Jesus Freaks, Control Freaks!

Why are Christians such control freaks? I think that it has been embedded into Christianity itself. Many believe that one must stay away from the “world” whatever that means?  That the Christian must watch every move they make so carefully that they do everything in order to please God or be a good “witness.”  The way I look at it, this causes nothing but, anxiety, depression, panic and fear.  Supposedly we were saved by grace and not of ourselves; but that is not good enough.  We always seem to need to add something to the program.  We just cannot leave well enough alone.  Maybe it seems too easy to really believe we are loved.  That a kind God loves us so much he sent his son to die for us.  While the Bible is filled with what I like to interpret as Christian suggestions; Jesus said to love.  That includes loving ourselves enough to not become anxious over the faith that saved us.

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We poison our youth with teaching of abstinence and staying away from the opposite sex as if they were the evil from man’s rib; and vice versa. Even as adults sexuality is such a huge issue within the church.  Please, maybe if we talked about sex more openly we would not have these scandals.  Yet this is just one way that many in church leadership control the people.   I remember growing up not being able to watch TV on Sunday or doing any extra work.  Yet we went out to eat after church with no one ever complaining about the restaurant workers; looking back it is confusing.  I guess it is just human nature.

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Examining our American society we all have been trained, you just do not get something for nothing. You have to work hard to live; that kind of sucks.  God; I did not ask to be born here, couldn’t you have made me an angel?  We must go to school, just to get a job, go into debt, now I must keep that job or loose the house and car; forced labor at its finest, what a scheme!  Who invented this crap?  What if I want to sit around all day and smoke bong hits, read my Bible and go about getting into adventures, helping people as I wonder the earth?  Would they call me a Christian or a homeless man?

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Time to rid ourselves of the shame! When Jesus was walking the earth he would complain about the heavy moral weight that the Pharisees would place on their converts.  Often we come to Jesus and then decide now it is time to be a moral crusader.  Is that what Jesus taught us to do?  Go around teaching people how they should or should not live?  I do not think so.  He taught us to love one another and even that is an impossible feat.  All we can do is try our best and not worry about it.  Jesus said not to worry, so do not worry.  Simple enough, but our human nature insists that there is more to it.  I Wish I could tell you that there was a way out of this mindset.  I do believe that some people are living lives of more freedom than others.  As the apostle sad we need to crucify this flesh daily.

 

 

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Be the Prophet: Understanding Your Ability to Prophesy.

Because of the scope of the topic this post is limited, I only desires to argue the basic definition of prophecy from the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Growing up not only an Evangelical but also a Pentecostal, prophecy is normal place in my theological conversations.  I have found that many people do not understand prophecy and even worse many feel that it is something reserved for a select few.  In the next few paragraphs I will give a basic definition of prophecy and also give you some tips on becoming a prophet yourself.

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When thinking of prophecy many look to the Old Testament books that are considered to be written by prophets.  The Old testament books include; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Laminations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  These five books are known as the Major Prophets this is because of the size of the text not anything special. The Minor Prophets include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.  The New Testament has one prophetic book, that being Revelations.  What makes these books prophetic?  First let us examine what Biblical prophecy is.

Prophecy is a foretelling of something yet to possibly take place. Many prophecies are inspirational or an interpretation of an event.  These certain individuals made proclamations that were interpreted by people as messages from God to man.  These texts were then formed into a large part of the Old Testament.  Only Revelations is considered a prophetic book in the New Testament.  The obvious question then is how did people realize these prophets were speaking in the name of God?  We can look at the life of King Saul Israel’s first king.  The Spirit of God came upon Saul, Saul prophesized: we do not know what he said, yet it was presumably inspirational words, predictions, and admonitions.  So the act of prophesying was not limited to a certain group of people, or just the prophets known in the Old Testament.  The New Testament also gives some details concerning prophecy.  First off, according to Paul prophecy should be the most sought after of all spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14).  Essentially the Christian prophet receives a message from God which should be shared with the church.  I have found with my own experiences as a prophet that this is not limited to the church.  Prophecy is an act in which you become inspired and then you speak the words that have bubbled up inside you.  You begin to understand that it is through faith that what you know what you are saying is from God.  Of course there is the human interface which is corrupt, that is why it is important to also test the prophets.  Basically to test the prophets, simply do not believe something just because they said it was prophetic; this is Biblical, so is common sense.  Not everything a prophet speaks is from God.

