The Loudmouth Protestant

September 4, 2009

You’re My Little Secret…in Church

Filed under: christians,church,love,relationships — nickisym @ 9:14 am
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Earlier this week I was having a discussion with my roommate about romantic relationships in the church. Specifically, people’s need to keep their relationships secret until they announce their engagement. Why is that necessary? I’m not knocking the process and truth be told, I may do the same thing. But I want to know why people find it necessary, almost like it’s a part of some unofficial protocol, to keep their relationships within the church a secret.

I have heard from some people that they keep it secret because they don’t want the haters intercepting their relationship, but really, if it’s a relationships that God ordained, no man can put it asunder. All this coming in separate cars, walking in at different times, sitting on opposite sides of the church, and the like seems tiring.

Some people stay undercover because they are still trying to figure out what they are. Ok, that’s fine, but in the midst of trying to find out what you are to each other, wouldn’t it be helpful to let some folks know so at the very least they can offer wise counsel and pray for you?

I think that people think that as soon as they get into a relationship in the church they automatically think people are going to be in their business. Not just people, an entire congregations worth. Maybe I am naive, but I just don’t believe that many people care. Yes, there will be naysayers and there will be people who will still try to try their luck with you, but I know we are all stronger than our adversaries. Who cares what other people think about your relationship? Outside of your pastor, your parents and your closest friends, everyone else’s opinion is inconsequential.

And maybe there is something I am missing, like a Bible verse that says when a man and woman meet and date in the sanctuary they should hide it from the world outside of them until that time when God has let them know that it shall be a union in marriage. I don’t know. It’s just one of those things that makes me go, “Hmmm…”

Plus, when men and women who are dating each other, don’t at least send a smoke signal that they are in a relationship–like the ones who are dating but have yet to change their Facebook status to “In a Relationship” they are deceiving us single folks that are still looking at them like there is some hope. So if not for the haters, let folks know you are dating–we don’t have to know who–but just let us know so we can keep it moving.

But really, can someone explain to me the romantic church relationships shrouded in secrecy?

April 12, 2009

Happy Resurrection Sunday

Filed under: christianity,christians,God,Jesus — nickisym @ 12:23 am
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Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not Easter bunnies, not Peeps, not candy, not hard-boiled Paas-dyed eggs,  not frilly Easter dresses, not even Easter, but Resurrection Sunday. (Side note: “Easter”, the term we’ve become entirely too comfortable with, is connected to the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess Eostre and has it’s origin in pre-Christian pagan practice. So let’s call tomorrow what it actually is, Resurrection Sunday. None shall be confused then.) The day when the stone covering His tomb was rolled back and He appeared with countenance like lightening and a raiment that was as white as snow. His resurrection signifies new life. Many of us have been fasting for the last 40+ days and while we are excited to break the fast later on today, we should not go back to those things which had us in bondage prior to going in. 

We fast for change, to make God a stronghold, and to receive revelation and breakthrough. The last 40+ days were not for form or fashion. Not to show people how pious we could be but for us to make God and His business top priority. We should not go back to business as usual tomorrow. Tomorrow is not a license to fall back into the same pattern that had us enslaved before. No! The point of the resurrection was to give us a second chance to get it right the first time. And we should be excited for this opportunity and thankful that it is through God that we could welcome such a great gift that has given us access to life and life more abundantly.

I’m truly excited for this day. Excited to give thanks unto God for His greatest sacrifice. The sacrifice which atoned for my sins and made me righteous. I am so very thankful to God that today, symbolically, He has given me new life. 

I pray that you and yours will have a blessed Resurrection Sunday and forget not the most awesome gift you have ever received. 

Thank you God for your most precious son. You are so awesome.

February 27, 2009

Fasting for a Stronghold

Here we are, day three in the Lenten season and day three of my quest to be changed by the power of His spirit. I decided to take a “balls to the wall” approach to my fasting this season and I cut it down to nothing but the bare essentials. Some think it extreme, but I consider it getting back to the basics of life. The disciples didn’t have the distractions we have now and I think that’s what made it relatively easy for them to take up their crosses and follow him. Here we are thousands of years later with a ton of distractions that have done more harm than good.

