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On Who’s Terms?

September 4, 2013

Coexist-Geek

I really enjoyed my 2013 Dragon Con experience this past weekend! Saw great friends and shared awesome moments with my wife and daughter. Last year I wrote a blog about the “Four Things That Churches Could Learn from Dragon Con” and this year I’m writing one to a different tone based on a personal observation. You see, this year I was more aware of the Christian bashing that went on inside the con through the attired “F” Jesus Christ t-shirts, anti-Christian bumper stickers, Free Thinkers Society reps handing out flyers (A funny name to me as I should have asked the question “So to join your society am I “free to think” there is a God or do I have to “think” there isn’t one like you?”) and the countless of mocking costumes of Christ. One in particular was wearing a donkey mask while dressed as Jesus. Ouch! So I guess in this age of “Coexist” bumper stickers it seems that it’s hip to mock Christianity without a second thought. But let’s get real, this has been going on for years and not just isolated to conventions. But since this was all isolated in my weekend I was instantly reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton:

“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”

And to that, I am convinced Coexistence means unity on someone else’s terms.

Now on occasion I don’t necessarily disagree with an argument that exposes Christian hypocrisy. That’s a given and something I have to contend with daily. But I do wonder if anti-theists can be critical of their lot in the same way.

I also wonder about those who do their mocking so willfully and publically are capable of acknowledging their own hypocrisy or if they’re even aware of it or care at all? I’m guessing they don’t really care and therefore not held accountable to the idea of hypocrisy… which is hypocritical in of itself. But to take their mockery to this level does call for an extreme narrow-mind (and immaturity) to apply that perspective to the general whole. I think it takes real maturity and understanding to not make generalizations regardless of worldviews. Because I personally don’t know every Atheist in this world and the ones I do know are amazing people and I wouldn’t go out of my way to snub their disbelief in such a disrespectful manner regardless of venue. And that simple logic should apply to all worldviews and not relegated to just one. And so we push on. But I do have to share that in my folly of assuming, I rolled my eyes at one person dressed as Jesus while waiting in a crowded corner to cross a street with my wife and friend. I knew we were all thinking the same thing. Here’s another one mocking Christ. A guy next to him (obviously thinking the same thing) then taps his shoulder and says “Hey man, there’s a guy a street over talking about the Bible and sh—!” as if to encourage the Jesus fella to go over and cause a stir. I personally thought he was going to take him up on this encouragement until he looks him straight in the face and says, “Love Jesus not his fan base.”

And I’m pretty sure the priceless, stumped expression on the instigators face matched mine…but for different reasons. Not only was I in complete agreement with his statement but I was blind-sided by his quick delivery. That response made a girl next to me blurt out,”Ohhhh! Great comeback, great comeback.” And the guy who tapped his shoulder kept to himself and mumbled something I couldn’t quite hear and fairly sure it wasn’t kind or constructive.  Had I composed myself faster (trying to comprehend what I had just witnessed) the words I would have offered this person would be a sincere “Well done.”  So regardless of who overheard this exchange I know for sure that the Christ fella had at least three people thinking. The guy who tapped his shoulder, the girl who acknowledged it, and me who assumed his agenda.   I just had to share that little experience and whoever that guy was I’ll say it again, well done dude, well done.

I love Dragon Con. I love its diversity on so many levels and I go there to celebrate with thousands of people common interests rather than fundamental differences. And I don’t forget who I am while there because I’m a representative of His church and I can still enjoy the event in spite of it, plain and simple. But I just hope that in the coming years (and for my daughters sake) I can see less of outright mockery of my beliefs so that in a weekend of pure fandom I can enjoy it and possibly revisit the term “coexist” without the many distractions to cloud its meaning. Wait, what’s that you say? Unfortunately the Bible tells me otherwise? John…15….18 through…

John 15:18-21 ” “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Well….nuts.

