Church vs The Gym …It’s not what you think


You might wonder how someone like myself, with a background that would make just about any normal person scream “geek” (which I happen to actually take as a compliment) would enjoy so much time at, and put so much effort into, what I do at the gym. I have crazy hours, even people out on the west coast would find my hours on some days of the week a bit rough. I spend a lot of time around computers at school, as a hobby, and as a job. I spend many more hours than the average person would in a week playing video games online with others. I have a custom built PC that I built myself and its specs are far beyond anything you will ever find just sitting around in someone’s living room as a “family” computer. But if you know me, you know that is just one side of me, you know that an even bigger passion for me is knowing and living for Christ, and when it comes to church life and ministry I could almost build myself a separate resume from my IT one. It’s not a secret to me, I don’t deceive myself, I know full well the shortcomings of life in world and the vanity and emptiness of all it’s trappings. I don’t wish for ignorance, and I certainly don’t desire to willingly and knowingly ignore that knowledge and pretend it’s a great place to hang out in. However, I also know full well how things function inside what we call “church”, our culture has managed to take what the Bible intended to be something that we are, and turn it into place that we go to. What was supposed to be the means by which followers of Christ could come together and corporately enjoy his presence and use as a stepping stone to build community with one another, we have turned into a bi-weekly “event”. I know how it goes, and I’ve been a part of that problem myself, I am not just some unknown person looking in from the outside with no knowledge of whats really happening and making some artificial judgement.I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and there isn’t a single one that I wish any malice or will ill towards, but I do wish some of them would wake up and set aside their “bias” or “preferences” on Church and see what it is according to the Word of God instead of just what their Pastor or some Church leader tells them it is. The church should be the light of the world, and in each and every community that there is a localized branch of the body of Christ we should see the hurt healed, the lost saved, and the God’s glory revealed, I realize that however correct or factual or truthful that might be, it is a tall order for a bunch of humans, I get that, I’m not saying anything to the contrary here, believe me.

 Now I’m sure that my desire to “name names” and “point fingers” as some probably see it, may cause some folks to be offended so I apologize in advance if referring to the specific region of GA that I live in reference to this issue/post offends you But, I’ve noticed that especially in the area of GA that I now reside, in the church is where I see the most conflict, the most hurt, and its where I see the most tension. In the gym, though, that’s where I find the most acceptance, outside of my small circles of technology and gaming minded acquaintances its where I feel the most at ease. See the 45 pound weights don’t care how nicely dressed I may or may not be. They don’t care if I am pre, mid, or post trib, and they don’t care if I am a UGA Bulldogs fan or an Alabama fan, When I get on that elliptical and crank up the resistance and work up a good sweat and really get my blood pumping the machine doesn’t care what I do for a living, it has no idea what translation of the bible I prefer or whether I listen to contemporary or traditional Christian/worship music. For that matter , nether does anyone in the gym, I can have a conversation about the weather or a certain exercise, or maybe just encourage someone that I see trying to go for some new personal best in what they are lifting. I might find myself in need of some encouragement and I know that in the gym, we have a sort of loosely connected, unspoken, community. I walk into a church though, and I get invited to a “fish fry” but I’m not a huge fan of fish, and especially not fried food at all, so I politely decline, and automatically the looks start. I show up on a Wednesday night and all anyone wants to talk about is Sunday’s college football game, but I don’t really follow sports and I’d much rather talk about something that revolves around technology or gaming, or even better yet, I’d really love to talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ about God, about the things we are experiencing in our relationship with Jesus, yeah, I’d love a nice long, in depth and intelligent conversation on that topic. I don’t  mean I want to sit down with my pastor or some great theologian about how “transubstantiation correspond to the ecclesiastical movement to eschatological events” I mean just normal, conversation about whats going on. It doesn’t mean it has to turn into a prayer meeting followed up with an altar call and some misguided believer getting “saved” again, just normal conversation about what should be the single most important thing in our lives as believers that well share in common.

