Sunday, March 27, 2011

Christian La-La Land

I have had a really bad week at work. I have experienced more than my fair share of miscommunication, blame, deflection, raised voices, misunderstandings ... and the list goes on. Friday morning I really would have rather taken a beating than to have gone to work. If you follow me on facebook, you know I am fairly transparent with my feelings. So, I posted, "Would gladly take a beating if it meant I didn't have to go to work today. And before you think I am not grateful for my job, please do not even go there." I put the "grateful" disclaimer because, inevitably, whenever I say anything rather than a positive statement I receive comments like, "At least you have a job," or, "Be careful about the words you speak into existence," or, "You are so blessed you should not complain," etc. Now, do not get me wrong. I am grateful for friends who are encouraging and are looking out for my own good. However, where do you draw the line of what is reality and what is not? 

I know the Evangelical Church, Pentecostalism and Christian ease. I have followed it, led it, served as pastor in it, loved it, hated it, tolerated it, run from it, run to it, lived it and breathed it. Since leaving vocational ministry nearly two years ago, I have backed away from it. I have thought about it, examined it, studied it, prayed about it and conversely ignored it. In taking a step "out of it," I see a lot of things clearly that I never saw while navigating "through it." I have come to grips that there is a sense of denial for most Evangelical Christians.  We tend to pick Scripture we like and ignore those we do not. We hide anything bad that is going on in our lives and only share the good. We sometimes judge and condemn those who are going through terrible situations with a self-righteous air that says, "If you were 'well-behaved,' or 'holy' enough, you wouldn't be going through this," whether directly, or indirectly. We lead people to think that, "If you would just go to church, nothing bad would happen to you." Bull Hockey!

The truth of the matter is the same things in life happen to everyone: Christian, other religion, Atheist, Agnostic, etc. The Christian faith, if not careful, sets people up for failure. We look for perfection in the Bible. And, we look for deliverance from our troubles from Heaven. We examine characters such as David and say, "I wish I had the passion for God that David had." Really, do you know the makeup of this great king? He appears to be a peeping Tom, possibly addicted to the porn of his day in spying on the nude Bathsheba; he was an adulterer; he was a murderer; and, many theologians conclude from scripture that he and Jonathon were possibly more than close friends. I have made the statement before that I would love to have the passion for God that David had. But, that may be a little too much passion for me. For, to have that level of passion for God obviously means that you have a lot of passionate internal battles to contend with.

We proclaim holiness. Let's be honest, the Bible is very specific in saying, even if loosely translated, "Without holiness nobody will see God." Although we need to strive to be Christlike, it is impossible to be perfect. David was not and Paul was not. Both of these Bible greats faced many earthly struggles which are recorded publicly in Christian history. The longer I live, the more I learn to live in Christ's love, mercy and grace. For, I truly believe the only true holiness I will ever achieve is through His blood, not through my behavior.

So, live for Him. But, also remember that bad days happen. It is alright to be honest about them. Bad things happen to good people. It's alright to be honest about it. Those who cast a condemning word at you for "being human" are struggling with things that are just as deep, if not deeper, in their own lives. They are just probably too afraid to show their lack of perfection to let you know about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

God's Word Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It...Really?

The Great Smokey Mountains
I remember, it must have been 25 years ago, going to Cherokee Village in the Smokey Mountains with my wife and young son. We attended the drama "Unto These Hills," I believe it was called. They were talking about the God that the Cherokee nation worshiped. They did not call him "Jesus," nor the "Holy Father," and not even the "Holy Spirit." But, Donna and I left discussing the fact that their God sounded just like our God. Our minds went to the thought, almost simultaneously, if it just might be possible that God would reveal himself to different cultures in different ways. For instance, the ancient Cherokees probably never had the chance to hear of Jesus. Are we so narrow-minded, self-consumed and think that only the white, Judeo-Christian Western society who could read the King James Bible would warrant a relationship with the true God? I really have grown to doubt it through the years.

