Tag Archive: belief


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.

 

 

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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.

A modern telling of a classic story.

A political know-it-all asked the Teacher “How do I get the into heaven?” The Teacher replied, ” Love God and Love your neighbor.”  The know-it-all didn’t really like people different from himself so he sought clarification. “So, in this globalized world, who exactly is my neighbor?”

The Teacher told a story

A man was walking through the plaza in Kansas City one evening when suddenly he is attacked. He is beaten badly by a group of men who rob him, steal his cell phone, shoes and jacket and leave him for dead. He is leaning against a wall behind a dumpster, almost unconscious and bleeding. He can be seen but also can be overlooked.

As he is laying there a local pastor is out with his family, heading to dinner. Seeing the man, he fears for his family’s safety and crosses the street to the other side, shields his wife and children’s eyes and heads to dinner…

Again a successful businessman was walking by saw the man suffering and kept right on moving, this wasn’t his problem. He considered a call to the police but got distracted.

Then a retired, baby boomer couple, on their way to a movie passed the man and found themselves afraid of him, and quickly crossed the street. “What if he attacks us?”  “It’s just not smart to get involved, you never know these days.”

As the man lay there, giving up hope, he saw a young middle eastern man with a long beard coming up to him and then he passed out.  The young man was a Palestinian immigrant. He took water and cleaned his wounds and bandaged them the best he could then he physically picked the man up and put him in his own vehicle. Then the young man found a local hospital and took the man inside. He explained that he did not know the man but gave them his credit card information to insure he was well taken care of as he had prior commitments he needed to attend to that night. He said he’d back to check on the stranger in a few days.

Tell me this, who was the beaten man’s neighbor?

The one who showed mercy to him.

My modern take. Originally, The Good Samaritan parable Luke 10:25-37

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.

Seek and you will find -Jesus

What does this mean? Most of my adult life has interpreted this verse in the typical “churchy”  way. In terms of seeking God and those sorts of things. The “seeker sensitive” churches are all about this for sure. But what if we are overly-religious in how we look at what Jesus said and miss the clear wisdom of the statement?

Observing my diverse group of friends as well as myself has brought me to the conclusion that folks really do ultimately find what they are seeking. We all tend to see what we want to see. For example; when I was a younger man and really into Left Behind type of spirituality I could see the end of the world looming behind every single news story. Also, when I thought humanity was really evil on the whole I would see evil behind everything as well. I liked politics back then and could always see how ‘my side’ had it right.

I never saw that my mind was already made up as I interpreted everything I saw so…..seeking, and I was finding. Thankfully, my journey has been one that has experienced much healing and over the past several years I had found what I had been seeking to be lacking and also a bit depressing. The hard part is that what I was seeking was always being confirmed so it made it hard to evaluate fairly other points of view. This isn’t just true for me on the ‘religious right’ though. I hear skeptics, secularists and cynics finding everything they are seeking to validate their own worldview as well.

I began to want and seek healing, love, truth, beauty and community and guess what, I keep finding it!  As I began to seek healing for the various issues of my life such as; family of origin, poor choices, shame and guilt, I found these areas being healed through the process. Life still hurts and often times these issues have to be re-addressed but that is ok.

I also saw healing in the lives of those who were seeking it. The power behind what I saw was their vulnerability in places that were loving and safe. Vulnerability, in many ways is simply being secure enough to admit we’re unsure about stuff or how to handle it and then asking for help. Seeing Love in action is the most powerful thing in the universe. Love never condemns, especially the vulnerable. I also have seen the Truth in action as people learn of their worth and live in that truth. When we are open and seeking Truth, even if it seemingly contradicts what we “knew”, we become astounded at the Beauty all around us. Although, I do still love the quote “The truth will set you free but tends to piss you off first.”  Then as all these things coalesce the community arises! I have my community of family and friends. This helps me see the vast community of humanity and include all.

If we seek division, we’ll find it.

If we seek negativity, we’ll find it.

If we seek to numb ourselves, we’ll find it.

If we seek to look down on others, we’ll find it.

If we seek to exclude, we’ll find it.

If we seek darkness, we’ll find it.

I encourage you to be aware in 2015. Aware to that which you already seek. Aware to new things to seek. Life is Good and life is tragic all at the same time. It does take eyes to see and ears to hear to catch glimpses of the bigger story. Continue to Seek and you will find.

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!

I heard a statement the other day that made sense to me,  “Wouldn’t it be better to not believe in God at all then believe in one who is never satisfied?”

Great question. What do you think?

I think I am beginning to understand my agnostic/atheist friends. They may think to some degree that believers are crazy.  Look at what has been sold a “Good News”. An angry god really would rather destroy you than look at you so he decides to destroy his son instead and then gives us the blame. Is this really the whole story? Psalm 139 says ” I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. In Genesis at creation when God mad mankind He said “Very good”.

I think one thing for me is I kinda did believe the above was the “Good News” for most of my journey. I know the Old Covenant (Testament) is full of confusing things about the Father and I am not glossing over those to be a jerk I just think that is why we don’t really know how to communicate the Great News of God’s Love for all!!! In Mathew Jesus says “No One knows the Father except the Son” . No one….. think about that.

I have become convinced that looking to Jesus is the only way to interpret things that make God into the angry God.  He’s not mad and Jesus was not plan B.  In 2 Cor it states “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” Great News, right!?!??!

As it says in the Message, “God put on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood”

He is here for you and loves you tremendously, beyond measure! And that I believe is better to believe in!!!!

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