Category: God’s love


Christ the King Sunday is celebrated this week. It is the last feast day before the new church year begins with Advent.

Here is the Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Side note: My commentary here has NOTHING to do with the mystery of salvation and our reconciliation to God in Christ or God’s love for humanity. I am examining what it means to choose to call oneself Christian.

I have been thinking lately about being a Christian. What does it is mean? Why become a Christian?  In a large part of the western narrative the primary reason folks normally become Christian is fear of hell. To say a “sinner’s prayer” and be “saved” from hell when we die. That’s it… now go tell people so they won’t go to hell either.  Is being Christian about listening to an overbearing loudmouth preacher from Arizona who has as much concern over American conservatism as he does getting folks to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Is it being offended  by coffee cups?  What sucks is this faith is often where it ends, being “saved”. What’s awesome is many times it doesn’t end there. God can be annoying in how he challenges us, right?

Early on in my journey I chose to write off most of Jesus’ words as hyperbole or unrealistic this side of heaven. Not lessons He actually wanted me/us to grow to understand and have transform us in the here and now. Is our faith something to be jettisoned (as practical in helping decide our actions as a nation or individual) if it challenges us?  Is it low on your hierarchy of needs? Maybe, that’s okay. At least be honest.

Is faith just a psychological crutch that comforts us yet never changes our thoughts , opinions and actions? I hope not but understand my atheist friends who believe so.

Why would we want to be Christian? Is it more than being about heaven/hell?

If Jesus were speaking today would he be a leader you would follow?

Would you want his ways to be sovereign?

Would we believe His ways can change this world?

Which is more important, the way of Christ or the way of our governments’ and the way of politicians? Who’s voice do you believe? Who’s wisdom?

Most of the heated discussions I get in with folks would end immediately if I heard an awareness of the cognitive dissonance of being a Christian that advocates for war, vindicates scapegoating, and the protection of what’s “ours”.  Basically, we trust in humanity and not in God.

Jesus’s words are extremely tough and I personally wrestle with them. I don’t like some of what he said  for instance stories of separating wheat/weeds good fish/bad fish at the harvest, some girls being SOL after letting their lamps burn down,Pluck your eye out or cut your hand off if it causes you to sin and so on. I definitely don’t always track with the Gospel message I am sure. My more conservative friends would say my LGBT views aren’t in line with God.    I do want to be honest about it all though. If I call Him Lord, Lord and don’t listen to how he challenges my jaded perspectives. How can I honestly say He is my Lord?  Increase my faith and understanding, Lord!  A part of my understanding of being Christian is that Christ is King,my king, I am not. Neither is Obama, Russia, ISIS, China, the U.N.

This world is a complete mess (at least in the news) Love and beauty still pervade. I pray for Christians to be honest in their questions. I pray for us to submit to the Holy Spirit convicting us. I pray we let our pride be laid aside. I pray we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’.  I pray we let love cast out fear. I pray we live as God is actually real. I pray we see Christ The King.

 

 

If you read my blog, you know I can be a bit on the “churchy” side. 🙂  I a Continue reading

Our culture and world have been in such an uproar with doom and blame around every corner,  So what’s going on?

The problem is…. everything we know and everything we don’t. The traditional Christian answer is that “sin”  is the main problem behind everything and does have some merit when looked at beyond the surface of the word. Most of the time it brings to mind a disgusted god who is watching and judging by a pure moral code that no one matches up to. This is the normal Billy Graham understanding that most American Protestants see as part of the Gospel. The word “sin” is more deep and it has more to do with setting up wrong priorities in life and the main goal and target. Priorities that are dead ends. Priorities that are rooted in self-interest and self-preservation. The other Bible words we gloss over as archaic are “iniquity and wickedness”  these both are a part of the problems in the world once we look beyond the surface. Iniquity is very similar to inequality. Wickedness comes from wicker and it is a twisting of what reality is good, think of the difference between love and lust.