Now, I know Jesus. He is MY King. He is MY Lord. However, I cannot judge other people's, especially ancient people's, relationship with God. This brings me to the fact that I have recently been doing a lot of theological study. Not in the traditional sense. But, in the broader sense. I have made the comment which is the title of this blog in the past. I have friends whom I still hear say, or see post, "God's Word says it, I believe it, that settles it!" I have come to cringe when I hear, or read, that statement. I am convinced, more now than ever, that Christians pick and choose what they want to believe out of the Word. So, which part do you believe? Which part is settled? For, there are scriptural incidents that are not easily, if even, reconcilable. Here are a few examples:

  • Didn't Jesus provide wine to the wedding at Galilee? Doesn't the Word also lead us to believe that the patrons of the wedding reception were already drunk by the time he provided the miraculous better tasting wine? And, didn't the Apostle instruct us not to get drunk? Hum, perhaps it's OK to provide the booze as long as you don't consume it. Really?
  • It is theologically sound to baptize people in water using the words, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." It is also theologically sound to baptize people in water using the words, "The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ." I hate to break it to my Trinitarian friends. However, every person mentioned between the lids of the Bible was baptized in "Jesus' Name." Also, historical records outside of the Bible support the fact that the early church only baptized in "Jesus' Name." So, unless you are baptizing in Jesus' Name, the "God's Word says it..." statement ain't flyin'!
  • Does the Bible forbid women to speak or lead in church? Yes. Does it promote women as leaders in church? Yes.
I could go on and on with these illustrations. These are just a few. Here is the point I am trying to make. It is because of these inconsistencies within the Bible that we have differing doctrines and beliefs within the Body of Christ. Who is to say who is wrong and who is right? 
  • Scripturally, is it OK to get drunk? I suppose you could argue so. Scripturally, is it forbidden to drink alcohol? I suppose you could argue so. 
  • Scripturally, is it OK to baptize in the titles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Yes. Is it OK to baptize in the "Name of Jesus?" Yes.
  • Scripturally, is it OK to keep a woman silent in church? Yes. Scripturally, is it OK to let a woman speak and lead in church? Yes.
I personally have decided to err on the side of grace, not law, in dealing with people, issues and the Word. With the menu of options we have to chose from in the Word, I find it somewhat hypocritical to hear, "God's Word said it, I believe it, that settles it." If so, you will have a lot of double-mindedness and bi-polar behavior to work through in your walk with God. So, let's stop judging others, stop fighting over which doctrine is "right" and which doctrine is "wrong," and do what our Savior, my Jesus Christ, told us to do, "Love God and love man." 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just a Break

2008-Undergrad Graduation
Dear Readers,

I should have posted this earlier. However, better late than never!

I just wanted to let you know that I am taking a short break from the blogging and social networking world to concentrate on completing my masters' thesis. It should be complete by the end of April. Then, look mind might explode in deep thought expression!

Take care and be blessed!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Falling Stars

Charlie Sheen
I only have just a minute to crank this thought out. So, here goes. Right, or mostly wrong, Hollywood stars yield more social power in our society than politicians or practically anyone else. This is nothing new. In the 1920's, Aimee Semple McPherson drew more of a crowd in Los Angeles than the President of the United States. With stardom comes bitter-sweet exposure. The news is full of reports about Charlie Sheen. I know we are all sick of hearing about it. And, the negative press is obviuosly warranted.

The other day my most wise wife made a good observation. The way the man is behaving indicates that he is a very sick man. Sick people need accountability through compassion. It occurred to me this morning that perhaps we Western Civilized Judeo Christian society should take a different stance than we usually do. When we hear about the rise and fall of Hollywood stars why don't we pray for them? Pray that God get a hold of their hearts, give them healing, wholeness and draw them to Him. What a concept...let's pray for Hollywood and their stars instead of gossiping and backbiting. Wow, isn't that different from our normal "churched" behavior?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The School that Stopped God

Antioch College Campus

It was a weekday luncheon. I entered Beavercreek Golf Course's Clubhouse for a Greater Dayton Sectional pastor’s meeting of the Assemblies of God. News had just broken that Antioch College was under tremendous financial pressure and would be closing its doors. A pastor made a comment to the effect of, “Now that ‘that’ place is closing, perhaps our Yellow Springs church will have a revival and God will be able to move.” At that time, I was a student of Antioch University McGregor (AUM), another college in the university’s system. Even though that pastor did not realize that I was a current student of AUM, quite honestly, I could not believe what I had heard. And, my mode of action was silence. If you do any research on Antioch College, you will find it was probably the most liberal college in the country. However, it had declined to the point of less than 200 students. Hence, that presented the need for it to have to shut its doors.