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The big question that some of you may have is can I be a prophet?  The overwhelming answer is yes!  Not only is being a prophet something all Christians have the ability to become; the apostle Paul says that it is the spiritual gift that should be most sought after.  I am going to skip a lot of technical details and get straight to the point when it comes to prophecy.  The first thing you need is faith.  Faith in this situation is having the crazy idea that; yes I am a prophet.  That’s right you are a prophet and you can prophesy. Okay, now that you are cool with the fact that you are a prophet, you have to stir yourself up and speak some prophetic words.

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Stir myself up?  Basically what I mean is to get emotional.  Often times we speak prophecy without realizing it.  We can become angry with our current life situation and speak the desires of our heart into the Universe and what may come back is what you asked for.  This has happened to me.  In church a prophetic word can start filling up inside you during a time of prayer or worship.  You might be thinking that this is not from God; yes it is.  Now you must proclaim it, or at least tell someone.  What I do is work myself up through prayer, maybe listen to some inspirational music and get into a trancelike state.  Then cut loose and proclaim with the power of my words.  Remember that heaven and earth was created through sound; so you being God’s creation have the gift of words to create just as God.  You must however believe the words you speak; you must know that they are divine.

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What if I am wrong?  What if I give a prophetic word and it never comes to be?  Simple answer; this will happen all the time.  While you may be influenced by the Spirit of God, the words are still coming from you.  The words then are coming through an interface that is marred by limitations.  I can prophesy that I will win the lottery; it doesn’t mean it will happen.  Will it increase your odds?  I believe that it will.  The thing is, do not be afraid to be the prophet that you are called to be.  Prophesy, have fun it, it is a gift God has given you.  This ability does not only helps yourself, it helps others as well. Be the prophet.

 

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Back on the Grind

As people probably see I am posting alot of motivational sayings. For several months I have been honestly wrecking myself. You might know I am The Backyard Preacher. My favorite line is “Stay Inspired God loves you.” I am being inspired again. Now I know we all go through rough times mental mountains and walls that you have to crush through. Well I am back on my grind. Goal oriented and motivated more than I have ever been in as long as I can remember. It was just 7 years ago I thought my life was over. I have accomplished so much in a short period of time. Now to many it may not seem like alot. But from jails, homeless shelters, and halfway houses. To employed, a bachelor’s and master’s degree. A house filled with more than I need and most importantly a mindset to succeed. 

I have been doing my podcast for 2 years now 113 episodes. It’s a failure, no one listens.  Then I listen to this guy on YouTube he produced hundreds of podcast nobody listened; but he didn’t give up. By the way now he is doing well.  I could have a 1000 episodes and no real listeners. I could just quit and say I am done. Yet the thing is, that the 1001 episode might have been the one that makes the podcast a major success. I would have quit 3 feet from the gold, and that is something I cannot do.

Blessings today my friends never give up!

The Making of The Backyard Preacher.

I was thinking tonight as I was having a conversation tonight with my girlfriend. Talking about life it’s twist turns and the what if this, and what if that. After my spiritual awakening at 16 I was very spiritual, my leaders presumed I would be a young up and coming pastor.  Then some twist and turns appeared in my life and I was married and a heavy drinking U.S. Army soldier .  I still had the dream of pastoring but it seemed far away.  So tonight I wondered, what if.  Then during contemplation I said to myself I would have been one of those fundamental conservative pastors who only stayed within their culture.  I probably would have found Biblical education at a institute falling in line with the rest of my peers.  I probably would have never actually learned to think. Although I probably would have not become an ex con and substance abuser.  One thing for sure is I would never have become The Backyard Preacher.  I would have never learned to conduct biblical research earning my Masters in Religion through taking courses online; this partly because I lost my license and know one would hire me because of a felony conviction for theft.  This created a deep anger and to be honest selfish advocate for felons trying to do the right thing in life but still treated as second class citizens.  I wouldn’t know what it was like to spend time with many different cultures and ethnicities through my military service and factory jobs.  To be able to empathize with homosexuals, minorities, and others with substance issues.  Maybe all things do work out for a reason. Maybe God has led me down this path for such a time as this.   Maybe I am becoming the pastor who wants his congregation to think about what I preach and for homework come to a different conclusion other than mine.