I think theologically so track with me for a moment.  These things are a part of the problem in our world because they hurt and destroy our neighbors as well as ourselves.

We always want something to blame that simplifies the issues and removes any universal fault from the equation. We are still not “our brother’s keeper”.  I’m slowly learning from Rene Girard that scapegoating is the ancient , primal response to damaging things in a society. When a scandal occurs we must find a person to blame, then eliminate that person or cause and we can all go back to feeling “normal”.

Common things to blame these days: guns, being “crazy”, cultural decay, No official prayer in schools, culture of death, avarice, the poor, the rich, Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Israel, religion, Christians, welfare, capitalism, socialism, communism, ignorance, too many prisons/prison as industry, lobbies, drugs, cartels, terrorism, Putin, slave labor, pornography, prostitution, sex slavery, poor schools, inadequate teachers, inadequate parents, too much discipline, not enough discipline, rap culture, the suburbs, the inner-city, ghettos, the 1%, the 99%, inadequate health care, laziness, LGBT, racism, white privilege, slavery, animal cruelty, broken homes, crack, self-righteousness, atheists, alcoholism, police, culture wars, climate change, pollution. greed, school loans, government corruption, personal responsibility,  warmongers, southerners, political correctness, video games, Bible-thumpers, churches, too much/not enough regulation, mental health, The Patriot Act, ISIS, abortion, death penalty, domestic violence, rape, stand your ground, “sinners”  NRA, NOW, Unions, business owners, taxes, homophobia…..and on and on it goes.

Some of these things are clear-cut and others follow an ideology.  The ideological driven are what cause most division and the most comfort. Find some folks who agree with you and sit back and judge the world. Ideologies are also a subtle way to keep self-interest hidden, as well as bigotry and to be as judgmental as one wants because they are on the “right” side.

This is why I love the old story about the tree of “knowledge of good and evil”. One could call it the judgement tree. Originally, EVERYTHING was good. Then we became the judge. Judging ourselves internally, then judging everything around us.  Still, I think a society can rally around the biggies (murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) and then choose to acknowledge our limited view thus our inability to judge rightly. Humility is the quality we all need, (myself especially) The list above will continue to grade on society. As long as we get in our little groups and continue to judge “the other”  our society won’t evolve to seeing our neighbors as those made in the image of God and worthy of the benefit of the doubt.  We personally do not hold all knowledge, I encourage us all to hold opinions loosely and love tenaciously. Judgementalism inhibits love, every time.

The problem is…all of us.  The solution is in the mirror. Can we learn to love? I believe so. As we learn to love ourselves, we genuinely grow in love for our neighbor. The Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.  This Good News is for the here and now. The Kingdom of God is present within you, right now. When we love, forgive, encourage,co-suffer alongside/have compassion, leave all ultimate judgment to God (who knows the whole story), fight for justice and mercy, feed the hungry, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, sing a song, go for a run, go for a walk, hike, go fishing, make love, meditate, pray, mourn, live in empathy, read, rest, party, have fun, worship, put down the phone,grieve injustice, rejoice in mercy, learn from our elders and our youth,  have a picnic, eat something new, plant something and help it grow, be a shoulder, lift up the fallen, share hope, cry for lost dreams of your own and the lost dreams of others, give life to new dreams, smile at a child, smile with the aged, have a beer or tea with a neighbor.

Life is NOW, live eternal life on this side of the grave. If you don’t feel loved now, know this, YOU ARE LOVED!  Find community, we are not meant to be alone. To love and be loved is the Kingdom come.

I love that faith is weird and beyond pure logic.

This Sunday, the Church celebrates Pentecost. This is when God showed us another component of how the Deity relates within themselves and with us. Our Advocate, Jesus promised was being poured out upon all flesh. The disciples were anointed by this Holy Spirit and were given boldness. So much boldness they seemed drunk. The miracle that happened shortly after the Spirit came and indwelt them was the ability to communicate. A supernatural thing happened where they spoke of Jesus to a diverse crowd and all heard in their own language. That is a pretty practical miracle wouldn’t you say?