AUM Campus
 If you are a regular reader, you read last post about Joe from my pastorate. My experience with pastoring Joe was the beginning of my spiritual / emotional transformation. Antioch was a continuance of the process. My very first class was called Self and Society. I will never forget the first 30-minutes of that class experience. You know the drill. The professor introduces his/herself. Then, the students take turns singing their own praises. Well, I could not believe the diversity of people, backgrounds and beliefs represented in that classroom. And, the white, conservative, Christian (pastor, none-the-less) male was definitely in the minority. I remember thinking, “Mike, what have you gotten yourself into?” As the introductions continued across the room, one white lady shared her story. It went like this, “I am a lesbian pagan and my partner is a black lady.” I nearly pooped my pants. Her statement of being grated against EVERYTHING that had been poured into my psyche since birth.

Time passed. I learned to be more tolerant and loving of people. And, people learned to be more tolerant and loving of me. I remember one class in particular. Someone was ranting and raving about the stupidity of “conservative Christians.” I spoke up and proclaimed, “Why is it at this school anything goes and is OK except conservative Christianity? You are all hypocrites if you say you except anyone as they are but you do not accept conservative Christians.” I immediately got an apology. And, my days at AUM were the most wonderful and enlightening days of my life. It was amazing to see how people would migrate to me to share situations they were going through, get my insight and ask for my prayer; including gays, lesbians, pagans, atheists and agnostics. I would have rather been in that position than in any pulpit in America!

Didn’t Jesus say to GO into the world and teach His Gospel? He didn’t say, “Go build your churches and keep people out unless they are just like you.” I really, really think that if Jesus were in Yellow Springs, OH in the flesh, He would not have been at the local Assembly of God. He would have been at the campus of Antioch. He would not have been appalled at the lifestyle of people. He would have reached out in love and compassion. He would say, “Those without sin cast the first stone,” and, “Go and sin no more.”

Is God so impotent that He lacks the power to move in the midst of what Christians term different, or, what they consider sin? I am here to tell you that the God I serve is neither powerless nor impotent. He moves in the hearts of people who willingly trust, accept and believe in him.

Oh, remember the white lesbian pagan who was partnered with the black woman? She is one of the dearest people I have ever met. We are still friends. I adore her. To be quite frank, I would rather spend time with her than many pastors or “Christians” I have met in my walk of life. No, my God is bigger than any pastor, denomination, fellowship, church, or school. Just get over yourself and your religion and He will show that to you, too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Beginning of the End; Or, Was it the Beginning?

His name was Joe. He came to church thirty minutes early and left five minutes before it started. Then, he would stay through the first five minutes of the service and leave. Next, he would stay through all of the singing. Then, he would stay long enough to listen to part of the message. Finally, he stayed for the entire service. I was not sure, but I suspected Joe was gay. Sure enough, he was. I had only been exposed to one other gay man in my life. Well, at least one other who had “come out of the closet.” I am sure my path crossed many others who had not been so bold. Statistically speaking, so have you.

The only other gay person I had known in any real capacity was a young man in the mid-1980’s at the church I was serving in Knoxville. He announced he was gay. In hindsight, I realize how brave of a move that was for him. He was immediately ostracized. Everyone was afraid of him, including me. I would not shake his hand. I would not stand next to him at the urinals in the bathroom. And, I would not drink after him in the water fountain. We were all afraid of AIDS. As could be expected, this young man left his church, his family and his home town. I never saw him again. I left Knoxville in 1989. I understand after a decade or so of hard living he came back home with AIDS; basically, to die. I understand he was welcomed with open and loving arms. And, he passed away.