 This is why sometimes I prefer the gym over going to church, I can still pray, read my bible, listen to worship music and hear from God without setting one foot inside the door of a church building…I sure do miss that sense of community though, it’s true that in the gym there is almost a something that slightly resembles community but its not eve close to a cheap imitation of what I should be able to have with my brothers and sisters in Christ….then again, I’m there, I’m in the gym, who say’s I’m the only follower of Christ that enjoys some heavy lifting ?


“Hey Rocky, Don’t Forget The Cinnamon Twists”

The other day, I decided to have a bit of a “cheat meal” , see with how I eat, I don’t have a “cheat day” I just have certain days now and then where 1 or 2 of my meals are “cheat meals”, a whole day of eating that way would be ridiculous. I went to Taco Bell and hit up the drive thru, they forget my cinnamon twists even though it was on the receipt in the bag of food they handed me. This made me think ” if people can’t even handle cinnamon twists how do they expect to ever be entrusted with something bigger or more” (like, $15 /hr)  I’ve noticed something though, these days it’s almost as if society itself feels entitled to almost everything, as if it is the responsibility of the whole world to give them whatever they want/need without having to do anything to work for it. Life is rough, like Rocky said in Rocky Balboa “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life”. But there are people out there that want to be like Rocky, they want to be the “champ” they want that title belt but they don’t want to fight for it, they don’t wanna take any hits for it. They want what they haven’t earned and don’t deserve.

There are people out there from all walks of life that have learned to remember those cinnamon twists, they figured out that if they find themselves starting out asking “do you want fries with that” it’s ok, because they are just starting, they aren’t staying. Maybe its college that ends in a degree and a nice paying job in an office, or maybe it’s starting their own business, or maybe it’s becoming the very best they possibly can with some skillset and getting paid for that, but either way they are not planning to make a career out of where they are now. And how they carry themselves and how they perform this beginning they are in reflects that. It’s confidence that stems from the knowledge that as they learn to master where they are now, as they learn to do these smaller, simpler things, with excellence, it prepares and equips them for the next level. They understand that they are laying a foundation on which they will build everything that follows. There’s another kind of people out there though, the kind that can’t remember the cinnamon twists. It’s not because they aren’t capable of it, though some of them may even wrongly believe that to be the case. It’s more because they don’t want to, because they are willing to settle with where they are and make it permanent. They don’t want to do what is required to move beyond this beginning point, they don’t want to be able to handle or be expected to handle, anything more. Because of this they settle in, and then they start wanting things like $15 /hr., because even though they are unwilling to confront and become all that they must to reach that next level, to go to that next point. They still realize that the barely more than minimum wage pay they are getting will not be enough to live off of for long; they can’t have kids and support a family on that pay. Somehow even though they are unwilling to do what warrants the kind pay they want or need, even though they can’t remember the cinnamon twists, they still want to get paid like the ones that do.

Obviously even though my personal experience at Taco Bell was literal, by now I hope you’ve realized that the concept of forgetting the cinnamon twists is figurative. I can’t explain exactly what it represents, because it’s so much of a concept, and a general attitude more than any particular or definitive, tangible thing that you can point to. But if comes down to this: not giving up, keep moving forward, don’t expect someone else to earn it all for themselves and then just give it to you because you just gave up and stayed where you were. I know it’s difficult and often scary and uncomfortable, especially at first, and its ok to need help, it’s alright if you can’t be a one man army that single-handedly defeats all the challenges and things that life throws at you. Others can help you; it doesn’t weaken you or make you less of a person if they do. But it’s like Rocky Said, “it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done” Rocky had Mick, he had his wife Adrian, at times even Pauly was almost helpful. But he knew that when he climbed into that ring and that bell was rung, no matter how much help he had received, no matter how much encouragement or support he got from that group, the fight was up to him, HE had to take those hits, block those punches, and return fire!! He had to keep moving; Mick couldn’t climb in that ring and do it for him. He remembered the cinnamon twists, for him it was applying all of his training, it was keeping in his mind all those things he was fighting for, if we want to win we have to remember that ultimately its US that will have to do that work, fight that fight, we are the ones that have to remember those cinnamon twists, we still have to make the choices and we still have to be the ones to carry out the actions, there is no way around it.