My pentecostal/charismatic brothers and sisters experience a unique version of prayer language called tongues. I do not fully understand or get it, but I honor their tradition.

So….what is this Spirit of God? I believe She ( original language use the feminine sometimes ) is the active communicator of God. The Spirit speaks to you in language you understand. Beyond conscience, more towards intuition.  She guides us into all truth!  Jesus called the Spirit, Paraclete, One who is alongside us and inside us, our Advocate!  Pointing us in the way of Jesus.

Here is the mystery I embrace; We don’t even have to be aware of what the Spirit is doing for it to be occurring. I believe the Good News is for ALL people and God will speak in a language you “get” and understand. Scripture says the Spirit intercedes with our spirit with groanings beyond words. You get that? Your sigh, your exasperated groan, the ugh, all this God is communicating with your very soul!  Your whispering intuition. God is speaking and God doesn’t yell! This communication has nothing to do with being religious unless that is a language you respond to. It can be the nudge to enjoy your kids playing or to live in the moment of a party or planting a garden and feeling the breeze.

The ancient word for spirit and wind are the same. The Spirit is the Holy Wind of God  blowing where she pleases. The Spirit does what she wants and can’t be controlled or manipulated!  Yet She doesn’t control or manipulate you! You don’t have to listen though. But what if you did?

That inner voice that IS Truth and doesn’t lie! That says quietly “you’re precious” “you got this”  “go for it” “Is this really best for you?” We often have a couple voices in our minds, the repeats of old lies and the voice of quiet assurance. Which do you choose to give weight?

What if your intuition is the Voice of God?  What if the the breeze is God kissing your cheek? What if the Spirit prays for you even if you don’t get it or even want to? What if God is Real and the myth is the fake ass world systems we live under?

One time I was outside feeling a mix of down and up. I was praying with my eyes closed. When I opened them a butterfly was resting on my foot. The Spirit in an insect.

The Spirit is mysterious. The Spirit dwells in you. The Spirit points you toward love. The Spirit is subjective experience. The Spirit speaks through intuition.  The Spirit is abounding love toward you. Embrace the mystery.

Paradox.

Holy Spirit who is here and our very breath, come fall afresh on us.

Amen

Thought I’d share what I’ve been chewing on which I think may be an encouragement? 🙂
In light of dealing with my Mom’s care , this thought has been going through my mind; Intentions without actions are worthless. It feels harsh to say out loud but it is what I am feeling.

In my early adult journey of faith I  would normally avoid the book of James in the Bible because I was stuck in a heaven/hell understanding of Christianity. In this book, he declares “Faith without works, is dead.”  My immature mind only saw fear of hell in this book and dismissed it. I always was pitting James vs. Paul and you know Paul wrote most of the New Testament so I don’t need to take James seriously.  The passage I am referencing, has much to say to say to us today.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  – James 2:14-17

Let’s  just take the normal heaven/hell understanding out for a bit. You can place it back later if you so desire.

What if this statement is more about whether or not faith is “something you believe” only or something meant to actually form us? What does faith infused with action do to “save” us? I believe it gives us eyes to truly see and ears to truly hear. Otherwise we only hear the noise of our own ego and desire to keep ourselves as primary in the universe.

I think this passage also has a strong message to our political climate but lets not go there today.

What if being “saved” is more of being saved from being sucked in to the worlds system? What if it is more counter-cultural? I believe it is.  I believe nothing can separate us from God’s love. I also believe we can be completely blind to it. What if salvation is meant to be here and now as well as later?

It is weird  to me to have that thought about intentions without actions being worthless. But isn’t it true? Think about any time you’ve broken an agreement with someone. Or if someone broke an agreement with you? Did their/your intentions stop the pain or disappointment? Or did your/their intentions get what needed to be done fulfilled?