Why am I writing about this topic? It was through Joe that my eyes were opened to God’s unconditional love. You see, when Joe started attending our church, people became angry. People within the church who I had personally won to Christ, tithing members of my church, came to me and said, “Either he goes; or, I go.” To which I replied, “I am sorry. But, he is not going anywhere.” And, they left. They were not going to attend a church where gays were welcome to worship. As a pastor of a Pentecostal church, no less, how did I handle this sensitive topic? When I taught what the Bible says about sexual sin, I taught that any sex outside of marriage was sin according to God’s word. This included ALL sexual sins: premarital sex, extramarital sex and homosexuality. I did not point my finger at any one person or circumstance. Through a series of months, Joe accepted Christ and was baptized in water. He had asked my wife, Donna, who was also a credentialed minister to baptize him. And, she did.

Joe's Baptism
So, unlike most pastors, or most Christians for that matter, my wife and I lovingly embraced a gay man. Our stand was that it is our job to love God, love people, teach the Word and let God do the rest. And, that is what we did throughout the entire time we pastored. I quickly discovered that I was a fish swimming up-stream. That was not the norm and it was not what most “churched” people wanted. Heck, it wasn’t what most of society wanted. Never-the-less, I was bound and determined to abide by my interpretation of God’s Word and my own convictions; even if it meant I was to starve. And, I nearly did.

I am going to share more about this journey of the heart in future posts. But, I felt it was necessary for you to get a grasp of who I am, first. I am a man who loves God, my wife, my family and I love people. After I left my last pastorate in June 2008, I decided to systematically strip away the traditions and influences that I had been exposed to my entire life. I have been on a quest to discover truth: the real truth with as little preconceived notions as possible. It has been anything but easy. But, I am making progress. I have lost friends. Those who I thought were good friends in the process. But, so be it.

The pendulum swings to both sides of the extreme during seasons of transition in life. It is important to treat people with love and respect as they find their way. My pendulum is starting to come back into balance. And, that balance is somewhat different to what it was at the beginning of my post-pastoring journey. I have shared with you many stories of the pastoring season of my life in the series “The Truth.” Now, it is time to begin sharing the next chapter.

Until next time, be blessed!


Friday, March 4, 2011

A Legend

Tuesday, March 2, Gospel legend Dottie Rambo would have turned 77 years old. In honor of both her work and her birthday, I thought I would share a live interview featuring Dottie, her daughter, Reba, and her manager, Larry Ferguson. I encourage you to carve out the time to watch all of these segments. If you don't know of Dottie, you will learn why her music literally changed the face of not only Gospel music, but music of most all genres. If you know Dottie, it is a great opportunity to learn about the lady behind the music. 

And, now, Grammy Award winning Dottie Rambo...

Dottie Rambo - Faith & Fame Interview (Part 1 of 5)

Dottie Rambo - Faith & Fame Interview (Part 2 of 5)

Dottie Rambo - Faith & Fame Interview (Part 3 of 5)

Dottie Rambo - Faith & Fame Interview (Part 4 of 5)

Dottie Rambo - Faith & Fame Interview (Part 5 of 5)

For more Dottie Rambo information, visit:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Early Days (Chapter 6)

