Wednesday 27 August 2008

by the fireplace: 27 August 2008

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
James 5:16a

It’s been knee-jerk responses ever since the startling revelation that the supposed cancer of a renowned youth pastor and song writer was a fake. On one hand are those who condemn him for what he has perpetrated and on the other, those who dispense grace and love like Panadol (simply, over-the-counter). And then there are those, somewhere along the line, who are simply bewildered and are asking the question, “Why? Why did he do it?” (I would rather ask the question how?) Of course there are those who don’t even care. (Would that make four hands?)

On one level, I don’t understand how he could have pulled off such a great fraud, one that lasted over two years, garnered thousands (or more? Fuzzy on that) in donations, and whose ‘truth’ was well-documented (and distributed). It must have taken great guts and audacity to pull such a scam off. And yet, on another level, I think understand two major factors of how he got to be where he was.

Primarily, he was a Pastor’s Kid (“PK”). In a large church. There was tremendous pressure to perform – to live up to be what the church expected him to be. He needed to be charismatic and spiritual, have everything together, show leadership potential, be involved in or head up a ministry, and basically, be, for the younger generation, everything his father was supposed to be for the older. Secondarily, he had a very visible ministry in a very visible church. The stakes are extraordinarily high.

Frankly, in such a set up, there is no room for mistakes. You are seen and looked up to by the world (or at least your world) and to admit to a sin would be a big no-no. It would be tragic. To step down of your own volition because you feel that you need to get your life right with God would be a cause for alarm. Why has he/she backslidden? What happened? And so in such a situation, the only thing he could have done was to press on. And hope. And pretend.

And that is what I understand. Because sometimes, the ministry to God seems faked and put on, like another garment, another mask. Because sometimes, the feeling inside that all might not be right has to be suppressed and shushed because I am a visible face in the ministry. And maybe, that is why I am comfortable where I am, in hiding again. Shari asked, “Did you ever consider that you feeling this responsibility is already a sign in the right direction?” Honest answer? I don’t know.

I agree with Colin Pearce in his scathing anti-heroism when he says,
“We keep needing success and heroism, signs and pointers and miracles to justify faith. It’s unbridled man-ism. It’s feeble. One person’s fall or departure from truth doesn’t negate the truth. Another’s rise and success doesn’t verify it.”
Yet at the same time, in our fleshly frailty, we all need someone visible to look up to. All very fine and good to say that we look to Jesus and try to be like him, but it’s often easier to follow a tangible person who is following Jesus, than to follow Jesus himself. Besides, doesn’t Hebrews 12:1 say that we have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us? These include fallen men: Abraham lied about his wife, Jacob stole his brother’s inheritance, Moses finally didn’t enter the promised land because he showed his temper, Rahab was a harlot and David slept with another man’s wife and then got him killed to cover it up.

The thing is, like a little white lie, things tend to snowball and it takes great guts to set things right again. In fact, if you think about it, it often takes greater guts to admit to a wrong and a subsequent cover up, than it is to let the wrong go undetected. And the great thing in reading about this great cloud of witnesses, heroes of the faith, is that we know they messed up somewhere along the line, but God caught them, and brought them back. Abraham got caught out by the Pharoah. David got convicted by a prophet. We haven’t written them off from the hall of fame, or scrutinized each of David’s psalms to delete those (or at least the authorship of those) that he wrote “while in sin”.

This pastor merely decided to come clean out of conviction that the truth would set him free. True, it could have been done earlier, before damage was done. Or it could have been nipped in the bud before any of it started in the first place. But as it stands, it wasn’t, but it is now. Like Natasha Bedingfield says in her song Unwritten, “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.”

I believe that Healer will be a timely song in a timely place for Michael Guglielmucci himself, because truth remains the truth and God remains God, whether or not you are whole or broken, right or wrong.

Healer – Michael Guglielmucci
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You're my Healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You're my Portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus You're all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

Good reads for further thought:

Sunday 10 August 2008


Class 101 is on August 24th.
But I don't know if I am ready for membership.
I don't know if I am ready for commitment.
I know God believes in second chances and clean slates, but sometimes I think I don't. I think that the weight of my failures and failings, the mess of my past and my thoughts somehow always catch up with me just when I think things are going to be different.
Maybe because I haven't come to a point where I know for sure that things will be okay no matter what. Maybe because I am still stuck at a stage where I scream at God when things don't work out the way I expected them to be, because I believed that He would take care of it.
Maybe I am screaming so much at God, that He just needs to take a step back and wait for me to grow hoarse before I will shut up and listen.
It's like I'm asking Him, what more do you want? and I know the answer is going to be everything, but I don't want to accept that.
So maybe the real issue is Lordship.
And maybe the other issue is that suddenly I am not very sure if I have heard right from God. What if what I thought was right, was really wrong?