The Blackberries, iPhones, Facebook, Myspace, television, drinking, partying, fornicating, etc, have all become our strongholds. They have a tight grip on our lives so much to the point that we’ve convinced ourselves that we are in need of them. If we were to be honest, we pay more attention to them than we do to God. You don’t think so? How many times a day do check your phone compared to how many times you talk to, think about, worship, or praise God? When you are on Facebook building your friend list, how many of those people–the ones you know and the ones you don’t–are you praying for earnestly? When you’re at a party, fully convincing yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong, just a little two step and one drink, how do you figure you are representing the kingdom? And this makes me pause for a second to bring up the word of a young minister I admire. In his portion of a Good Friday “Seven Last Words” sermon entitled “There to Judge”  he said, “How are you going to say that you are called apart and then be at every single party that the heathens are at? One or two is ok, but if it’s your name that they’re dropping at the door to get in free after 12AM there’s a problem with that…The world is making its judgment on what to do with this man named Jesus based on your testimony and your activity.”

So much of what we do, the outward presentation of ourselves and our inner life, predicates our life in Christ. And I write this to bring to the attention the body of Christ that the strongholds we have on all the world has produced heretofore and it’s new inventions for the future must be destroyed. Destroyed in regards to the precedence we give them over God. Psalm 94:22 was my original inspiration for this post. “But the Lord has become my stronghold…” (NRSV) I read this before I went to bed last night and kept thinking, “Wow, God as a stronghold, that is the best stronghold to have. I want that stronghold.”

We often talk about strongholds in terms of their negative influence on our lives and gloss over the fact that in many translations, God’s people, like David for instance, referred to God as his stronghold. But imagine if we spent more of our time being concerned about being obessed with God. Like Jazmine Sullivan singing about a love interest–and she could be singing about God–in “Need U Bad.” How awesome would it be to put God in that place? The place where God is such a stronghold that a moment without him reminds you that you need him bad like your heartbeat, bad like the food you eat, need him bad you can’t take this pain, because you’re about go insane. We do need him bad like that but somehow we don’t even take it that seriously figuring, “It doesn’t take all of that.” If I’m only speaking for myself and a handful of people I confess it does take all of that.

This Lenten season is about breaking strongholds, not about abstaining from something only to bring it back on April 12th. It’s about getting rid of everything that is creating a barrier to a true relationship with God. And in its place, creating space for the one true God, the author and finisher of our fate, the one who, if it wasn’t for his existence, nothing we have on this earth right now would exist…Including us.

February 4, 2009

Pious Apparel

Filed under: christians,God — nickisym @ 11:35 pm
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Thanks to one of my favorite snarky blogs, I found out about the Passion 4 Christ Movement, a ministry of youth and young adults seeking to spread the message by Christ by any means necessary. Their latest tactic, a new shirt in their “Ex” shirt series entitled the “Ex-Masturbator” shirt.  I decided to take a look at their site and see what they were talking about. In taking a look, I saw that the best piece of marketing for the shirt that they have is the video below:

It’s not about the in-your-face notion of people wearing a shirt that says, “Ex-Masturbator” but about the intent behind it. From this video, I saw young people that look like me, with struggles like mine, not afraid to go out on a limb and wear their strongholds on their chests. Sure, it’s a really bold way to put yourself out there, but can you image the number of people who will stop these kids and ask them about the meaning behind the shirt. Therefore giving a tight-lipped teen who would be otherwise afraid to roll up on someone and talk about the transforming power of Jesus a real opportunity to share their testimony. 