Your Puerto Rican Deacon

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I’ll Take Relationship for $1000 Alex…

November 5, 2012

For a long time now, I’ve seen such a misdiagnosis of “Religion” versus “Relationship” with God. I can personally say that I don’t like religion and I never have and never will. Some might ask, “Well Tim, don’t you go to church? Aren’t you a pastor now? How can you say that?” Well, I can say it with confidence and conviction. And about that pastor thing, yeah, that’s my job title now but that doesn’t give me a clearer connection to the Almighty than you. To say otherwise is false and way above my pay rate….I’m being cheeky here. So about that “religion” thing…it’s not what I believe God wants for us and it’s not the same as the “relationship” He does want with us.

You see a relationship with God frees me from the many rules that were set in place that I could never adhere to. Not because I don’t have the desire to but my flawed human nature trips me up from ever getting there to follow through with those rules. They were pretty high standards. Sure there are many in the faith that can’t separate these two ideas but what potentially is the result is becoming so theistically dogmatic where it becomes a street corner yelling mission about expectations we can never meet. In fact, I’d dare say the religiously spirited person delivering that message sets a bar so high for everyone else that even he/she can’t meet it themselves. And sadly, they won’t recognize it. On the flip side, the non-believer misinterprets this concept by lack of understanding its foundation by implanting non-theistic terms into a theistic frame work. Therefore they’ll say something like “How can you not believe in religion but at the same time say you believe in the Bible”??? To them it’s also one in the same. But again, the reality is that it’s not. And I’ve seen the non-theists use this misdiagnoses as a starting point which then lead to much broader charges regarding Bible inconsistency’s, unreliable interpretations, Horus and Mithras being one in the same as Jesus, the Noah’s Ark account biting off the Epic of Gilgamesh and on and on and on. All charges under the guise of the non relevance of “Religion.” And there’s the misdiagnosis. Btw, charges which have been adequately answered and deflated by scholars and historians for nearly a hundred years yet regurgitated for a new generation to continue the claims. But claims nerveless brought on by the lack of understanding of what it is they’re criticizing. I also believe the Christian can lack that understanding within their own beliefs as well which is why in one of my older posts (Four Things Churches Can Learn From Dragon Con -Part 1)

I laid the challenge that we need to do a better job in hitting the books and understanding the essence and history of our faith. As Christians, we need to do a better job of conveying that a relationship with God is not religion for God. It’s something we not only need to convey but we need to do our best in living this truth out. We need to show it! So that any discussion regarding Christ starts with the “correct” understanding of this man’s historic mission on earth which can than ultimately lead to constructive dialogue about the nature of that mission. A mission that freed me from trying to reach a perfection that I could never reach. And I can loosen my tie, breathe better, and live life a little easier due to it. I was prompted to write this short blog after watching this video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” by Jefferson Bethke.

Many don’t care for this video, many believers and non-believers hate what he has to say with a passion and I’m quite sure Mr. Bethke’s fine with that. And I’m also sure he’d agree with my stance that I’m not here to change hearts or minds but only called to share what I know and believe. And after 22 million hits on youtube, there’s no denying Mr. Bethke struck a sensitive chord with so many. He sure did with me. His poem spoke to me with true insight and wisdom and I sure hope in sharing it, it strikes a chord in you as well. God Bless and Take Care,

Your Puerto Rican Deacon

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Four Things Churches Can Learn From Dragon Con (Part 2)

September 19, 2012

 Continuing from my previoust post, we now go to the third thing that churches can learn from Dragon Con… 

  3) Passion!  An understatement to say the least.  Man, the energy that consumes the convention among the Brethren of Nerds and Geeks is absolutely overwhelming!  In spite of the     vendor halls promoting and selling tags, shirts, pins, and stickers bashing Christian’s (a subject for another time given I was there to celebrate our common interests) I have to really hand it to the crowd, they sure know how share their passion for white-knuckled fandom!  Everyone is having a great time and they let that energy pass from one high five to another.  Again, celebrating what makes them collectively tick and doing it rather well.  Not to say that a given Sunday service isn’t “always” exciting or spiritually elevated but I recognize the consistency by which my fellow geeks excel at it. It’s the kind of passion that really attracts one to see what they’re all about. Well, that’s the kind of passion I believe we need to consistently live out if we are to attract others to see what “we’re” all about.