Believe me, I DO NOT have this mastered at all! I don’t always follow through, just ask my wife!  It is a journey to get our hearts, minds and souls to combine with our physical body to actually accomplish what we ultimately so deeply desire…. To see love in action.  It is happening. It is about conviction not condemnation. Our actions do not affect our ultimate value and worth, they do show what we ultimately value and love.

 

“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”- Jesus

Ouch! This little bit of scripture has always felt heavy. Early on in married life, I would proof text it as a way to guilt and shame my beautiful, young wife (who thankfully was new to “churchy” life and forgave me being an ass) as a way to show her she would always have to be second and she should put me second too. What a drag?!!? This was my ego “doing what I should”, and my own insecurity. She naturally rested in God’s love far more naturally than me.   Have you ever been beat up with these verses?(sorry babe) Or beat yourself up?

What does Jesus mean? Under the influence of reading Robert Farar Capon (amongst others), I have found new insights on these hard words.  Let’s dive in!

Is there ever a time when so much is demanded? Think about it…it sounds so exclusive and limiting then becomes all-inclusive.

There is a time, not one we like to ponder. Ash Wednesday and Lent begin this week which point there. The most demanding thing is our eventual physical death. The journey Jesus is pointing towards is the first death of our ego which as we let go we can eventually face the physical death without clutching and grasping against inevitability.

I always saw this verse as a way to hate on myself for loving those close to me. What?!? I don’t think I am alone here on this. What if Jesus is suggesting our entire way of holding on, is more a projection and attempt to control? I can almost see a twinkle in his eye and a grin as he could say “You know you will die, right? Why not let me show you a less grasping way so when it comes, you’ll be more ready. It will feel like your dying, but you’re not, not yet anyway?”

On Google, ego is defined as a person’s sense of self. I am not a psychologist so anything I write is my opinion and experience :).  I would say the ego is who we think we are, not really who we are…deep…right?! It is our self-image, the mental projection of who we are. Our job/career, country, religion/spirituality(or lack), our family, our kids, our political opinions, intelligence etc. are how we experience the ego much of the time, unaware of its influence.

Here’s the rub…while those things are good, NONE of them define your worth! Not one. Look at little children. Any pretense? Any proving? Any ego? Jesus also said “Unless you become as little children, you will not see the kingdom of God”  The ego-lessness  of children shows the reality of the Kingdom in the here and now! Then we grow up and together with our environments fabricate our ego or false self  and it becomes harder to see the Kingdom.

This part of you will die, it will. The good news is, it’s NOT you! You are more than any projections! You are more than your image! “You cannot offend the True self. Any offense is the false self/ego.” – Richard Rohr

Learning to let go of who we think we are is the daily taking up of the cross.  The True Self is who we are “Hidden with Christ, in God” We can’t live aware of that all the time. It is the necessary work of suffering and dying. I don’t like it! But I also don’t like the ego’s lies of separation and alone-ness!

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” -Jesus

This Lent may you find you are more than you think, so much more. May you find lies dying in the Light.  May you see your true worth and the true worth of all you lock eyes with.  May you live loved. May you learn let go.

 

Last night we were watching a new show on PBS called “A Path  Appears”. The topic was sex trafficking in the US. It was horribly sad  although many good folks are working tirelessly to help rescue these women, men, and children.  The vast majority are NOT consenting adults. It was so sad to these woman (primarily) who society has deemed to be quite worthless, when they are the truest victims. This along with all the tragedies in the world grieves my heart so and makes me wonder….

How Long?

How long, O Lord, will your children be used as objects?

How long. O Lord, will self-interest rule the day?

How long, O Lord, will parents be able to abuse their children?

How long, O Lord, will money be our master?

How long, O Lord, will those who are insecure continue to murder in your name?

How long, O Lord, will the use of force be seen as greater than love?

How long, O Lord, will I be blind to my own complicity?

How long, O Lord, will the poor be left to fend for themselves in this world of plenty?