What do I look for in a Church?

Lately Ive been trying to decide what Church is about for ME, basically trying to figure out what it is that I look for in a Church to decide if its a place I want to join and stick around, or dust my feet off and move on from. As I have been negligent in regularly attending anywhere for long at all these past several months trying to change that aspect of my life has caused me to really spend some time reflecting on exactly what it is that Church means to me, that is what is it that I am looking to find or what aim am I looking to achieve by changing this. Because of my background and the education and training I have been through, I can find the rightly divided word of truth in quite a few places outside the 4 walls of a church on a Sunday morning, I can find my own worship music, listen to or read a solid message or perhaps if the right person is speaking on the right topic I might be able to find a decent message on TV on some gospel channel or something. So for me, do I look for a church where the truth is spoken where I believe the word of God is correctly delivered and practiced? sure, but that’s not really my primary need or goal, as I just gave examples of, I can find that already on my own I don’t really need to depend on someone else for it, granted a great message spoken in a service that I attend is always great to hear, I love to hear my brothers and sisters in Christ proclaim God’s word to his people, especially if its about something they feel God has specifically burdened them to speak about, whether its a Pastor or some ministry leader. But I go, because what I search for, what God has given me need of is community and its something I cannot do on my own, no matter how hard I try it would be kind of ridiculous to try and produce that on my own, it sort of defies the very gist of what biblical community is.

  There is this word in Greek, that I cannot spell or speak but the Anglicized or “English” form of it is Koinonia. Koinonia is truly the best way to describe the type of biblical community we see described in the new testament as we read about the early, formative days of Christianity, and its more than just warm feelings towards some nice people you see once a week, its about an intimate sharing its about the same bonds that link each of us to Christ being the same level of connection that links us to one another as the body See we were built for it, in Christ our lives are made to be lived in community with God and with other believers…its integral to our spiritual growth. I think this is part of why small groups/life groups/cell groups/ missional communities, have become so popular in many areas, believers recognize this need for community in their own lives and they long to fill it. It’s not a new thing, but I guess since Ive relocated to a part of Georgia that for me, still feels, literally almost as foreign as another country, and I’ve not been really committed to and involved anywhere in a ministry or local body its become more pronounced a need.

  I love the amazingly accurate picture that is painted for us in the book of Ecclesiastes, about the pitfalls of going it alone. It mentions the strength that comes from two, as there is at least someone to watch your back, and then finally it speaks of how strong 3 can be, how its not easily broken and seems to me, to point out that to be the ideal situation. Take that passage and apply it to life, community is about more than just showing up on Sunday and singing some great songs to God and about God and then hearing a solid message…IF that is all it was about, all it was meant to be, then why bother showing up? the Pastor could just record the message and the worship leader could just throw in a few songs and mail a disc to everyone or you could all do some group Skype thing and when its over just close out the program and go back to business as usual…don’t get me wrong, being able to hear the message over and over again to sort of meditate on and more deeply understand it is great, and if your on vacation or otherwise away from home how great is it if your church has an online broadcast of the service? especially if its live. I don’t mean to go off into a rant or rave about community,and Im sure Ive posted about it before, but it’s just so vital, so much meant to be at the core of who we are as the body of Christ. Yet, as important as it is, and as much as there is a longing amongst many believers, for me this seems to be one of the most illusive aspects or features of Church today.