A compelling attraction brought on by a true passion, demonstrating active compassion which can ultimately tear away the many stigmas’ inaccurately characterizing the faith these days.  We share it wisely; share it in acceptance and always in love. And in doing so, celebrate what makes us tick and then pass that kind of excitement from one waiting high-five to another! But that passion has to be active first in our own lives before we can ever offer it up to anyone else.  So it’s passion that naturally leads in to my final point of what churches can learn from the Con and that’s being…. 

 4) Unapologetically Bold     Listen, I truly believe Convention folks have re-defined this term in ways I can’t even describe.  Oh yeah! I mean in their exquisite costuming, people wear everything to almost practically nothing without a second thought. The same goes for those who collect books, toys, shirts, write short stories, play games till five in the morning, or whatever  fan track’s they commit to sitting through the entire weekend. It’s in their boldness that they lower their guard, lose any and all inhibitions, and unapologetically profess “Yo, I’m a Geek, I wear it proudly on my sleeve (or lack thereof) and I simply don’t care what you think of me!” And that stance is not only rampant but encouraged among the thousands present.  Why? Because there’s confidence and security in numbers.

When you’re among thousands of people with like interests and sharing it with excitement, you realize, you’re not the only geek out there. So you not only become bold for just those three days, you take that boldness or that confidence home with you and don’t go anywhere else without it. Well here we go…we should do the same. And no, I’m not talking about being odd for God or the zealot we encountered on the corner after a Con parade yelling “Turn or Burn, or you gonna Die and Fry!” No! There is a difference in boldly professing interests and hobbies than slamming your worldview in someone’s face. God expects spiritual Fruit NOT religious Nuts!

A brilliant quote from one my favorite Apologists just sprang to mind, “After you’ve cut off a person’s nose, there’s no point in offering them a rose to smell”. Any attempts profoundly undermines all pronouncements as to who we are as Christ followers. That said, we (as a church) cannot afford to play American Express and leave home without Christ.  If I claim to love His teachings, His sacrifice, and accepting a life in stride with Him…how can I possibly consider leaving my love for Jesus at home? That’s like saying to my wife, “Honey, I want to hold your hand, kiss and hug you, and tell you that I love you, but only when I’m at home with you. And wherever we go outside of it, you be sure to keep your distance…Ok?”. Seriously? And in adopting that idea how are we ever to demonstrate or share who God is?  I have witnessed those who claim the faith become more and more guarded when someone walks by their conversation about church or anything to do with a life in Christ. It’s a hush-hush knee jerk reaction! No, you’re not the only one out there. Grow your confidence by being among those who will encourage you and challenge your faith. Get connected into Life Groups and become active in fellowship through corporate Sunday worship or even through local missions.

That encouragement (along with committed studies) will grant you the confidence to talk out your faith and allow it to be heard.  Proclaim your statements boldly and in love so that the person overhearing it just might want to hear more.  And if they want to engage…receive them and invite them into your conversation!  Boldly Profess where No One Has Professed Before! Sorry, obviously could not be helped.  Also, stay compassionate in spite of any criticism. Understand that in many occasions, it’s in your reaction to such criticisms that will make the biggest impression. After all, you may be the only bible a person will ever read. So wear it well on your sleeve and don’t waiver from the message that endears us to those in need of hearing it. Church family, this is what’s needed to make an impact and if you read about it further; it’s all we’re supposed to do. We’re to boldly share our faith. It’s not up to us as to whether the person we share it with will accept it, a mistake I see way too often.  Once shared, that decision is solely between them and God. But we have to represent every area of Christianity as best as we possibly can and do it unapologetically.

Well, there it is in its entire splendor and I do hope you enjoyed this rather cheeky expose. Not expecting to have everyone agree with my views but it is just that, my personal views.  I believe we do things well as a church but there’s always room to improve and to learn universal principles from a given source.

The Con offered great experiences and great insight. There were many costumes and many wonderful coats adorned that weekend. And through all my excitement in those three days and dressing up in costume for one of those nights, the coat of Christianity is the one I’ve chosen to adorn daily and also for the rest of my life. I’m nowhere near perfect nor do I ever pretend to be.   I am just living out this life the best way that I can and I surely want to represent my fandom for Christ by loving on people (from all walks and all beliefs) as best as I’m able. Hopefully demonstrating what it means to wear such a coat.  And however long I’m granted to be here, I pray that my practice of essential unity, my knowledge and passion on the subject as well as my unapologetic stance, can be thoughtfully witnessed by everyone closest to me and by those I’ll meet only once.

