Immersion Staff UPDATE: 2.27.08

I don't get why anyone would not like Jesus, but I can understand why people don't like Christians.

In the past few months, I think God has led me into experiences that have allowed me to see what non-Christians see. Whether it's money or judgmentalism or fundamentalism or bigotry (or worse), I can see the lineage of stereotypes that plague Christians and the Christian church.

I was at a concert that was put on by Christians that had significantly less people in attendance than the promoters had bargained for. Less people = less money. I found my jaw on the floor when one of the promoters interrupted the concert to take them mic and ask the audience, "what would Jesus want you to do? We need $150,000 to break even at this concert and we want you to pray about giving sacrificially in order to help us get out of the hole financially." Then he ended in prayer. I was appalled. Jesus reserved the harshest of reprimands for religious leaders who use guilt to meet their own personal needs. (Luke 20:45-47, 21:1-4)

I was in a conversation with an agnostic and another Christian. The Christian insisted on calling the agnostic a "heathen", even after the agnostic asked him not to. What was worse was the Christian had no idea that what he was saying was highly offensive to the agnostic (and to me, nonetheless). God says that human beings - all human beings - are created in his image. In the image of God he created us. (Genesis 1:27)

I hear multiple stories of how people left the church of their youth because they were constantly threatened with the fires of hell and damnation - essentially petrified to step foot in the church ever again for fear of being struck down by lightning. Their image of God is not a loving Father, but a detached, crotchety, old miser who desires nothing more than to smite them and send them packing to the lake of fire and burning sulfur. God is not willing that any should die in their sins, but that everyone would come to a saving knowledge of who he is (2 Peter 3:2). Guilt and fear are not God's primary motivator (1 John 4:18), but it is his kindness that leads people to follow him through a relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans 2:4).

All that to say this: Jesus is good. God is good. The Holy Spirit is good. We, as the Church, sometimes really screw it up.

There, I said it.

In the pages of Scripture, I have met a Jesus who loves sinners - who loves to be with those who have no pretense about them. He loves to meet people and change their lives - it's what he's really, really good at.

As a pastor, it's my job to try and introduce people to Jesus while scooping the piles of religious elephant poop out of the way to give them a place to do so. If you have struggled with some of the poo-filled scenarios I listed above - or worse - know that Christians (most all of them) really do have the best intentions at heart. But, as they say, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

If you've been burned one too many times by the Church or by religious people, will you take one more chance to believe? Believe that Jesus is all that he says he is and none of what well-intentioned-but-destructive Christians sometimes make him out to be?

Peace to you this day...


Immersion Staff UPDATE: Quantum Physics.

This was a post from the Juice Faith Blog that I write with a few other young pastors in town.  I wanted to re-post it here to see what you all think of this topic.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  Take a look:

Wow. Talk about a mind-blowing experience.

I spent the last few weeks in class at Bethel Seminary learning about God and the sub-atomic world. Isaac Newton's
Principia pretty much set the standard for modern science, but as people like Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr emerged onto the scene things began to change.

Einstein took us deeper into the realm of the atomic and sub-atomic levels. Simply put, Einstein (and many others) gave us eyes to see what goes on at the most minute level of existence.

The study of this is called quantum physics.

Quantum physics tells us that there are smaller pieces of existence than previously thought. Seems as though the protons, neutrons, and electrons that you and I learned about in science class are made up of even smaller parts called quarks. Quarks, by and large, are a mystery to scientists. They behave erratically and seem to change their make-up depending on whether they are being observed or not.

Did you catch that?

They change their "shape" depending on whether or not they are being watched. In some weird, mysterious way, the sub-atomic world has a sort of "self-awareness". That's some really freaky stuff.

What does this all have to do with faith? Read the words of physicist Stephen Hawking, "the odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications."

As we delve further and further into the strands and fibers of the make-up of our universe, we become more and more vexed as to just how all this stuff
works. The deeper we dive, the more questions we have. The deeper we dive, the more we see that things, in fact, are not an accident. The universe is calibrated with such intricacy, that to change the gravitational pull of the earth even one thousand million millionth would either send us hurling through space or smash us right into the sun. Fascinating.
I'll sum up this post with the words of Ian Barbour, "this fine tuning [of the universe] could be taken as an argument for the existence of a designer, perhaps a God with an interest in conscious life."

Peace to you on this Monday morning...


Immersion Staff UPDATE: Blogging Bethel (v.3)

Okay, so the picture you're looking at is of an unhappy me with a band playing in the background, over my left shoulder. There's three dudes here and they're all wearing trendy hats and shoes and playing their guitars very loudly. Right in front of me.

I am in a coffee shop. When I am in a coffee shop, it's usually to plug my earphones in, sip an Americano, and crank out some work. When I'm in a coffee shop, I usually like to be left alone. Not to be entertained.

This band is trying to entertain me. That is why I am unhappy.

I'm all for artistic creativity - really, I am. But please, trendy-hat friends, can't you just be creative somewhere else?! Not here. Anywhere else but here.

Oh well. Guess it's back to turning up "Band of Horses" even louder and making it obvious that I'm not listening to them. I'd be nicer in different circumstances, but a brotha's got a lot of reading to do.

Peace to you....

Immersion Staff UPDATE: Blogging Bethel (v.2)

This week has been a lot of fun - to quote a bearded friend of mine, "it has been intellectually satisfying."  I've been learning about quantum physics, the chaos theory, entanglement theory, teleportation and its role in the Bible (!!!).

God is opening my mind to the immense creative potential that indwells all of us and how the reality of the universe is so amazingly complex and literally wonderful.  The universe is alive and is held together in the person of Jesus - that is why it is alive.  The scientific community is even beginning to grasp this on a micro-molecular level.  Simply fascinating.  We'll probably do a series on science or something like that... Way cool.

Here's some more pics:

Morning stop.

Walk to class.

Sledding down a hill.

After I took this picture, this girl hit her face on a tree.  She's okay, but has an egg-sized knot on her temple.  We stopped sledding after that.

The happy seminarian.

Immersion Staff UPDATE: Blogging Bethel (v.1)

For those of you who don't know, I (Justin) am finishing up my last few years here at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  So when I'm not hanging out at Immersion, preparing a sermon, attending meetings, or goofing off, I'm usually doing some form of school work in order to get my Masters of Divinity.

I'll be up here for the next two weeks.  In the meantime, here are a few pics from my life at Bethel:

My friend, Michael.  We call him "the Pope".

My bed. That window was open all night.  Those Pepsis are frozen through.

My desk.  Where I don't study.

My roommate and our closets.

And finally, not hard at work.