How long, O Lord, will the Good News of your unconditional love be the negative news of fear of hell?

How long, O Lord, will your Church sit in judgement rather than extend love without agenda?

How long, O Lord, will vengeance be seen as justice?

How long, O Lord, will the pain of life be numbed by drug, work, sex, religious addiction rather than healed by love?

How long, O Lord, will the sick suffer alone?

How long, O Lord, will our eyes be blind to see ourselves (and you) in every person we see?

How long, O Lord, will we listen to fear over love?

How long, O Lord, will it be before our personal nationality deems us more worthy than the rest of our human family?

How long, O Lord, till all your creatures are not seen as expendable?

How long, O Lord, will the earth we live on be seen as something to exploit rather than care for?

How long, O Lord, will mental illness have stigma?

How long, O Lord, will personal gratification and freedom be more important than the love of many?

How long, O Lord, will the ability to kill be seen as a fundamental right?

How long, O Lord, till your Kingdom comes fully, on earth as it is in heaven?

How long, O Lord, till the Prince of Peace softens all hearts?

How long, O Lord, how long?

Nevertheless, I have seen  and experienced your love in action Lord, I do not hope for you to destroy. I hope for your universal love to flow like a mighty river through all and in all. As you have shown me, love never fails.

This past week  my wife’s beloved Grandma, Mid, passed away. In November, I will have been an “official” member of this family for 15 years!  So, I had the privilege and honor to know and love this lady through her later years. She was 94, almost 95.  She taught me that a person can enjoy a happy hour without it becoming a drunk fest! She loved very well and it was evident at her funeral.

It is a shame that so often if a person is older when they engage in the next aspect of the journey that the pain is somehow dismissed. The death of a child or young person is truly tragic and can be very difficult to come to terms with but this doesn’t mean it is easy to come to terms with the death of an older person. The difficulty either way is the result of love.

A hard reality of life is that love equals pain because life carries as much loss as gain. Love gives us a sense of ownership to that which can never be truly owned.  I love my wife, my kids, my family and my friends. They are mine and I am theirs, yet we are all our own person. This is love.  If we allow ourselves to succumb to the true power of love the sadness is incredibly deep and hard. When we love deeply, we truly suffer when those we love are suffering. This is the great gamble. Only the deck is rigged. A great lie that is pervasive is that the pain is not worth it. Such bullshit!  It can be a subconscious lie that can cause us to detach and avoid. This is result of self-preservation gone wrong. When we seek to save our own perspectives more than reality we lose sight of the ability to allow love to have its way with us. When love has its way, you can lose all dignity. The ego doesn’t like this but its love is more self-serving which is an oxymoron.  The ego persistently communicates we are alone in all of this, yet Love whispers that we are not and have never been alone.

I believe this speaks to a way the Church has failed us all at times. When we suffer and love the rules are of no importance. The theology of in/out has no place. Spirituality is not about knowledge or praying a certain way or even understanding God in a way that can be taught rather than experienced. God is close to the brokenhearted and deep down that is known.  The gift to be shared is that God grieves with us! It is not a great plan of platitudes! Love is NOT a platitude. It is the actual reality when we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Love is overwhelmingly worth it! The hope I carry is that this is “Goodbye for now”.  The joy of the Love of Mid continues and will always be there until we see her smiling face.  This is faith, hope and love.  No certainty, no control, no knowledge. Faith, Hope and Love and that is enough.

 

We have all heard those wise words of Jesus ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 or the good old King James version ” Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  I have been struck by the wisdom of these words in a different way recently. It may have always been clear to you but to me it is new.  So bear with me a bit.

When I was around 21 I “rededicated” myself to Jesus and became a bit of a conservative, evangelical zealot. During this time I always drew a distinction between judging and condemning.  To judge; was to define something as wrong. To condemn; was to suggest punishment was needed (as in hell).  It is true that these terms can be synonymous. Seeing Jesus’ words more as an admonishment not to condemn, I felt quite justified judging the heck out of everything for several years. All the normal ones; Clinton, Disney, LGBT, liberals, the media, Democrats, folks from the coasts, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, criminals, and on and on. I felt completely okay doing this because in my mind I wasn’t condemning them. That was God’s job.  This was the camp I was in and bought it hook, line and sinker.

