Wednesday, March 27, 2013
"Humanity's greatest historical fear is death.
Choosing Jesus defeats it.
More Jesus! Less fear!
The amount of fear in a person's life measures
the amount of Jesus in a person's life."
Every Sunday is Easter Day!
People who really know and love Jesus have always considered every Sunday to be "a little Easter Day" compelling people who really know and love Jesus to honor Him through worship, work, and witness.
People who really know and love Jesus are more eager to worship Him, work for Him, and witness to Him as a privileged expression of gratitude for His favor here and hereafter than as some kinda religious duty that makes fidelity look like a bad case of hemorrhoids.
People who really know and love Jesus smile a lot!
Jesus is written all over the faces of people who really get it/Him!
Jesus is seen in people who really know and love Him because they serve Him by serving like Him a lot!
People who don't, don't!
It all started over two thousand years ago on that first Easter Day.
People weren't excited about religious stuff like the funny church clothes that too many clergy wear in defiance of Matthew 23 or any of those distracting idolatries and vanities that obsess pulpiteers and pewsitters that are rarely more than coincidental to following Him by His example as attested in Holy Scripture.
People didn't run around on that first Easter Day celebrating fabrics, furniture, architecture, liturgies, litanies, rubrics, rituals, ceremonies, polity, sects, denominations, or anything else religious that are rarely more than coincidental to following Him by His example as attested in Holy Scripture.
They ran through the streets of Jerusalem and then throughout the world with the best news ever: "He is risen!"
Those first witnesses knew His resurrection meant resurrection for anyone who trusts Him as Lord and Savior along with the wherewithal to live triumphantly in the meantime of worldly meanness, madness, and misery.
His resurrection elevated the hope that emboldened the faith to love Him by loving like Him in the certainty of "paradise" with Him in heaven after the last breath.
Praise Him for the irrepressible smiles and service since that first Easter Day!
We know Jesus rose from the dead because:
1. The Church has consistently focused on
and referred to the resurrection of Jesus as
the keystone of its praise and practice since
2. The worship calendar shifted for Christians
from the Jewish Sabbath (7th day of the
week) to Sunday (1st day of the week)
because Jesus rose from the dead on
Sunday (see Mark 16);
3. The New Testament consists of 27
testimonies to our Lord's resurrection;
4. The disciples were transformed from
cowards into bravehearted Gospelers
willing to face the tests of torture and
martyrdom because of Jesus'
5. Jesus is alive in/through all who
believe in Him; or as the old song goes,
"You ask me how I know He lives? He
lives within my heart!"
Because Jesus rose from the dead, people who really know and love Him worship regularly, work for Him according to the gifts/resources entrusted to them by Him, and witness to His invitational, welcoming, including, and eternally unconditional love.
Every day is Easter Day!
Blessings and Love!
Monday, March 25, 2013
"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought..."
(Yeah, read all of it!)
"You are no more nor no less important to God than anyone else. Jesus
lived, died, rose, and reigns no more nor no less for you or them."
She epitomized the challenge before me.
Though I had discerned the oppressing demons within her for several years, the apocalyptic moment had arrived.
A myriad of motives - vainglorious and vulgar - generated ingratiating herself to me by esteeming me at everyone else's expense; except, of course, for her.
Extracting myself from the ego-massaging that felt so good, I said, "You always come in to tell me how great I am and how awful everyone else is compared to us."
Her discomfort with that observation was exacerbated when I continued, "I was thinking that maybe you tell those people how great they are and how awful I am when you're with them."
She turned crimson.
That was many years ago; but that encounter provided a valuable lesson that has stuck since.
People who esteem us and themselves at the expense of others will stab you in the back whenever it suits them.
There's more to it/Him.
"Contempt for a human being is an affront to God almost as grave as
idolatry, for while idolatry is disrespect for God Himself, contempt
is disrespect for the being He made in His own image. Contempt
says of a man, "Raca! This fellow is of no worth. I attach to his
person no value whatsoever." The man guilty of thus appraising
a human being is thoroughly bad" (cf. Matthew 5:21-22).
I'm reminded of what Luther called the gospel in a nutshell.
Just about anyone who has ever hung around a church has memorized it; and if you watch the guy with the funny hair and poster of it behind home plate or in the end zone, you get the feeling that it's really, really, really important.
Go back to the quote from Adamson.
Essentially, it/He means everybody is special to Him.
He lived, died, rose, and reigns for all of the below.
We get it/Him right from the start of praying what we call The Lord's Prayer: "Our Father,...
Not just my Father.
Not just your Father.
Not just their Father.
Now go back and click on the video above.
"Jesus spent a disproportionate amount of time with people described
in the gospels as: the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers, the
hungry, sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, the persecuted,
the downtrodden, the captives, those possessed by
unclean spirits, all who labor and are heavy
burdened, the rabble who know nothing of
the law, the crowds, the little ones, the
least, the last, and the lost sheep..."
