To help each other and community as Jesus did. Not to dictate rules and regulations on how to please God. God does not need us to do things that “pleases” him. God is already pleased with us. If God was not pleased with us from the beginning, then Jesus coming to earth would have never been in the cards.

Church is a good idea, although I do not know if it has ever lived up what Jesus had in mind. A simple reading of the book of Acts and this becomes a realization. I think that we must keep in mind that we are human. We are filled with all kinds of weaknesses and those are reflected even in the church of an almighty God. We should not give up on the church. We can improve the church.

1. Remove opinions we call dogmas and doctrines and get back to the very basics of love.

That’s it, one step. Super easy right? Yea like to see church leaders try this one. I suppose that we can, and it can start with you and me.

 

 

 

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In the Beginning; You!

            In the beginning; you!  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV).  Dare I say again, in the beginning; you.  You have been with God and you are of God, you were amongst the creation of the heavens and the earth.  This is a truly beautiful and powerful statement if you take into consideration what this means for your identity.

            With so much going on in the world it is easy to get become mentally overwhelmed.  It’s easy to lose sight of our spirituality.  We see divided lines that separate us by religion and even within our own religions often even deeper trenches of division.  We can easily forget who we are in the universe.  This lack of identity is the cause of much of the negativity that is taking place in the world.

            We do not have to try to understand God, we are God.  It is our birthright.  The angels have looked upon us with envy.  We are given the keys to the kingdom, but often have forgotten how to use them.  Taking hold of our birthright, waking up as Christ on earth is the ultimate in self-realization.  This will also take an extraordinary amount of faith.

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            Faith is the power of the universe; it is the action that creates.  Faith declares what exist before manifestation. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).  “The God who gives life to death and calls into being things that was not.” (Romans 4:17, NIV).  These are powerful verses of the creating power of God; your creating power.  You are only limited by your doubt.

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            What is then the beginning if there is no end? There is then beginning and only landmarks that light the path of eternity.  You are this, and this is you.  We are often blinded by the constantly growing scales of doubt and deception.  It is not easy being assigned to live within these bodies; we long for our redemption.  Yet as a fresh seed planted must go through the stages until death in order to be rebirthed to greater life.  Hold to the faith; create a life for the benefit of others, and accept no limitations.

 

 

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The Church and I; An Honest Look.

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           I know often my writings can be a bit critical of the church.  So essentially I am being critical of God’s people; maybe even critical of God?  While I would not be the first one, or the last to be very opinionated, having the desire, or dare I say the need to question my faith.  I want to share some inspirational words to those who feel that they do not belong in the church; or feel the church is not what it once was to them.  I can write this because the church is not what it once was for me.

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            When I was in my late teens and twenties the church was the place to be.  It was the happy bliss first time heroin users feel.  Unfortunately it is something we often chase for a lifetime, always trying to find that new spiritual high that kept us coming back.  Yet just as good as it feels the chasing will let us down and soon we have spiritual track marks from injections of the next paradigm shift.  It takes a real good spiritual junkie to make it through a whole life dedicated to the church.  Although some great sages who often lurk, not in the pulpit so much as the pews.  These guys are real Christ like gurus.  They have it figured out and make us wonder why not me?  Or, maybe they are junkies too and just have a good way of hiding it.

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            Through my personal adventures I have racked up a lot of study and prayer time.  I even have a good amount of formal theological education.  Yet it seems like the more I think I know, the more cynical I become.  This has happened especially as I have entered my later 30’s.  I do not feel the need to impress anyone.  For many years I attended church and had one major intention, to get a job as a pastor.  I found out unless you have parents in ministry within the flavor of Christianity that I am from it can be a difficult task.  That on top of my own baggage I carry as an ex-felon and someone who has abused alcohol and other drugs in the past and carry a scarlet letter and guilt, that I know does not belong, but still lingers.  I think that can be a driving force behind many of us in similar situations.  For me it is about reaching to higher heights academically; probably the reason I am a doctoral student.  I want to prove I am better than my doubters.  Probably the reason I started my own flop of a ministry “The Backyard Preacher” which consists of this blog and a podcast.  It is probably why I am critical of many preachers and ministries; especially the ones that think they have the answers, I hate that!  No one has all the answers!  The church has not done me wrong for say, I have just not yet achieved what I thought I wanted out of the church.  I wanted to be a great leader, preaching with passion to thousands of people.  I wanted to be a world changer for Jesus and live the life of the preacher on TV.  Houses, cars, women, lots of money; I would probably be in jail faster than Jim Bakker can sell a tub of apocalypse food.

