Tag Archive: faith


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.

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.

 

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.

“When Christianity says God, it says Father, Son and Spirit, existing in a beautiful, intimate relationship of other-centered love expressing itself in boundless fellowship and unutterable oneness. It does not speak of a being that is isolated or unapproachable, detached or indifferent. It does not speak of a legalist, or self-centered potentate, or an unmoved mover. God, for the Christian Church –at its best,anyway– is a relational being; three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, sharing life and all things in other-centered love and incomparable togetherness.”- The Shack Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger, PH.D.

How many of you had this understanding of God delivered from a church pulpit, revival or flipping by the goofy televangelists? I surely did not. At best I was taught that the the Triune God was a mystery that we believed, but was really just a mystery we can’t possibly understand. Why has the church (at large) given up on communicating this beautiful understanding of God? I think if we maintained teaching this truth it becomes too relational and less about performance. As long as God remains an angry mystery then people can be controlled or manipulated.

“God is love” 1 John 4:16  Is it possible for love to exist without an object? I think this is something in the church we miss so much! God is love in community so intertwined that they are One yet never losing their distinctness. The Father has always loved the Son and the Spirit, the Son has always loved the Father and the Spirit, the Spirit has always existed inside of the love. We were birthed out of this utterly complete love that had no need of us yet wanted us! Can we begin to really relate to God this way?

I feel so damaged by the the Gospel sold to me. Here it is in a nutshell. God made me but can’t stand to look at me and would rather have me destroyed yet Jesus says “Whoa, I will make him presentable, I got a plan, I will be the bridge so to speak.” Then through Jesus alone God can begin to stand seeing me again if I take seriously what he has done. Sound familiar? ( I know there are more nuances to the normal Gospel presentations, this is a gist.)

What if out of the other-centered love of the Trinity, God chose to make me and everyone else to be invited into this cosmic relationship? What if Jesus wasn’t plan B? What if Jesus entering into our humanity had more to it than dealing with our sin?  What if God isn’t concerned with my performance as much as my relationship toward Him and others? What if the Father wants me to learn to live in relationship with him through Jesus by the Holy Spirit? Yes, truly this is not as marketable as an angry God and a merciful Savior standing in the way or even saved sinners doing the Lord’s work. But what if God isn’t concerned with a marketing plan? What if he desires relationship?

The reality is that Jonathan Edwards sermon (see https://soawakeandalive.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/sinners-in-the-hands-of-a/ )  and understanding of God is what drives the American church and maybe it always will. Maybe the Father is only concerned with His power and authority? Maybe Jesus wants servants more than brothers? Maybe the Spirit is more of a force than person that illuminates relationship? Maybe the Good News is simply too good to be true? This is not what I believe. The God that is love will not be limited by our limitations. God is patient and time is on His side. We all will know His love and relationship.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

“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.

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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