This fits in so perfectly with what I learned in my Monday night Bible Study. The teacher gave us the setting of mannequins in a store window and the fact that mannequins exist to attract people to the glory in the store. When I see a mannequin standing in the window at Escada, I’m not thinking, “Wow that mannequin is wearing that dress!” I’m thinking, “Wow, I really need to go inside and see how that looks on me and maybe pick up a few other items that might be nice as well.” It’s the same thing with this Christian walk we are on. We are nothing but God’s mannequins, created to glorify Him–i.e. wear His glory–and therefore attract people to Him by being available for use. I, the Loudmouth Protestant, am nothing but a mannequin naked before God, created for Him to do what he wants me to do so that I may win people to Him.

So these shirts aren’t such a bad idea. I’d say that my qualm is, the shirt puts an absolute stamp on the wearer as if they may never fall into the trap of their stronghold again. I’m not being pessimistic, I’m just acknowledging that we all fall short of the glory of God and one shirt isn’t going to keep you from falling as much as an absolute dependence on God to keep you from falling. But that brings me to my last point about the Ex-series shirts. Once you put on the shirt and announce to the world that you used to masturbate–fornicate, be a slave, hustle, etc–while many will scoff at your piety, your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ will lift you up in prayer to ensure that you stay on the ex side of things.

So here’s to a good word getting out, a seed being planted and someone finding their way to Christ through someone who wasn’t afraid to show their true colors.

October 15, 2008

Weak Protestants

Filed under: christians,God — nickisym @ 12:52 am
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According to a study conducted by Brad Waggoner, vice president of B&H Publishing Group, Protestants are failing in the arena of spiritual formation. The numbers are staggering and almost sickening. Here are some of the stats from Waggoner’s study which was done by way of a Spiritual Formation Inventory.

— Only 16 percent of Protestant churchgoers read their Bible daily and another 20 percent read it “a few times a week.”
— Just 23 percent “agreed strongly” with the statement, “When I come to realize that some aspect of my life is not right in God’s eyes, I make the necessary changes.”
— Among evangelicals, 70 percent have identified their primary spiritual gifts through a class, spiritual gifts inventory or some other process.
— In the past six months, 29 percent of respondents said they shared with someone how to become a Christian twice or more, 14 percent did so once and 57 percent did not share at all.
— A full 47 percent of Protestant churchgoers admitted to often just “going through the motions” during the singing and prayer portions of worship services. One-quarter strongly disagreed that their worship is routine.
— Fasting is perhaps the most neglected spiritual discipline, with 80 percent of respondents saying they had not fasted during the past six months.

It’s a scary thing to see these numbers because it means the majority of people who go to church are simply going through the motions in the faith. They feel obligated to go not because they have a real relationship with God, but because their parents told them they should go or their significant other drags them. They are in church because they grew up in church and don’t know any other way. They only crack open their Bibles when the pastor tells them to do so. Fasting is something they do as a dietary measure. Evangelizing is only done for public figures.

I don’t write this to condemn anyone but I always wonder why some people insist on coming to church Sunday after Sunday but never changing. I wonder why someone would gloat about their faith and not actually live it. I wonder why one would superficially build their lives around Christ but not actually take up their cross and follow him. I wonder…

More on Waggoner’s study

September 16, 2008

Scriptures for Times of Trouble

Keeping in tune with the last post, I just wanted to post these scriptures for times of trouble that I found via Counseling 4 Christians

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
(2 Corinthians 4:17)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)

Check out Counseling 4 Christians for more scriptures

Have You Killed Anyone Lately

This morning, during my quiet time, I was reading David DeSilva’s “The Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation through the Book of Common Prayer.” The book is essentially about how to use  the “Book of Common Prayer” as a deeper part of your devotion by exploring the sacraments and how to live those sacraments on a daily basis. I’ve gone through the sacrament of baptism which helps us to walk in the newness of life once we are cleansed in those waters and am now in the sacrament of the Eucharist which gives us the nourishment to walk in the newness of life. But something I read today gave me pause and really convicted me, so I thought I would share it today. It’s a rethinking of the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not murder.”