Thankfully, God is in the heart softening business!!!!

As I think back on my worldview in those days I only saw Jesus’ words in terms of condemning to hell. I would’ve clearly stated God’s grace was sufficient enough to “save” all those I was judging but “wrong is wrong”, right?!? I wasn’t judged anymore because I was under grace so it was my job to define what is wrong.   Huh?!?!

What I never realized was that Jesus’ words are simple facts about interpersonal relationships. Once we start judging or condemning we invite the exact same treatment and it is a vicious cycle. This is why (I believe) the Church has lost credibility. We (Christians) judge and condemn and so the world judges and condemns the Church.

Judgment implies perfect knowledge which by nature is exceedingly arrogant. I am not talking about crimes here such as; murder, abuse or rape. I am talking about assuming we know better than someone else or everyone else about anything or everything. It is the tyranny of opinion. All opinions are valid and should be heard even if we have no actual study in the subject. The need to be “right” over being effective. Therefore we become exceedingly opinionated and judgmental and completely miss the point of the Gospel.  Mother Theresa said ” When you judge, it is impossible to love.”

I am not judging or condemning where I came from. I am thankful for the journey. I am thankful it IS a journey. However, if this causes a person to be uncomfortable I make no apologies. The words and actions of Jesus are a judgment on the ways of the world, of every political system, of every religion (definitely Christianity) or culture. He always makes me uncomfortable when I think I know what’s up! Our call is love. Plain and simple. To love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Next time you are tempted to judge, remember it bounces right back!

Okay, I am beginning to get a bit pissed off at our culture as Americans! Specifically, those who claim to follow Christ but yet are the quickest ones to advocate for violence. I sometimes wonder if these folks have their hearts more wrapped up in the Constitution than what Jesus said and did?!?  Just for the record, Jesus’ wisdom far surpasses that of Thomas Jefferson.

I want to know who this “Jesus” is that these folks claim to love and worship?

Is it the Jesus who said ” Love your enemies. Do good to those who would harm you”?

Is it the same Jesus who said “If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other.”?

Is it the same Jesus who said ” If you seek to save your life, you will lose it.”?

Is it the same Jesus who said ” Love your neighbor as yourself.”?

Is it the same Jesus who said ” Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” ?

Is it the same Jesus who said ” Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” ? (While being executed)

I am becoming convinced that a great deception has been propped up as “Christianity”. For instance; it is interesting that Jesus says “You cannot serve both God and Mammon (money).” And not “You cannot serve both God and the devil.” It is amazing that our understanding of Christianity is so far removed from this because we are “saved by grace (which I believe)”. And That faith has become so personal and private that it cannot be questioned.  Could our faith have been propagandized to match our society? I fully believe so.

Why is self defense the most important thing to a lot of these believers? I believe it is because they are practical atheists who neither believe nor trust God to take care of them. It is so fake and sick. Yet most are blind to it. If you don’t know you have a problem you can’t do anything about it. This is a call out! Stop claiming the Prince of Peace if violence is in the forefront of how to deal with issues.  I know, I know, what about the cleansing of the temple? Jesus was pissed then, right? Well, consider this, he drove them out with non-lethal means! He did not brandish a sword and start hacking away!

I am okay with stopping the atrocities of violence with force when absolutely necessary. But only to protect the innocent.  There is evil in the world and unfortunately it can exist in the mirror without even knowing it.

This has nothing to do with God’s love and acceptance. That is the ultimate reality that holds the universe together. This is about change. This is about the fact most Christians do not resemble Christ’s temperament in the slightest way.  Here is a question;if you were born anywhere else in the world and came to know Christ, would your values look so American?

 

 

 

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