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            Here is the inspirational part of my story.  My church attendance is not what it used to be.  My ego centric desire to become a Christian leader is shrinking, as I have been humbled.  While the desire and “calling” to the pastorate is still there; If I never hold the official position It is whatever.  I am becoming more satisfied morphing into one of those Christian sages who can which can only be attained though trials, disappointment, and acid trips.  Understanding that the Christian life is fully emotional, but at the same time fully built upon faith that requires no action.  I have written much about faith and how we innately feel we must do some kind of performance to be worthy.  The sage understands that there is no amount of work that can make us worthy.  Basically what it boils down to is that we stop playing church.  We stop acting like Jesus took all our evil desires away and that life is grand.  We stop trying to be someone we are not.   What is inspirational about all this?  I have, and I am continuingly coming to realize that I can just be me.  If being me is good enough for God, it is good enough for the church.

 

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Progressive Christianity; A Christianity for All People.

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            Progressive Christians ARE Christians, we are not a sub group of Christianity, rather we feel we have found a flavor of Christianity that Jesus would best be associated with. We are Christians who preach the gospel of love and salvation from self.  A message of love, a desire for peace and tolerance to all people; this is a general description of what progressive Christianity is about.  This is counter to many in the conservative evangelical world who hold to strict theological doctrines and dogmas in fear of hellfire and brimstone.  Progressive Christianity does not embrace fear. As the scripture states “perfect love cast out all fear.” (1 John 4:18).  In many ways our flavor of Christianity can bring many together in unity around the simple idea of love.

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            It is time to forget about your mother’s Christianity and step into the new age.  I am speaking primarily of hardcore fundamentalism.  When I was growing up it was all about hellfire and brimstone and salvation of souls.  I was so scared half the time that I think I was “saved” every Sunday.  You do not need to be a theologian of any status to understand that this is not what Jesus wanted.  Bringing people into the church by way of fear is no better than putting a knife to ones throat and telling them “convert or die.”  Who wants to enter heaven under compulsion?  Would you really be entering heaven? Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven being within our mist.  Yes, Jesus did also speak of hellfire, sin, and evil; yet humanity has overemphasized the darkness and forgot the light.

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            Progressive Christians are often very political and lean towards liberalism.  This is often due to our stance on love and inclusiveness.  We do not want to compete for ownership of the church; we just want to be the church.  Conservative Christians are generally republicans who vote primarily for the “pro-life” candidates even if the candidate drops bombs on refugees and sends men and women to die for self-interest.  They may not always admit it, but generally their churches are primarily white, anti-LGBT, nationalist, who would rather have a theocracy instead of freedom.  Progressive Christians are “pro-choice” although that is misleading as well.  Abortion is not a laughing matter and we take it very seriously.  We support the LGBT community and often our most senior leaders are members of this community.  Many of us believe in workers’ rights, universal healthcare, and tax payer funded education; that a person working a full time job should earn a living wage with enough for leisure.  We do not believe in a water downed gospel; instead we hold to the gospel of Jesus, understanding we are all on a journey of faith that cannot be outlined and fit into a box.  We are looked upon as liberal because our faith compels us to be like Jesus.  God is a globalist and loves all people.  Progressive Christians do not believe that you can contain the love of God.  God’s love is too big for that!  God’s love is for all.  Our love is for all!