Category: Gospel


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.

 

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.

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?

 

 

 

This past weekend I finally went on a quiet retreat! In recent years I have come to the place of appreciation for the contemplative and mystic aspects of my Christian faith but it has all been abstract and romanticized in my mind.  I have never really unplugged. Ever. I have gotten away from it all in community at retreats and seminars that have truly been life altering.   Community is absolutely essential in the journey of healing. The solitude is a new thing for me, I like it.  I am coming to see the solitude and quieting is also essential.  To settle in on how loved I am and connected to all things is beautiful to pause and recognize. To stop talking and listen….

A friend and I went to stay for a a little over 24 hours at a Catholic Retreat (you do not have to be Catholic to stay at one of these places, Christ’s Peace House of Prayer Easton, KS) in the country. I had very little expectations for this experience so as to actually experience it. I was thankful that I had a buddy with me for this introduction to a quiet retreat. It was nice to see a recognizable face. We each had our own  simple, comfortable cabin. We went off on our own for the majority of the time.  Food was provided, it was simple and good. The director was very hospitable and kind.

I hiked a bit and sat at different shrines and relaxed in the moment. I discovered on my hikes that fear robs me of experiencing the moment. Be it a rustle in the forest, wasps, or ticks! It would snap me to self-preservation and draw me away.  The truth is; it is unlikely any of those things will result in my demise. Thankfully this was an awareness so I could respond  and not live in the fear reaction.  I returned to my cabin showered away the ticks and chiggers and relaxed a bit. Having little or no expectations allowed me to just be.  I read some and journaled a little. Mostly, I didn’t want to busy my mind. My focus was Jesus.

The director had a cool insight he shared when we arrived. The idea that contemplative prayer is not about spoken (thought) worded prayer but rather it is experiencing the feelings of praying.  The feelings that arise with the simple thought of Jesus. To allow the feelings to arise within at the contemplation of His wonderful name.  This is weird, I get it, but I don’t care. This insight is precious to me and allowed me to be present moment by moment to my experience. Did I get bored and restless? Not as much as I was afraid I would.  I imagine the challenge of boredom and restlessness would be more a challenge during a longer retreat.

Jesus is amazing to me. To become human and identify with humanity and the creation is beyond words.  For God to experience true suffering and identify with every aspect of human abuse and injustice is so beyond comprehension. The Vindicated Forgiving Victim who vindicates us all. The God who weeps.  The One who shows us what the Father is truly like.

This is the Jesus I love.

As I was spending my time alone I felt overwhelming peace.  I really was amazed by this peace. As my friend  would say “Shalom in da home”  I rested in it.  There was nothing artificial about it. Nothing worked towards.  Peace.

To recognize and feel peace

To recognize and feel love

To recognize and feel healing

To recognize and feel acceptance

To recognize and feel connection to everything

To recognize and feel Jesus…

The feelings of peace, love, healing, acceptance, and connection is the Love of the Father through Jesus being poured out by the Spirit.  Our minds can’t fathom it. It’s foolishness and I am glad. The fun of theology/philosophy can be adventures in the vanity of thinking about the God who is beyond thought.  To taste and see that I want more.

This was such a valuable appetizer and I am hopeful to engage in this practice for years to come. But in the everyday I want to choose more daily disconnection from technology and more connection to the real in all its forms.  May you disconnect and connect as well.

 

 

Do we want to be good? Does humanity have a want to be good? Does America want to be good? Do Christians want to be good?

These questions have been on my heart as I watch all the horrible geopolitical happenings in the world the past few weeks.

Do we ever ask ourselves this? Or do we want to be rational, logical and right?  Are we more concerned with a persona than persons? Are we blind to our own wickedness?

I believe humans have the tendency towards blindness.  The questions are not; do we do good? We (all humanity) do do good in this world.  I know and get the selfishness in the world.  There is evil.  However, is it possible to overcome evil with good?  Or must evil be fought, defeated and destroyed? And how is that done without becoming that which you are fighting?

Do we want to love our neighbors? Do we want to love our enemies? Do we believe the world can be a better place?  Do we ridicule the good as impossible thus settling? If goodness can’t attain to perfection should it just be disregarded?