  Maybe its because social networking and smart phones have made us all a little ADD and we are so used to important things being conveyed in 120 or so characters or less that we have trouble establishing any kind of deep personal relationships that last over any reasonable period of time. Not that it’s the fault of the internet or any website, we are all responsible for how we use whats been put in front of us no matter what the rest of the culture says or does with or about it. But still, it is almost frustrating for me, to stick my neck out there, to try and establish some connections. I mean hey, just because that’s what I want, and I recognize the need doesn’t mean Im an expert on connecting with people or that I am perfect at meeting new folks and making new friends, because let me make this clear, despite having a bit of an extroverted personality and being well aware of this need in myself and others, and being convinced of its importance, it is something I have trouble with just as much as the next guy. Oh, and of course when your coming to any church for the first time, or the first time in a long time…or really any situation where you pretty much feel like the new guy that doesn’t know anyone but they all know each other, its even harder. I haven’t been perfect about it, there are times when I’ve been the last one in the door before service and the first one out the door after service, but on the other side of the coin, if you don’t feel a part of something, if you don’t feel connected, why would you want to stick around right? I mean we can all do that disconnected , by ourselves , thing on our own in the comfort of home or our vehicle right? no point in sticking around church to feel like that. I also know that for me its tough because in my age group I am finding it very common for most folks to be married and or already with kids. Now I know that doesn’t make you “dead” lol, but to a single person, looking for that connection with a group, that sense of community its a big red flag sometimes, because we know that you have other priorities, we know that no matter what we are always going to be the ones that have the greater need for the community than you and that there is a good chance you may not be able to be there, or to be as available, not that its due to a lack of trying, but hey lets be honest you’ve probably got community overload some days. And that isn’t a bad thing, a family is a blessing, a spouse and kids are wonderful and amazing blessings that fill our lives with rich challenges and rewards.

  Please don’t misunderstand me, this is not about calling anyone out or speaking ill of any local body or Pastor or church staff member or church member. It’s not about saying “church your just not doing good enough” Its just an honest observation, and I hope that if you’ve read this all the way to the end it has shown you a perspective that has caused you to evaluate how you deal with people in the body of Christ, or maybe re evaluate how you’ve dealt with some in the past. I know that is has certainly changed how I think of church hoppers and church visitors, or members who end up not sticking around for very long. I’ll end this entry with this :There is a document in church history, its something that was designed to educate lay persons on matters of doctrine and belief. It’s known as the Westminster Larger Catechism or “greater” in some readings instead of “larger” one of the statements made in this document is this: that the chief end of man is to glorify God and fully enjoy him forever (yes I did have to dust off a few websites and do some reading to remember that one) what better way can we both glorify and enjoy God than by , as he enables us, living out our lives according to how his word tells us we should, not just in the moral sense of how we live but in how we interact within and develop that Koinonia with other believers? Not only that, but it occurs to me that of all the vital and important things that I personally gain from being a part of a local body, that koinonia, is the one thing that I simply cannot have on my own, it is the one thing I most miss out on by being on my own.

Jesus did it, so should we

No one condemned sin more than Jesus did, but at the same time no one showed more compassion towards the sinner than Jesus did, so much of what Jesus did he did not because he was the Son of God, but he did to show how much could be accomplished by a human being that had faith in God and was obedient to his will.

So if Jesus could love the sinner and hate the sin, as someone who was human like you or I, that must mean that its possible for us to do the same, there is a greater power and strength that lies beyond our own that we must tap into. There is a secret source of provision and guidance that we must learn to depend on.

 It once again goes back to a line from my favorite song that says “let what we do in here fill the streets out there” its all well and good to sing praises to God and enjoy the company and hospitality of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we should absolutely develop a deep understanding of God’s word, I mean that is our source of truth, its vital to knowing God and his will. It is the absolute highest source of authority we have on earth, what is says supersedes any pastor, evangelist, pope, priest, missionary, guest speaker etc…. God breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. But we have to take ALL of that and we have to bring it to the world, those who are used by our greatest enemy are also those who most desperately need to see and experience that love and truth lived out that we almost take for granted. There will be plenty of time for preaching sermons, hosting banquets or concerts or special mens events or womens retreats ….but thats all stuff designed for US as believers, there is still much work to be done out there in the world. And I’m just talking about breaking through all the garbage from the world, I haven’t even mentioned anything about all those who are hurting and still lost because of the wrongs done to them by those who claimed to bear the same banner of Christ that we carry.