So that in the end, their offered testimony is simply stated; “Daddy, Babe, Son, Bro, Buddy,  Geek, Tim Roman… you wore that coat well.”

Live Long and Prosper in His Glory and May That Force Be With You Always,

Your Puerto Rican Deacon

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Four Things Churches Can Learn From Dragon Con (Part 1)

September 17, 2012

I’m a geek. That’s no secret. I mean “Jedipastor.org” right?  And by the way, that’s me sporting the goofy grin next to Vader. I do probably announce that truth to our church more times than the members care to hear about it.  Most likely to the point where they’re saying, “All right, we get it Tim, you’re a nerd.”  Yes, yes I am. And like I mentioned before in one of my teachings, I’m not the most articulate fellow in the world (which extends to  my writing so please forgive any grammatical errors) and I didn’t go to seminary, or take a course in public speaking. But I know the subjects I’m passionate about. So if you want to ask me anything on (oh) say action figures, superheroes, movies, Jesus, art, and Star Wars (and not necessarily in that order) I’ll talk your ears off.  So it’s my passion for such things that have richly molded me into the person that I so proudly am today. Well, that’s what my Mom tells me anyways.

In gearing up to go to last week’s Dragon Con (the Super Bowl of geek conventions here in Atlanta), Howard Koepka half-jokingly suggested that my next blog should be an expose entitled The Six Things Churches Could Learn from the Con.  I was amused by his suggestion and almost wrote it off until I thought about it some more. “Hey, you know what? I think my pastor might be on to something here.”  So that weekend, I mentioned this idea to great friends of ours who were joining us for the Con and we took note to see what those things might be. Well, in mulling over this subject while there, I’ve condensed this list to four things. So with that established, let me share with you, what I believe, are The Four Things Churches Can Learn from Dragon Con…..

1)      Essential Unity    In churches today, there tends to be this “us against them mentality”. If you’re not a Protestant, Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal, Catholic, or eve Non-Denominational, then you’re obviously not doing church “correctly”.  Each prescribing to their teaching and worship styles over the other. At the Con, I was among a variety of Geeks in those three days. There were Harry Potter Geeks, Star Wars Geeks, Trekkies/Trekkers (they know the difference where I do not), Gamers, costumers, artists…you name it! And over the years, I never once saw or heard from any of those factions’ attempts to try to convince a person that their brand of fandom was superior to another.  I didn’t see the Star Trek fan poking a Star Wars fan in the chest proclaiming Spock is wiser than Yoda or that Luke can flip circles around Kirk…which, by the way, He can… there were no contentions.  In the grand scheme of things, there may have been that kind of debating but I’m sure to say that it was all in fun and never in ostracizing fashion. You see, in this setting, those non- essential items( or preferences) didn’t hinder the essential fun fact that everyone was there to celebrate one thing. We’re all Geeks! Well, that kind of unity attracts. And churches could do a better a job in recognizing how the non- essentials tend to be a divisive obstacle we create for ourselves rather than focusing on the essentials which would enable us to celebrate who we are, lock arms, and share God’s light in a highly effective way. How much more positively influential can we then be? Bottom line, at the Con, denominations sure get along.