I want to be good. Not to score a brownie points with God (They don’t play that game).  When God made each of us they rejoiced and said “Very good!” Life, culture, religion, family dynamics immediately disagree.  I have experienced more good than I ever would’ve thought possible growing up.  Love and goodness is all around. It is steady hard work on blind spots that enables me to experience this in the here and now.

Do I want to be good? Do I want love? These are the questions the children of the Father could be brave and really look at.  Do we look to God to lead, challenge and love us to a new way of thinking or simply endorse our views, keep us healthy, save us from hell and basically stay out of our way?

I think and hope the church is tired of being shallow.

Pie in the sky, Pollyanna thinking  is not what I am saying.  To be good and walk in love is the calling of the children of God, all of us.

 

 

First quick point. Spiritual, religious or unaffiliated are already included by breathing air. Here we go!

I love some the cool pics that come across Facebook that normally give the glories of being spiritual and poke fun at being religious. Such as; Religion is for those afraid of Hell and Spirituality is for those who have already been there. Witty and rings true to me.How about you?

What does it mean to be spiritual?  What does it mean to be religious. It seems to be more a difference in perception and words than reality. What I think folks are saying when they say “spiritual” is that they long and communicate with God but want nothing to do with any belief system that excludes others. Today our understanding of religion seems more of a in/out mega clique. The Latin of the word speaks more to connecting with God which sounds very close to our modern concept of being spiritual.

These in/out mega clique have rules and expectations as well as exclusions. Do this, don’t do that. The spiritual life appears more of moving in the direction of your intuition and trusting how God is communicating with you.  There are few have-to things other than seeking. There is an understanding that all humanity and the very cosmos is connected. Being born is your initiation. This past Sunday we caught Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (pretty good show,BTW) and there were three panelists that were sharing about the spiritual hunger that is all around and how their various blogs and speaking schedules were being filled up.  I have been struck when I watch these programs that it appears as if there is an overwhelming acknowledgement that God is at work in the world.  Yet no one describes themselves as religious.

I believe this is because the religious framework has gotten so fixed there is no room for the Spirit to move freely in these institutions and the average seeker is able to see it fairly quickly. Some of us take a few years living spiritual in the religion box before seeing it for what it has become.

For what it is worth. Religion has had much spiritual movement as well and always will. Once you get down to relationships and away from the “rules” and the “clique” of it all. I identify myself  as a Christian and find what the religion has become most sad. The movement that saw the value of all people became a in/out mega clique.

Ultimately I want to suggest the spiritual movement IS the Gospel for those unable to hear it due to cultural trappings and our negative judgements on the history of religion. Let’s look at this and assume you (and everyone) is already in the club. I will be quoting some of the Bible to show what I believe was the original, holistic movement of God and how it compares with what I see as the spiritual movement today.

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh”  Acts 1:17 emphasis added

Pretty inclusive, right? Could this be when you are listening to your heart, that inner voice, your intuition. Could you be co-creating the life you want every step of the way with the Holy Spirit?

” He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Col 1:15-20 emphasis added

Ever think everything is somehow connected?  Could it be that it is true? Everything is connected.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

“It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings” Hebrews 2:10

This is so cool, amazing, and mind-blowing. God learned to identify with us through suffering. What?!?!?! God learned something? Say what now? Yes, God really gets YOU! This is what the spiritual get and the religious often miss.

Our Father” Matt 6:9 emphasis added

When Jesus starts out teaching how to pray these are his first two words.

Just think about that. Really think about it. Who is left out or excluded?

As much as it pains me to think about it. Maybe it is good for religion to be in decline? Maybe that is what is needed for folks to live and believe the Gospel without even identifying with the “official” Gospel? It pains me that the damage appears done and that anything tagged “Christian” will not be received as well as time moves on. But then again is this all about God connecting with His creation or protecting my understanding of how He does it?  I want to stop placing God in a box. The spiritual life recognizes this and I pray so does the religious.