We have to show them with our actions that we are not the same, that we honestly believe our message enough to live it out….I know its not easy, its probably not too convenient either but I’m not really convinced that it’s supposed to be. I’m not saying we have to go all Joel Osteen on folks or be a modern day Mr Rogers,  we need to be real, we need to be authentic…people need to see proof that in our good days and bad days, our ups AND downs Christ is bringing us through, that our faith in Him is giving us a strength to carry on and to stay true to who we say we are at a time when the world, without the power of God in their lives, would simply give up.

And the great thing about the fact that Jesus did this during his time on earth, he did it all as a human that knows full well how difficult it is and he will gladly give us what we need to make it!!

Created? For Real?

I can see how some may not think it worth much to care whether there is truly a creator or not, or if by cosmic chance and evolution we are here, but consider this, if there is no creator we just all “evolved over millions and millions of years” then we can do whatever we want in our life, nothing more than the immediate consequences and we get to decide whats truly right for us and whats wrong for us BUT if God is indeed real and is the creator of the heavens and the earth that changes EVERYTHING, because then the bible is true, cover to cover, genesis to revelation, then that means there is a right and wrong way to live and there ARE eternal consequences for our actions, people would have to stop doing whatever they want, admit they are wrong for how they live, work hard to live according to God’s ways and not whatever whim the culture of the day goes for.


But the only problem with that is ignorance and denial may bring a feeling of peace and relief temporarily but they wont actually change the truth. That’s the difference between God and his word vs the culture of this world, its un changing it doesnt morph to suit the needs of the people, its not designed to make you “feel good” , although the joy that comes from living in the truth, in knowing God, is better than any temporary happiness this world can ever muster. But I digress, if all creation is just that, creation, then there must be a creator. If God created everything then Genesis must be true, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” , but then that would mean that evolution is incorrect? YES, there is plenty of scientific evidence to back this up, and unlike their counterparts in the pro evolution camp they aren’t trying to suppress or cover up the information from the other side out of fear. Because at the root of all this we find 2 things, Pride and Fear…now Pride is something we have to deal with it, its that human nature that wants to be prideful and boastful thinking it somehow can or has done something incredible significant in this world/universe, then Fear, the great paralyzer, the antidote to fear is faith. Now these are connected in such a core way, think about it, if the Christians and all the pro creation or “anti evolution” folks are right, imagine what that would mean for everyone else who had been living as though they were wrong? On the other hand, if all the Pro Creation/Anti evolution and Christians are wrong, then what have we really lost? missed out on some fun maybe but thats about the worst of it, since after all there is no creator so if God isnt real there arent eternal consequences and they can go and start making up for lost time…think about it.

Why go to church?

Image    We live in an age where information of any sort can be easily obtained, whether its factualresearch for a paper, the latest episode of your favorite TV show that you missed last week, you can just stop by some website or launch some special app and get what your looking for pretty quickly, or just type something into a search engine and get instant information overload on any subject/topic. The same can be true when it comes to church as well, with some churches hosting an “internet campus” or broadcasting their service live over the internet or TV, or even offering a recording of their service via cd or downloadable podcast. And of course you can download your favorite worship music from your favorite Christian major recording artist via sites like Itunes or Amazon music, or in some cases maybe even the worship band at your local church has put out a CD or MP3 Album. Take that combined with the fact that you can even find online/digital copies of the bible in almost any translation in almost any spoken language, as well as some study tools, you might find yourself pondering the question: “Why GO to a church service” ?  …I mean really, if you can find solid (or sadly even not so solid) teaching and you can find the worship and everything else online, why bother going some place? Is there actually a point or reason in gathering with other believers? is there even anything beneficial to be gained by not just doing your own thing?