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Passion: a rumination

Maybe in starting I should clarify that I am tired of big events. I am tired of watching a generation get fired up about concerts and conferences and huge "worship" events, endlessly chattering about how good the music was, how awesome the performances were and how funny the speaker was, and then going home unchanged, unchanging.
Maybe I am not deeply emotional enough to be drawn so far into the atmosphere of the moment, or maybe I am too rational and rigid in my thinking that I am skeptical about present feelings. I don't understand how people say things like "It was awesome! I really felt God's presence" when I didn't feel anything (should I have?) but then go right on and talk about the weirdest / grossest / most inappropriate things when I want is to rest silently and ponder, or discuss something deeper.

It could be that I am just different. Strange. Weird. Anti-social.

Putting that into perspective, Passion was a rich mine of songs that went beyond pure emotional, egocentric modern lyrics into the depth of theology and fullness of God.

"Jesus Messiah" - Chris Tomlin

He became sin

Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing

Love so amazing


Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

His body the bread

His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled
And the veil was torn


All I hope is in You

All I hope is in You
All the glory to You, God
The light of the world

We need songs like these to remind us. We need remembrance that He became sin for us. We need depth. Yes, we do need our emo "response" songs, but we have a surfeit of that. It could be that one of the reasons why songs in worship do not affect me as they used to, or as they do others, is the way I think too much about the lyrics, the way the words sound that distracts me, the meaninglessness of words that irritates me. I play with words, they are my pride and joy, they are my tools and craft. They have come to mean nothing. Empty. Noises. It is easier to sing 'I love You' in a song, because the melody is nice and catchy, than it is to say it to Him in person, or to show it in action. And yet a song that states "He became sin who knew no sin that we might become His Righteousness. He humbled himself and carried the cross, Love so amazing" is something that is a statement of fact in itself and whether you mean it or not, it remains true.

The heart of Passion revealed something deeper where we were shown the interconnectedness between each supposedly "separate" event in the world tour, each preceding stop praying and giving towards the coming one. Not your own, no, that none can say I did it, but for the next. Always for another, passing on what was received.

The message?

Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, we have waited for You eagerly; You name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. [Isaiah 26:8]

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who know no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. [2 Cor 5: 18 - 21]

"Lord" has no meaning unless you have totally surrendered yourself. "Grace" has no meaning until you know that you have been judged and cannot redeem yourself. "Reconciliation" makes no sense unless you know that you've been separated.

Empty words, without its context. And yet, that is what the world needs. Reconciliation, though we sometimes refuse to see that we have fallen away, and grace, because no matter how much we delude ourselves, we know we can't make it on our own.

Empty words, without action put to it. So then again we come back to the same issue: what then are you going to do about it?

And the interesting, yet dangerous point, that Louie Giglio put out to us was this: we are not of the world, but we are still in it. We can be totally tripped out and crazy about God, but we need to be in our senses; to be able to relate to the world. We need to be able to talk to them about cars and games and books and cooking and everything else. We need to be able to be one of them. Just one of them. And yet be different. To know the greater goal. To be able to understand and not condemn. To be followers of Christ, and not holier-than-thou. We need to understand that THERE IS NO "US" AND "THEM", because we cannot win a fallen world by telling them how sinful they are.

That was not how God did it - He came down to our level and said, 'hey look, I know it's tough, but there's a better way, and I can help you. We can do it together.'

So why are we so embalmed in our Christian sub-culture that we repel all but the truest seekers? Can't we be like that girl Krista (sp?) who was so fervent for God and yet so down-to-earth and open to listen and empathise? Why can't we stop passing judgement?

Food for thought. Maybe food for action. The Passion Tour is something that must germinate in your heart and mind. I don't know how they make snap judgements about it being awesome. Maybe they think faster than I do. Maybe they have different criteria of judgement.

Passion needs more thought yet.