The author posits that we cannot so quicky skip over this commandment just because we haven’t physically killed someone. He challenges us to take time time to examine ourselves to see if we haven’t killed our brothers and sisters in another way. DeSilva says,

“Murder is only the end result, the extreme manifestation, of many little ways in which we “kill” our fellow human beings. We murder their wills with our anger when they counter our own. We assault their self-esteem and reputation when we speak words that diminish them, killing them by inches. Who can now walk away from the sixth commandment acquitted?”

That excerpt was deep beyond words because if I were to honest, I must kill people a few times a week and the methods with which I do it far exceeds what DeSilva explains. We can people through our thoughts, we can kill them in the words we say, the little things we say which are like poison, and even the way we look at someone else, the look of judging, the look of scorn, indignation, superiority, etc. We are guilty of killing our brothers and sisters everyday and that scares me.

I have nothing more to say, it’s just my thought for the beginning of the day. I must depart now and pray that I will not walk out of my house wielding any weapon that will shed my brother and sisters blood.

September 1, 2008

There It Is: Romans 12:9-21

Filed under: bible,christians,God,life,love — nickisym @ 11:38 pm
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I spent the bulk of this weekend at Holy Cross, a monastery in upstate New York. It was a time of reflection for me and though I had these big ideas about how I was going to relate to God this weekend–on my first evening there I actually prayed that he’d wake me up in the middle of the night just so we could talk “Old Testament” style–He really helped me to actively do nothing.

I spend most of my life just “going” and “doing” without actually being. I live in the busiest city in the world and have to admit that a lot of my life is about being busy. Too busy for myself, my friends, my family and most importantly my God. This summer has been one of the first times in a few years where I’ve taken the time to not do much and it felt great. But alas, my time of carefree activity is about to come to a close and like a child getting ready for the school year, I have to get ready to recommit myself to ministry, to myself and to God.

Nevertheless, yesterday morning in Eucharist service, one of the monks delivered a word about the church as it stands in its physical structure and as it stands in the spiritual structure which we all embody. He referred to a scripture in Romans 12 that would serve as a great list of admonitions that every Christian should walk with–much like Nick Carraway did in the ‘The Great Gatsby.’ I never thought of it as a list but when he ran down each of the admonitions I realized I needed to walk with that list for sure. 

To that end, I thought I’d share the list based on Paul’s conversation to the young church at Rome in Romans 12:9-21.

1. Love one another (Paul emphasizes that we really need to love each other, not just pretend)

2. Hate what is wrong

3. Take delight in honoring each other. (The English Standard Version, says ‘Outdo one another in showing honor.’)

4. Hold tightly to what is good

5. Work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically

6. Rejoice in confident hope

7. Be patient in trouble

8. Keep on praying

9. Help God’s people in need

10. Be eager to practice hospitality

11. Bless those who persecute you

12. Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep

13. Live in harmony with each other

14. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people

15. Don’t think you know it all

16. Never pay back evil with more evil

17. Do things in such a way that everyone can see that you are honorable

18. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone

19. Never take revenge.

20. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

August 2, 2008

The Trouble with Tongues

Filed under: christianity,christians,God,life,spirit — nickisym @ 11:58 am
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I have gone for a very long time without being conflicted about the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. It has long been my understanding that it is a gift bestowed upon believers by the Holy Spirit so that communication between the believer and the Spirt may take place. I know speaking in tongues to be a gift that is to be desired but not held high above all things because it is not edifying to the body inasmuch as prophecy is. I’ve understood that it’s okay if you don’t speak in tongues and you are not any less of a Christian if you don’t. But all of my certainty about what I knew of tongues was smashed when I attended a Bible Study on Thursday night. 

It was another guest facilitator–I don’t know if therein lies the problem–but said teacher kept on mentioning tongues and the importance of speaking in tongues and most in the room–except for me–was in agreeance. Occasionally she would say “If you have never spoken in tongues, come and see me after study and we will take care of that.” This was a scary statement for me because all I could think of was the moments of tarrying Baptist-style until your mouth was able to form the unintelligible words. I bristled at her words because they smacked up against what I understood. At this point, another young lady got up and shared her story of not speaking in tongues and how much it hurt her. She mentioned that  years earlier she didn’t accept an alter call because she was scared and it was at that very altar call that she believes she was to recieve the gift of speaking in tongues. Since then, she has never spoken in tongues and it hurts her badly. 