This is an idea /question that I have been going over and over with in my mind for sometime now, being that I have had a difficult time finding a church that is both Doctrinally pure and accurate as well as culturally relevant without driving several hours out of my way. I am well aware of many churches around the country that have services that I can watch online or get a video podcast of, I could literally “go to church” without ever leaving my home or seeing another human being. I could even give my tithe and offering without even having to cut a check or stamp and envelope.

The thing is though…its NOT the same, there truly is this great and wonderful dynamic at play when the body of Christ comes together, in person, when there is human contact and words are exchanged between one another. I look for more than just a nice comfy chair from which to spectate a well orchestrated service, I look for somewhere that I can participate and be encouraged, where I can get that “Iron sharpening Iron”  experience. Something that in the anglicized Greek would be called Koinonia, or “communion by intimate participation”. Now I know that in the Church most of the time the word “communion” is used when referring to that ceremony in which we give special reverence and remembrance to what Christ did with his life and sacrifice on the Cross, with the bread (the body that was broken) and wine (the blood that was shed) (or in 99% of American Churches , grape juice). But the communion I’m referring to here is from the Latin communio which translates as “sharing in common”.

That my friends, that is the key, its that Koinonia, and to be honest its not just something I personally feel a need for, its something that is absolutely essential to being a Christ follower. I love the word picture of a bed of hot coals, if you take a group of coals, get them nice and white hot and keep them together they are useful, they stay that way for  a while and you can use them for things like cooking. But if you were to take 1 coal out of that group, set it aside, especially in a nice open, breezy, and cool place. You would see that in comparison to the other coals that are still grouped that one cools down rather quickly, and even if it didnt, it still has nowhere near the impact and usefulness it had when it was with the others. It’s still a coal, and for a while its still a hot coal, but it’s nowhere near the same as it was before it was removed. It seems to me, from my understanding of the bible that we are to be like those coals, and that without each other, with just our own “thing” we can never achieve that.

What I Have Learned Of The True Meaning Of Following Christ

As a teenager I used to think following Christ was all about having a t shirt with the right saying on it for the right moment and going to church every Sunday and wed and almost every time the doors were open, or making sure I had my “quiet time” and “said my prayers” now as an adult…on the edge of becoming 28 soon, I realize, I get ME into more trouble, more adventures and more awkward moments than any of my peers ever could, and I have found that following Christ is about what goes on in my life, from my work ethic to the way I treat someone of another faith or ethnicity, it’s been about going into the woods and checking on that group of homeless people in the frigid cold to see if they needed anything even though all you could have provided was whatever you could afford to get them yourself, which meant maybe some cheap firewood or some cheap thermals from Wal-Mart.

It’s about the adventure of taking a trip, whether it be into town or around the world, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people because the thought of a place where God is not known and glorified is concerning. The thing is, most of what I have learned , not because i read a book, or prayed out loud at some prayer meeting, or spoke in tongues or prophesied or heard a really dynamic speaker deliver a captivating and inspiring sermon, but rather I have learned from the things God has done in my life, adventures in my times with ministries like Project 1 reaching the Homeless in the Douglas County/Douglasville area, or taking mission trips to Honduras with FrontLine Missions, or the time I spent in FTC (Fulfill The Call) ministry school, or the great debates and conversations I have had with my good friends Josh Garvey and Manny Badeau who were never afraid to disagree or present a different perspective on something. See those are the things that have shaped who I am and influence how I am, there is a lot both good and bad that has happened over the last few years, and I am really excited about what could possibly be to come, the adventures that await, because I know what I have already learned and experienced, and the thought that there is even more out there? I firmly believe life was meant to be an adventure, I have never been satisfied with the same ole thing, the 9 to 5 “the usual”, that’s far too plain and boring and uneventful for me and with where God will surely lead me in the years to come I sincerely doubt I will have to worry about anything being mundane or average