Denny & Connie
My brother, Denny, and Connie married on September 4, 1965. They were both only eighteen years old. I lost my roommate. I remember mom and dad bought me a brand new bunk bed and bedroom suite when Denny left home.
In addition to my brother getting married, it was the first week of first grade. The first day of school I got on the wrong bus and ended up at the high school. When I finally got to the right school, I was put in the same class with all of my kindergarten friends for three days. For some reason, the school administration decided they needed to move some students around. As a result, they moved me from the classroom with all of my friends to another classroom where I knew no one. It was more than I could handle. I broke down in tears and they had to take me to the principal’s office. My best friend, Terry Bowers was the only one who could do anything with me. Dad had to leave work and come take me home.
The school kept to their decision and I remained in the new classroom. I never understood why that upset me so badly. Now, for the first time, I realize how much pressure I must have been under to be just five years old. My older brother had just gotten married and left home. I had to ride a school bus for the first time. It took me to the wrong school with a bunch of big kids. I was in new surroundings. And, they removed me from everyone I knew. That was a lot of pressure for a little guy.
I lived my early childhood during the early 1960’s. I listened to Chubby Checker and entertained my brother’s friends by doing the twist. I listened to everything from the Everly Brothers and Elvis to southern gospel greats like the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen. I watched black and white television when there were only two stations. I was loved unconditionally by wonderful parents, family and friends. I was sheltered and innocent.
Gary Gibson
Life has taken that sweet, unassuming little boy and toughened him up. Sometimes he’s nowhere to be found. Other times, he creeps into my behavior before I even know it. As I reflect on my life, I really do like that little boy I once was. I believe I will let him come out and play more often.
Several years ago I wrote the following song. Earlier, I talked about playing at my grandparents’ house with my cousins. Now, my generation has kids and even grandkids of our own. My cousin, Gary, died in the early 1990’s from cancer. Right after his death, I penned the following song. I guess this sums it all up:

Old Time Memories
Words and Music by Michael Gibson
Verse 1
Grandma in her rocking chair
Grandpa with his graying hair
Grandkids playing around the old coal stove
Family sits around and sings about
Heaven and better things
In my heart it makes me want to go
Old time memories seem so distant
I close my eyes and I am there in an instant
Friends and family some gone before me
But in my dreams I’ll always manage to hold on and see
Verse 2
Brand new times are sweeping through
The family has been made anew
Through children I can see memories of old
My mind goes back to simpler times
When life was taught in nursery rhymes
Watching life causing memories to unfold
© 1992 Michael D. Gibson (BMI) All rights reserved.

As I see the man I have become, I see the influence my family had on me. Sometimes, I am short with others and impatient. That is how my brother treated me, on occasion. I am a hard worker, just like my dad. Dad normally worked two jobs to support our family. I can be sweet, loving, but judgmental; just like my mom was. I can pen songs, sing and play the piano and organ; just like I observed my family and Sister Hume do. I can teach and preach, just like I observed Pastor Hume do. After observing the unrest of the early 1960’s, and being a teen of the 1970’s, I am not afraid to be who I am and stand up for what I believe in. All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing about those early years. I am learning to embrace them more than ever before.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Early Days (Chapter 5)

All of mom’s family lived in Tennessee except for her older sister, my Aunt Bertha. Aunt Bert was only four feet eleven inches tall. I loved Aunt Bert, dearly. I spent a lot of time with her. Aunt Bertha married a man named Gil Henderson when I was about three years old. Uncle Gil took a great deal of interest in me.
Uncle Gil & Aunt Bertha
Most weekends, I would spend at least one night with Aunt Bert and Uncle Gil. Uncle Gil taught me to play checkers. He would cheat because he couldn’t stand to lose. Uncle Gil always told mom and dad, “You don’t ever have to worry about Mike. If something happens to you, I’ll take care of him. I’ll send him to college and make sure he’s always provided for.” Unfortunately, I lost my Uncle Gil to a heart attack when I was thirteen years old. He was only fifty years old.
I remember when Uncle Gil had his first heart attack. He came home from the hospital and wanted me to come visit him. I told mom I didn’t want to see him when he was sick. I would wait until he got feeling better. That never happened. He had another heart attack and died before I got to see him again. I have always regretted that decision
Cousins Wayne & Judy
I remember mom worked until I was about three years old. Aunt Bertha’s middle son, Wayne, was overseas in the Marines. His wife, Judy, was my baby sitter. Recently, I asked Judy what I was like when she babysat me. Here is what she said, “I remember this sweet little boy with big eyes. You were a little on the plump side, and had short little legs that tried to keep up with me when we walked up to Parkmoor. You were always dressed nice, and I don't think you ever got dirty that I can remember. You were a little spoiled, but in a nice way. You never asked for anything, and was always polite. I think what stands out the most in my mind is your smile with a big old dimple, and your southern accent. You were so cute I couldn't help but love you. Wayne was away in the Marines at that time, and doesn't remember anything about you at that age. I hope this helps hon.” I still stay in touch with Judy. We Facebook each other all the time.
Barb & Aunt Adie
I started kindergarten when I was four years old. Beavercreek did not have a public kindergarten. So, I went to a private kindergarten at the home of Mrs. McCray. The McCray’s lived on Grange Hall Road. She had converted her basement into a classroom. I had a good time in kindergarten. I remember we took field trips. One of our field trips was to the brand new Kettering Memorial Hospital. The Dayton Daily News took our picture with a stethoscope and wrote an article about our class visiting the hospital. A few years ago I found the newspaper article while going through my Aunt Adie's pictures at my cousin, Barb's house. Aunt Adie had clipped and saved it all those years ago.