 

All I Can Do (Thank You) by MikesChair

I could write a love song
Tell You what I think You wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough, no
Yea I could try so hard
To give it everything I’ve got
But I’m not ever gonna measure up
[Chorus]
All I can do is thank You
For this life I never deserved
Wanna thank You for the grace
I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, You love me
Your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank You
All I can do is say thank YouIt would have been easy
But I’m glad You never walked away
Cause Your love runs deep for me
And I see this beautiful world
And it brings tears in my eyes
And I think it’s beautiful to be free[Chorus](Thank You)
For hope, for love, for all the ways You move
(You)
For everything You do
(You)
What else can I say but thank You
Thank YouI could write a love song
Tell You what I think You wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough

[Chorus]

All I can do, all I can do, all I can do
Is say thank You
All I can do, all I can do, all I can do
Is say thank You

I heard this song for the first time the other day and wanted to throw up. I know that they are trying to say that we don’t earn God’s love and to be grateful for that fact but come on, there is a lot of baggage in this song and it is worth looking at.
Why does the American Evangelical Church insist on saying, over and over again that we are worthless and will never be good enough? Why do we have to continue to live a groveling life?  Why is nothing we do ever enough. Why are our gifts worthless? Is God so uptight and picky that he has no use for what we bring Him?
I think we have become stuck in a thinking that if we act as if anything we do is good we are somehow trying to earn God’s love so we repeatedly have to tell God we know we are crap and not worth much. How well does this work? How close can you possibly feel to a God who thinks so critically of you?  The only thing you can do is say “thank you?” ?? Seriously,???!?!?! This is the governing philosophy of the american church?

I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children who are still young and nothing but a joy to me. My love for them is not dependent  on them at all. It is constant.  A few years ago my daughter wrote me a love song. This song was so precious to my heart. Did it earn her a better place in my heart? No. Was it “good enough”? Or did that  question even come to mind?

 

The Bible may call us “sinners” but it also calls us children, adopted, and heirs. Why does the church insist on making sure God knows  that we know how “unworthy” we are? What is the Gospel? Doesn’t God becoming flesh and blood say something about the worth of humanity in the eyes of God? But oh no, we have to walk around hating ourselves for not measuring up to some standard God isn’t even looking at. I think this adds to the stress of what it means to be a christian today.

Our false self is what is almost always insecure, uncomfortable and “unworthy” as it tries to measure up. The persona, the act, the masks. Acting out of these to earn the approval of God or people will inevitably be a losing game. But even if my kids are acting stupid and making poor choices would their hug, laughter or conversations not be “good enough”? To some extent yes, but only because their life is limited. Not my ability to love and appreciate them in the midst of the crap. I tend to believe God’s love is even a bit more tenacious than mine.

God sees your True self. The one made in His image. His child,His love, His precious one, Beloved.
When Christ became a human he identified with you and He is now (and forever) your brother! He is your family. You are the child the Father always wanted. Your gifts, drives and passions are Spirit and life that you are giving back to the source.
So, write a love song- it’s good enough.
Enjoy this life- you deserve it.
You are of intrinsic value and always have been.
Live from your heart and share it with God and others.
The world is waiting and longing for people to reveal who they really are.

Waking up this morning on Good Friday I felt as if the Holy Spirit was whispering to me John 12:32 when Jesus said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Other ancient authorities read “all things”  Why doesn’t that preach? Do we have to make the Good News less good?

Jesus was lifted up from the earth on the cross drawing all creation into himself. How radically inclusive is that? All things, all people.  The creator of all things drawing all of our brokenness, despair and shame into himself, all of our exclusion, all of our “rightness”,all of our abuse, abandonment,  all of our religion, and the most amazing thing all people. This was done in the midst of human blindness, which at times, is just as blind today. All people drawn to Christ. Think about that. Try to separate the common, modern western thought that this day was only about settling legal scores. Open your heart to the mystery of God and his pursuit of you.  Scripture like this is uncomfortable when you are used to trying to earn God’s smile. This was done because he already loved you into existence and smiles with pure joy at wonder of you, his child. All separation is gone even if we don’t see it.