2)      Knowing Our Subject Matter    Geeks sure know theirs! I can assure you that whatever preference a fellow geek is in to( be it a game, movie, book, art, costumes, or a great Sci-Fi show), it’s not just watched, read about, played, and studied “one” day a week.   The fandom you witness at conventions is “experienced” daily in a geek’s life!  They soak this stuff up to where they know “who” said “what” played by “you know who”  on episode “so and so”  which aired on channel  “something- something” back in 1976 and it doesn’t stop there!  They know their movies, directors, books, and authors and on and on and on! And they breathe it to the point where it’s part of their very being. I mean the more they know about it, the more they tend to be fulfilled in sharing it with others just as excited about the subject or to those who’s never heard of it. Believe me, that’s me! Well, how about that? I truly believe we as a church (not the building for corporate Sunday fellowship but as the body of Christ) should absolutely aspire to do likewise! We tend to adopt apathetic beliefs and merely save what we “want to know” for only a Sunday setting. One day a week. Well, if we profess who Christ is in our lives, should we not also commit to the study and historicity of Christendom to the degree where we read it, study it, and breathe it daily? Shouldn’t we also Geek out about it in the same exciting way? And like the Con setting, it takes commitment.  And it should be a commitment that is the result of wanting to understand our history (His Story), grasp its truths and apply it fruitfully to our own lives. Listen the more we can learn, the more we’re likely to share that knowledge in a new, exciting way that can inspire people to consider our proposition and to look into it further rather than leaning on the un-inspiring and lazy “Don’t ask questions, Just accept it on faith” stance.  It can be done but we really need to make an effort to know our subject matter rather than having it dictated by someone who doesnt believe in it. So let’s hit the books!

Stay tuned for 3 & 4 in( part 2 )of what churches can learn from the Dragon Con…

Your Puerto Rican Deacon

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No Politics Here…

August 23, 2012

You hear it all the time, there’s nothing more taboo or divisive than talking about politics. Ok, ok Religion too but not as much in that same regard due to my personal experiences with that topic.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how blessed I was to have the friends I have with so many geeky things in common but one……politics.   Our settings were always appropriate to jab at each other on current issues.  However, if you wanted to buzz kill your Friday night video game marathon, all you ever had to do was bring up anything political.  I assure you, that a night started in politics would end half-baked and deflated by stereotypic name calling.

Up yours, you war-mongering, religious right wing fanatic!!”, “Back at you, lazy self-absorbed, socialist, tree licking hippie!”

And if you were an “Independent” well, no names were thrown your way because you were never invited.

But, there it was, divisiveness at its worst when the actual geek setting couldn’t have been better. And in retrospect, it should have been better than having to stoop to that level.

Sure, there’s a time to inform yourself and talk those issues out with family, friends, and neighbors. But as much as I’ve removed myself from that scene for nearly seven years now (insert gasping blank stares here) I can tell you, besides being a happier chap, where I personally don’t believe a setting for any political jabber is appropriate.  In a pulpit on Sunday morning or in a Life group setting, be it a home or at church.

Listen, being in ministry for several years now I can’t tell you how many times the partisan wall came down the moment honest discussion about God and Faith were had.  Let’s weigh this out. Does talking about politics “really” better ones “daily” life? Or does a true relationship with God outweigh what any man; woman, elephant, donkey, or turkey can tickle your ear with? And given the seriousness of our proposition of a life in Christ, we as Christian’s risk ostracizing those who are seeking that way of life the moment our invitation is replaced by a stump speech for a political candidate. Think about our responsibility in this instance.  I believe it’s a mistake to assume that because you “are” a church goer that a person would automatically vote the way you do.

Listen at the end of the day, there’s not one politician out there that can ever afford me the comfort, the peace of mind, or the will to live a life of helping others, in spite of my financial burdens, than that of Jesus.  Don’t’ believe that’s possible? Go to Haiti for a week and try to convince me otherwise. In my life group, I’ve made it clear that we don’t talk politics because there are those who don’t vote for the party I vote for. And it would be irresponsible of me, and rude as a host, to get in between that person and God because I have a political axe to grind in that setting.

Rather than enflame ourselves in trying to convince others of our political opinion’s (wasted resources as far as I’m concerned) I find it a better solution to celebrate all our diversities in true fellowship.  I believe that’s what our God wants. That other “stuff”…well, it’ll work itself out. Especially when I also firmly believe that God has got it covered. So why try to get in His way? Believe me, God has a bigger shovel than your or I will ever own and it’s best to do our part and re-direct our resources by doing what we ought to be doing…Mathew 28:18-20 anyone?

So next week at Life Group, rather than talk about pork barrel spending, talk about the pork we’re all “blessed” to eat because of the one act a Christ did that no one in history has ever done.

Pass the bacon please….Amen

Your Puerto Rican Deacon

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