At the hearing of this I was shocked. It seemed all of a sudden that people were focusing more on the ability of doing something spiritual than resting in the God of those spiritual things and believing that He has given them everything they need. Why should you be hurt because you don’t speak in tongues? Will you take credit away from all the great things that God has done in your life because you think you lack in not being able to speak in tongues. As a response to the young woman, the teacher told her to see her after study and they would take care of her not being able to speak in tongues. Here we go again.

So I walked out of Bible Study after we finished praying and I was a tad bewildered and freaked out by what seemed like people power-tripping over the ability to speak in tongues. I didn’t want to hang around and talk to anyone lest someone find me out, lay hands on me and force me to speak in tongues. 

And here we are this morning. I’ve been reading I Corinthians and trying to re-wrap my mind around speaking in tongues. 1 Conrinthians 12:11 says “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” This is a verse I didn’t once hear the teacher mention in study. It is here where I most protest.

In a room full of impressionable people, it is never kosher to give only your natural side of the story, particuarly when we are talking about God’s word and God’s gifts. We do not preach to sound self-righteous or cause divisiveness. 

As the body of Christ,  we need to be more clear and intentional about what we preach and how so as to never sound self-righteous or self-aggrandizing. It is debates like “To Speak in Tongues or Not” that tear us apart and my only desire is that the teacher spent more time giving more scriptural background instead of pumping her fist to get everyone in the room speaking tongues–which in actuality is not a gift she can give anyways.

June 2, 2008

The Importance of Intercession

Filed under: christianity,christians,God — nickisym @ 11:25 pm
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There are times in my walk when prayer and all things spiritual dry up. Prayer becomes a nuisance, reading the Bible becomes a bore, church becomes another thing to check off the list. These are extremely sad times in my spiritual life but the most amazing part of experiencing such a drought is that though my spiritual practices run dry, I have no desire to return to the things of the world. And even if I do return to those things, I find myself reflecting on how far God has brought me and remember why I can’t turn around and digress. Also during the times of drought is when God shows himself strong to me and leads me to what I must do next to get back to the basics with him. It’s through that drought which could otherwise be considered my weakness that God’s strength is made perfect in me. I can see the need for getting back to basics and back to a right relationship with God being of the utmost importance instead of just another thing to do in this great walk of faith.

I am coming out on the other side of such a drought. My emergence occurred this past weekend when I spent some time with a friend whom I never had the pleasure of spending time with one on one. It was in that time that we were able to speak about the matters of my friend’s heart and my own and I felt honored that my friend felt comfortable enough to be transparent with me. In the midst of my friend speaking to me, I realize that this was a moment when I needed to be on duty as a prayer warrior. Even though I hadn’t prayed consistently for about a week, in my short time speaking with my friend, I knew I had to get back on my knees and start interceding. I needed to be a part of the number praying for the quick recovery of my dear friend because I knew that our conversation alone was not going to set things right. It was going to be the power of prayer that got the wheels of change in motion. 

Intercession can be very powerful in the life of our friends and family. It is when we humble ourselves and put the needs of others before our own that God will even bless us. And it is not that we intercede because we are looking for God to bless us. We intercede because we care so much about the well-being of the person we are interceding for that we are blind to our own needs and we jump deep into the pool of prayer, diving to find God and hear God for our friends that may be incapable of hearing Him. We intercede because we don’t just listen to the words coming out of their mouths, we listen for their souls crying out and the rapid beat of their heart that says “I am scared and not sure if I am going to make it all by myself.” 

So the next time you see anyone in need, keep them in your heart and mind and go into your prayer closet and intercede on their behalf. You never know what your prayers can do in the life of one in need. Prayer is power.

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