Whether it preaches or not, that is what happened. The creator chose to become the creation and experience every kind of shame imaginable. God really does understand. We are a part of Him. “In Him, we live and move and have our being” Celebrate the humility of God today. Christ our brother in humanity is always and forever identified with You! Our Father delights in you and yearns for the day that you know in your core how precious you are to Him. The Holy Spirit will continue to whisper this truth into your soul until you are caught up in the Truth.

Love to all

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”- Jesus

So what does this mean? Is it even possible? What the heck does Jesus even mean? Is he really talking to me?

What I believe Jesus is wanting from us is to really see people. To see another human being as the precious, unique creation that they are because they simply exist. I have heard it said that Jesus came to clear up God’s reputation and to that I truly agree. I have to wonder if he also came to truly establish our value as human beings? Do you see people or issues?

Over my life I have been hurt deeply by those I love and I have hurt those I love as well. I found myself so stuck at times when I only saw my pain and didn’t look at the life of those inflicting it.  Once I began to open my eyes to see that those around me were simply doing the best they knew how with the tools that they had it helped me see them. My mom hurt me much growing up but when I began to see her as an individual with hurts of her own, I began to see her hurtfulness as her acting out of her own pain. This does not excuse the actions at all but allow me to see her as a person who loved(s) me the best she knew how.

Abdalluh is a young man who has grown up in Afghanistan. His country has been at war virtually his whole existence. His father struggles to supply the needs of his family and acts out in rage at his own inadequacies. His mother’s voice is tender and loving but of no value outside their home. The family attends their local Mosque regularly where he is taught a mix of love and hate. Then his school is destroyed in a bombing limiting his ability to learn. Then food is dropped from the air from the same source as the bombs. Confusion sets in and sadness hurts. Anger, rage and hatred do not seemingly feel as bad.

Is Abdalluh your enemy? Does his life have less worth? Is he simply a causality of a cruel world?

What about Calvin? He is a teenager in the urban core. His mom had him when she was 15. She loves him but has little tools and continues to salve her hurt with drugs and relationships. His father, immature and fatherless himself, runs away from his responsibilities before winding up in prison for armed robbery. Calvin’s grandmother raises him along with the urban culture. She insists on church where he learns of unconditional love with a mix of not measuring up. He sees the money, girls and prestige the thugs in the neighborhood have so he starts hanging out with them.

Is Calvin your enemy? Does his life have less worth? Is he simply a causality of a cruel world?

When Jesus entered into our humanity, he entered into both Calvin and Abdalluh.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’- Jesus

Jesus is saying that you saw my worth as a human being and then cared for me. Anytime we choose to take away the inherent value of a person and turn them into something else we are losing sight of our common humanity.

I know people will say that if this were tried we would be destroyed by our enemies and they may very well be right. I do not pretend to know how these things would work. I simply want to raise the questions of how well the current way has worked? And also to ask if you personally could learn to see people? This is hard to do! We have to check our judgements in favor of love. Loving our enemies is not some magic Jesus thing found only through forgiveness. Rather it’s when we begin to see the fact that we are all in this journey together that the natural flow of grace, love, reconciliation and forgiveness will flow.

We were singing a song that said “to know and follow hard after you” in it. The song gave me a funny feeling and image of God playing keep away with us,  but he is the one keeping away. So we chase him. Then I had the image of the father in the story of the two sons (prodigal son,Luke 15) running and falling on his son in a big bear hug. That is when I caught the image of what I believe this whole Christian side of the Trinitarian journey is; we are following after the one who is chasing after us and we get caught up in this great dance of Father, Son, Spirit, ourselves and whoever else is hearing the music. Also, we get to help tune the ears of those around us to the music that has always been playing.

I am learning to grasp the both/and side of my journey rather than either/or. In the past I would get grouchy because of the “to know and follow hard after you” part of the song because my narrow yet inclusive view had all the emphasis on what God is doing, as if there is no value in following him. Following the One who is embracing you allows you to have confidence in this journey and  also time to relax and simply enjoy being who you are. It also allows for growth and not simply coasting. I love that I don’t have to worry about “getting it right” but get to enjoy the music along the way.

 

%d bloggers like this: