Category: Theology


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

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Guilty As Anyone

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”- Jesus

I’ve always loved this saying of Jesus. It is in his classic way of encouraging us to deal with our own crap before we sit on a high horse, judging another person. Jesus is a master at drawing moral equivalence. This is not something our western culture likes to examine. We have come very far at removing the logs in our own eyes, yet we still have work to do. I am afraid, at times, that my criticisms are seen as bashing the west, my culture, patriotism, Christianity, white folks, Republicans, conservatism, capitalism, etc. and that I don’t see the evil in the world such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Putin, Chinese authoritarianism, dictatorships, etc. What my criticisms are aimed at are the “tribe” in which I was born and belong as well as myself personally.

What if we truly focused on healing and wholeness first within ourselves, our families, our churches, our culture, our politics, our own systems before we judge the “other”? This isn’t very sexy and definitely doesn’t allow us to look down on the rest of the world.  I recognize that the world is systemically evil but what is sad is the inability to see it and thus make changes. In my tradition there is a Deceiver and his power is in lies and wickedness (root wicker= twisted truth). We often see evil as good.

When we attempt to judge self-righteously the “other”, we fall into exactly what Jesus is saying. Hypocrites without true standing and the only way of “peace” is through domination, power and the threat of violence. Could there be a better, more excellent way?

My friends, please remember my criticisms are also directed at myself. I am as complicit in the evil systems of this world as anyone. May we all humbly see the logs that rest in our own eyes and gently do the surgery to have them removed together.

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.

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?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

I would like to take a moment to talk about Jeezus. 🙂 Now hold on, don’t run away. Not really going to proselytize. Just sharing my thoughts and perspective. I see most folks “get him” but religious people muck it all up. I know I am a theological thinker so I may fall into that camp but I think he transcends all that stuff. So I thought I’d share a piece of how I see and relate with God.

If God had a misunderstood image what would be a good way to clear it up? What if You as God, had always existed in love and community wanted to work to change the human narrative? What if you only saw your kids descend into violence and even say that you endorse it? You would maybe want to clear things up?

You may decide to enter into your creation as a creature to show them a different way. Think about that…. To be simultaneously the creator and the creation. To be self- limited yet limitless. To fall and scrape your knee, to lose a loved one, to see injustice firsthand and be limited in what you can do, to be weird and not understood, to be seen as a threat, to love, to hug, to sit in your Mom’s lap and hear a song of love sung into your heart, to party, enjoy some wine, to experience the best of  humanity and…..

To be judged and scapegoated.  To be verbally, sexually, physically, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally abused and to be abandoned and neglected.  To experience the best and the very worst of humanity.

If you were this God would you choose to be so intimately acquainted  with your creation? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply judge? would that be your right? Not if you are intrinsically love.

Jesus has identified with every facet of human existence. This is why when you see someone suffering and pass by that you are passing by Him. His identification transcends and joins to all the suffering of the world and cries alongside. This is not satisfying if you only want Power from God. ” God shouldn’t allow this stuff, if He is God… ” As much as we want the opposite, the cross stands in contrast to God using His power in a totalitarian way. A God who cries is the God I love.

Jesus is the Vindicated Victim.  He conquered injustice by being risen from dead. He vindicates all victims if we are open to see it. This is how we learn to love, to enter into the life of another as God entered into our lives through Jesus. When we drop our need to judge we are able to enter in. Holding onto judgement keeps love from being experienced. Suffering continues but love can

This “pays” for the sins of the world but not in the way it is sold.  The crucifixion of Jesus is NOT the great antacid to allow the Father to look at us without getting sick. God loves us and wants us to know this. This is what the Spirit brings to my heart. I can back it up with scripture but that can be annoying and doesn’t “prove” anything.

If you’ve never heard these aspects of being a Christian, I personally am sorry.

 

 

The international Christian charity World Vision has faced a bunch of push back and wishy-washy behavior recently over an attempt to acknowledge and love those people of the LGBT community by allowing them to work for the charity.  Millions of dollars left and children are going to go without because fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals want nothing to do with LGBT and are willing to stop helping children because of their “morals”. I decided to rewrite (not meant to be scholarly accurate) a bit of Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of his day as if He were addressing  the leaders today.

 

Fundamentalists and the religious right know a lot about God but they refuse to experience the Gospel. They say “it’s all grace” then proceed with a list of “do’s and don’ts” that supposedly evidence this grace. Never giving assurance of the love abounding from the Father but rather warning to keep the fear of God tantamount. They love to fight the culture war, division is their game. To have spots at the mega-churches, halls of government, to get on tv and radio as experts on God. They love to be the “guardians  of our culture” and in a position of knowing the way. When judging God’s children is your way you will be humbled.

Woe to you, Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, actors! You keep people from knowing the kingdom is within them and are deaf to what God speaks in your heart. You don’t hear the Spirit so you assume no one else does. Culture warriors, you make alter call after alter call and with these baby believers you do what? Prepare them for war!

Woe to you, illiterate Bible teachers, you find every scripture to exclude yet miss every single one of inclusion. If my Father has made everyone in our image, does that not mean anything? You know the book yet not the one who inspired it. Know-it-alls, Every piece of knowledge must pass through your narrow lens. “Nothing new under the sun” doesn’t apply to new discoveries in science, psychology and history. God inspires discovery and yet you must make it must pass a biblical litmus test?!?!?

Woe to to you , self-righteous, who tithe on the gross and not the net,  yet judge the poor people in the land. “If they would only….” Your lack of compassion is sickening.  Self- righteous indeed,  we want to teach them to fish, not feed them the fish. You live the idea that help creates dependence, so sad.

Deaf and blind, if you could only be dumb as well?! You stand against supposed sins of sexuality while divorce flourishes in the church. Could it be because you make those not ready get married? You stop giving to feed the poorest of poor children because you can’t support “gays”! Seriously?? You expect that logic to fly?

You rats, your hearts have grown cold!  When my Father sends teachers and prophets you’ll deride them and label them false, heretics, make comparisons to my friend Oprah as if that is an insult. Or my friend Francis is a communist? Really?!?!?  Yet your labels don’t stick.  You label any truth I send that may be different as wrong.  The Spirit guides into all truth, that means you’re not there yet! You have no desire to learn and change. This is what “repentance” means! It is the ongoing changing of your mind to be in line with my Father’s heart. Not a one time guilt trip to save your ass from hell! You create hell right here, right now!   For yourselves and the world around you!

America, America oh, how I wish you knew the heart of Father Son and Spirit. To love in a new way. To experience the love that allows the judgement to leave your hearts and embrace and love the victim, the marginalized, rich and poor alike.  You aren’t altogether ready to love are you?

The Gospels actual account Matthew 23:1-37

Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.[b] And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.[c] 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.[d] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19 How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22 and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup,[f] so that the outside also may become clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28 So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?[g] 34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

 

 

My attempt here is to speak out against the injustice that has become normal in our culture. I was broad sweeping and insulting but so was Jesus to his audience.

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