I am wondering if some of the problems within the fundamental conservative church today is leaders who are trained not to think. Yet only adhere to the old saying “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  Instead to actually research and challenge the pastor to teach one another to sharpen each other.  To limit dogma take away rules that weigh each other down and truly be free as a church under Christ.  So not to be long winded this was only going to be a Facebook post but I thought it would be a bit long.  If you listen to my podcast The Backyard Preacher I encourage you to challenge me, come up with different conclusions. Do your own research we should all be willing and able to step up to the pulpit and lead.  

So all in all, I have been through a lot of self-made crap in my life. Yet through it all I have become The man and Christian I am today because of it.    

Nate Sprott-“CYNIC” A Comedy Special

Nate Sprott takes you on a no holds barred look into the madness of religion in this first comedy special.  If you get offended easy you might as well not listen!

The Backyard Preacher Podcast #77 (Pope Francis & the Argument of Universalism)

Pope Francis set off a firestorm in the religious world with his latest homily, claiming that it was better to be an atheist than a bad Christian.  Nate takes a look at this along with the Pope’s claim of Christian universalism.

The Backyard Preacher #76 (Transcendence)

Nate talks about the transcendence of the human spirit into a more capable medium, that being the machine.  How is this still compatible with Christianity?  Nate also talks about the possible simulation of this life and continuing to follow your passions despite being trapped in a program.

The Backyard Preacher #75 (The Motivational)

Nate looks at Mark chapter 4 and what many look upon as a text relating to salvation Nate re examines the text and discovers that it is full of motivation.

The singularity of Christianity (Escaping From the Divisions Within the Church)

Let’s just admit it in the United States right now I have never seen the protestant church more divided since the civil rights movements; which by the way is still going on. I rack my brain on over how we the church of all different flavors can come together regardless of interpretation of scripture, human rules, and dogma in which we place upon ourselves. We cling so hard to these beliefs that we would rather start a civil war than find a way to live in brotherly love with one another. So is it possible to possess a singularity within Christianity? The short easy answer is yes, we already have a singularity; we have Jesus! Yet your Jesus may not be my Jesus, and who is to say which one is right? We could look to the Bible for an answer but through our methods and biases in conducting hermeneutics of scripture meanings change to fit the desire we wish. So let’s face it, a singularity in Christianity is a tall order! Yet it is one we need to at least try to attain. First let me say that this is just a short article to help you expand you mind, this subject could easily be used to write a Ph.D. dissertation which I may consider in the future.

Why are we so divided?    

            I am not going to do a complete history on the division of the protestant church instead I will look at some issues that divide the church today. This can be a very touchy subject. People become very offended if something within their belief system is questioned. Yet one of my mottos is question everything! First, we are divided by denominations, I have a love hate relationship with denominations. While I believe that denominations certainly have their place they also cause an obvious division. Dozens of Pentecostal/charismatic denominations, mainline denominations as well as small and obscure denominations which all believe they know the will of God. Let us not forget the thousands of non-denominational churches which each hold to their own belief system. I for one love worshiping God in different denominations. I have very few fundamentals within my Christianity so I could be attending a United Church of Christ, Methodist, or many of the flavors of Pentecostalism which I am very fond of, worship God, fellowship with his people, and enjoy the diversity of my brothers and sisters.