Newspaper Clipping
Mrs. McCray also had a beautiful console organ in her house. Remember, I mentioned earlier that Sister Hume played the organ. That instrument just fascinated me. Mrs. McCray’s daughter would give our class concerts on the organ.
Kindergarten Class



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Early Days (Chapter 4)

When I was first born, mom and dad lived on the west side of Dayton on Oxford Avenue. When I was about a year old, they moved into a brand new townhouse on Embassy Drive. That apartment complex is now called Northland Village. After about a year, they moved back to the west side in a duplex on Broadway. The house on Broadway holds my earliest memories. It was a two-story house. I remember tumbling down the stairway when I was about two years old. 
Me About 1963
After living about a year on Broadway, we moved to Kettering into a house on East Dorothy Lane. By now, I had my own little piano. I banged the living daylights out of it. My brother was entering his junior year of high school. And, he had met the love of his youth, Connie Burkes.
Mom and dad decided it was time to stop renting and to buy a house. So, they purchased a home in Beavercreek. This house was nestled in the woods behind the Belmont Drive-in Theater which was on County Line Road; and, just across from Bergamo on Shakertown Road. We moved into our home in 1963. That is where we stayed until after I graduated from High School.
It was a very small house. It had two bedrooms, one bath and about 800 square feet of living space. But, it had a huge yard. We were surrounded by woods. And, we had probably 20 full-grown oak, maple and walnut trees in our yard.
Brother & Connie, 9/4/65
My brother literally hated it when we moved to Beavercreek. His girlfriend and all of his friends went to Fairmont East in Kettering. And, now he felt alone at Beavercreek High. It was about this time that he started to drive. He and Connie dated exclusively. I was pretty much a spoiled brat. I could get just about anything I wanted from my mom. So, if Denny was going on a date and I wanted to go, mom made him take me. He obviously resented it. And, I don’t blame him.
I can remember being in the back seat of his car as we were going to pick up Connie one evening. He was so angry that he had to take me with him. He was intentionally swerving the car from left to right. I was rolling all over the back seat. He scared me to death. Now, Denny was just a normal teen who wanted his freedom. And, here he was strapped with his three or four year old little brother on a date. I think I would have been angry, too.
I can remember those early, inquisitive years. You know, those years when you ask about everything. I can remember my brother becoming angry with me. He got frustrated with me one day and angrily said, “Why don’t you just shut up! All you ever do is ask questions. I’m sick of it!” I can understand his frustration. But, something happened to me that day. I lost part of that tender curiosity God blesses children with. I don’t think I ever got it back.
I was born in an era when there was still a nuclear threat. But, I never had a lot of fear of things like that. I remember seeing the signs for fallout shelters on buildings when I passed them. But, I didn’t really understand what it all meant.
Gumby & Pokey
I can remember the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. I was sitting in our living room floor. I was playing with my Gumby and Pokey figures. Dad had just bought me a new Gumby tracing desk. It had a light behind a white plastic screen so you could trace pictures. I can remember the television show being interrupted and the news media coverage coming on. I remember momma running into the living room and shouting, “Oh, no!”