With denominations aside let us look at a few other major areas which divide us as a church. LGBT inclusion, refugees, American nationalism, also the obsession with rules based on scriptural interpretation which enter the very core of the adherents; especially anything to do with sex. Their simply seems no room for the old saying “I will have to agree to disagree.” As you know these create the left and right, liberal or conservative world in which we live. Usually those with strict fundamental rules are rightwing conservatives and the “agree to disagree people” are the ones on the left. I do not necessarily claim a side, I do not have all the answers. Nobody does! Why do we need such labels? I for one would be considered a liberal Christian yet I would rather be called a Jesus follower. Then again many think I am a heretic! The thing is what do we really know? Fact is we know very little, trying to package our religion into an all-encompassing system which affects every area of our lives will assuredly lead to conflict. While I may offend some as a Christian preacher I must address what I believe causes the biggest division of all. That is fundamentalism, I am not talking about the basic definition of fundamentalism, that being the virgin birth of Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. In fact those are probably the only fundamentals I will say are absolutely true in faith. I am talking about divisions created based on denominational beliefs about everything from baptism, speaking in tongues, prophecy, psychology, tithing, the inerrancy of scripture and its different variations thereof, the list can go on to eternity. I have seen heated debates over whether a person would go to hell if they were not baptized even if they were a confessing Christian. I thought it was silly but the other guy was dead set on his beliefs. Where did he get them? He was taught them probably from the start of his Christian journey and anything else would be apostasy. Hey I once was a very conservative fundamentalist Christian but then I went to seminary and I learned much about scripture and Jesus that I was never taught in church. I admit I do like to have a good argument but I certainly do not wish to divide a nation. That is what is going on right now, a divided nation over variations of religious beliefs.

Four Major areas of debate amongst Christians

            A major issue within the protestant church is LGBT inclusion. As a former fundamentalist I was trained to believe that homosexuality is a sin, along with many other things in a church world obsessed with sex. I find it very interesting that Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality, it is not that he did not know people who were homosexual yet he never mentions it. Jesus does mention sexual immorality, the question is how is sexual immorality defined? Rape, pedophilia, prostitution, these are a few areas of sexual immorality I can think of that the scriptures touch on. Maybe we focus so much on sex because we in fact were created for sex? “Multiply and fill the earth” sex is normal behavior between committed couples. Ellen Page star of the series Gaycation really made it very clear in a world of hate towards the LGBT community she states “Why would anyone choose to be this way?” Well they do not choose, people are born with their orientation. As a Christian I am a believer in ensoulment, I believe that it is very likely that the brain which acts as the antenna for our soul may not be wired to attract the same sex. In fact souls with male orientation may have been placed within a female body and vice versa. I do not want to spend much more time on this issue due to the fact that it could stretch in length more than I wish to write. I do not know all the answers but I do know that this division over sex must be put to an end if we are to see healing and an eventual singularity.

In the news today there is a huge debate over refugees and illegals in the United States, we have just sworn in a new President who is desperate to wall us in and keep others out. Refugees have always been close to the heart of God. There is a vast amount of scriptures that supports the acceptance of refugees in fact the family of Jesus was forced to leave their homeland for Egypt to escape certain death. I have written an article in the past called “No Borders in Paradise” which I encourage you to read. Fact is it is hard to be a Christian if we only use the foreigner for financial gain yet keep them from safety in a time of need. Our country is filled with large overpriced church buildings which could hold millions of foreigners, members of the churches own businesses which could employ these refugees to earn their keep. This country is for everyone, it’s very foundation was established on the freedom of all people and to welcome all people with open arms. Just as Jesus welcomes all we should as followers have our arms opened as well.

As stated above we have a new President who is an American nationalist. His voters are nationalist and a great majority are of the evangelical persuasion. As if this plot of land is more special than any others. I admit I am a globalist, guess what, so is God! American nationalism is causing some of the greatest division within the country and church. We hold to our guns and flags greater than our Bibles and faith. We believe we are superior because of our citizenship and dangle it in front of the faces of the world when they are in need. Yes it is okay to be proud Americans but as the old Sunday school song goes “I am in the Lords Army.” Not the American Army or any other “country” but an Army of Christian soldiers who’s weapons are created from faith and prayer. If we can learn to control are egos, to let go of this idea that America is somehow more special than any other country on earth, to learn to look at the country through the eyes of foreigners we might just decrease some of the division within the church.

Finally I will just briefly touch on the amount of rules each denomination possesses, which probably surpasses the 613 Jewish laws found in the Old Testament. Most rules are based on the interpretation of the New Testament text. For me personally I have found that no rules, no dogma, just Spirit led Christianity is better. There are rules, but no rules when it comes to fellowship as confessing Christians. As I have said many times “we do not know.” We argue and point fingers over logs in our eyes while many of those outside of the church only have splinters. This is not a new phenomenon all you have to do is read the book of Acts to see the division in the church. Yet since the foundation of the church we have had the answer we have had the singularity but we allowed our flesh to get in the way. Remember the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”                       

Into Apostasy and the end of the know it all

So let us just embrace apostasy! Wait, what did I just say? Embrace apostasy! Yes the only way to get back to the singularity which can bring all flavors of Christianity back together is to become an apostate. So many pastors do not pastor they command their flock, they teach a message of “this is how it is or else.” Instead of questioning everything we follow like sheep. The blind leading the blind. In my future church plant the only dogma which will be shared is that of confession, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The belief of the virgin birth, the human/divine nature of Christ his death resurrection and coming return. While that alone can create a lot of debate I believe that these are the basic dogmas of the protestant Christian church. So, let us question everything and learn from one another. “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.”

The Singularity

            So has I have mentioned throughout this article that Jesus is our singularity. Synonymous with Jesus is love. The apostle Paul gives the church in Corinth a wonderfully detailed definition of love. This is found in the New Testament text 1 Corinthians 13. I am not going to copy and paste the text, look it up and read it but here is the verbs that create the verb love. Patient, kindness, modest, humble, does not take advantage of others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, never delighting in evil, always rejoices with truth, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering, it never fails! This is the definition of love. Okay so let us put the word God or Jesus before each one of these characteristics of love. Now let us put your name before each one of these definitions of love. The difficult part is can we live out love? No we cannot fully live out love, by God’s grace we can do the best we can. Yet we do not even do that. We struggle and fight within ourselves leaving us look like fools to those outside of the church. Our division will never bring more to Christ. The singularity of Christianity is love, but are we humble enough?

Can we be humble enough to be like Jesus?

            Only by the grace of God can we actually follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is only when we decide to let go of our ego, that is forget or at least minimize our predisposed ideas about theology, to throw away the idea that the only type of theology is one in which you were born into, found God in, or what the preachers preach on Sunday! Fellow preachers, church leaders, pastors, and priest be ready to do the same thing. We need to open up a dialogue and broaden our horizons working with each other to bring about Christ within the church. This is not easy, I came to this level of consciousness by observation the politics and arrogance of many of my brothers and sisters whom I love yet allowed me to think about my theological practice. Is this really what it is all about? Is everything absolute? What is truth? What is it that makes us so fundamental to the traditions of our various faith traditions? Many would say basic human programming and fear. Well maybe we need to deconstruct ourselves and leave our fear in the past for to fear is to sin. I honestly do not know if we can come to this singularity here on earth. I do know that prophecy tells us that we will come to this in heaven. Then I can hear it now, “well that is for heaven we must live on earth.” Yes we must live on earth, but we do not have to live like earth when the Kingdom of Heaven is within! I want to continue to write about this subject but I think that you must have the point after over 2000 words. With that I hope that this inspires you to be a person that desires to see the singularity alive and well in the church, to stop the division and bring healing to this land! Amen!

           

           

The Backyard Preacher Podcast #73 (The Singularity of Christianity)

Today Nate talks about what the singularity of Christianity that can bring us all together in unity as Christians, no matter your flavor.  We currently live in a divided country with a divided church.  The time for unity is now.  Listen and receive the guidance you need to live out a life of love and unity.