Why shouldn't I look down on some people who are...?
Because Jesus didn't!
Why should I esteem everybody as equal to you, me, and them?
Because Jesus did!
How can I do that?
Jesus: "Love each just as much as I have loved you!...As you do it for them, you do it for Me!"
What if I can't do that?
It means you're not close to Him!
Paul: "It is no longer I who live but it is Jesus who lives in/through me!"
"As Lincoln came to see slavery as more and more of an evil,
he also came to a greater relationship with God."
Michael Allen and Larry Schweikart
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Except for the funny clothes confusing Christianity with Halloween, I kinda like the new Pope; and hope his namesake is really the guy from Assisi rather than Xavier.
Check it out.
I like the fact that he ain't gonna fudge on Jesus or the sanctity of all human life from womb to tomb or Biblical ethics or, uh, you know, Christianity.
He doesn't seem inclined to cave in to the mainliners' sin of accommodating cultural bastardizations of the faith.
I like his, uh, lifestyle more in tune with Matthew 23 than most of his peers - Catholic, Protestant, Mainline, Sideline, Emerging, Texas Toothyish, Bejeweled...
It's nice to have a clergyperson who doesn't wanna live like the rich and famous because, uh, Jesus didn't; and last time I checked, He's the Founder and supposed to be the Focus and Filter for His followers.
Jesus said a lot about rich people having a hard time "getting in" in the end because they can rarely serve unless leading, have a hellborn sense of entitlement, and exhibit just about insatiable control needs. I think He would have a hard time with our foundations, endowments, and other ways to store up treasures for ourselves at the expense of giving it all away to help the poor, hungry, homeless, and other Matthew 25 kinda stuff.
This new Pope seems to get that/Him; unlike the guy who once heard a sermon about the rich young ruler (read Matthew 19:16-30) and scoffed to his pastor, "Jesus could not have meant that!"
Francis I is so unlike so many of today's clergy who have all of the answers without knowing Him that well.
He knows he doesn't know more about God than God when it comes to the kinda stuff mentioned in the third sentence of this section as revealed by God in Jesus and Holy Scripture.
He gets the motto of the Reformation that the heirs have ignored, defied, or forgotten: ecclesia reformata semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei.
That's/he's refreshing in a soteriological kinda way.
Anyway, it's been interesting to listen to folks wondering what he's gonna be up to until he dies or retires like his predecessor or gets raptured or...
Jesus said, "We'll know him by his fruits..."
Previous harvests are encouraging.
It reminds me of the first Palm Sunday.
People had all kinds of expectations for Jesus.
A first century Gallup Poll may have looked something like this thanks to Robert McAfee Brown (The Bible Speaks to You, 1955):
FIRST MAN (very matter of factly): Me? I'm looking for
a descendant of David, to come and rule the way King
David did. Those were the days! We had land, food,
prestige, and a great king. Someday God will send
another David who will rule over us. Then we'll have
peace and justice, and the enemy will be destroyed.
I only hope he comes soon.
SECOND MAN (with a snarl): I don't know just how
we'll recognize the Messiah, but I can tell you this.
He'll be a great warrior. He'll push those blasted
Romans back into the sea, and we'll have our own
land once again, without a bunch of foreigners
ruling us, taking all our money in taxes and
keeping us poor. I'll join up with his army first
thing, and we'll hatch a revolution that will smash
the Romans to bits.
THIRD MAN (rather wild-eyed): No, it won't be as
easy as that. We're in too deep for any mere
man to deliver us. Our only hope lies in a
heavenly creature, sent down from the clouds
of heaven, with legions of angels. The sort of
thing the Book of Daniel talks about. He'll
smite the oppressive Romans and deliver us
from them, and then set up his heavenly
kingdom right here in Palestine. That's the
only thing that can save us.
Then there's that powerful exchange between Simon Zealotes and Jesus in Webber and Rice's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar of 1969 (click on the video below to hear it) which does a pretty good job capturing the passion and problem of people's expectations juxtaposed to Messianic realities.
Do you remember when Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say I am?"
The disciples replied, "Some say you are..."
Jesus interrupted and said, in effect, "I don't care what other people are saying about Me...Who do you say I am?"
The right answer, of course, was/remains, "You are the Christ! The Messiah! The Son/Substance of God! Lord and Savior!"
It's the same Q&A for Palm Sunday 2013...or any Sunday...or any day.
It doesn't matter who Pope Francis I is or who you are or who I am as long as we're His.
It doesn't matter who other people think He is.
Who do we think He is?
Getting back to the guy in funny clothes who will surely shed 'em if he really identifies with the guy from Assisi who identified with the Guy from...heaven, so far so good!
And if we're still into Him - the real not reimagined Jesus of Holy Scripture - so far so good!
With Francis I, we will be known by our fruits; or as He said, "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is a member of My family."
When the parade is really about Someone, it means something more than...what we've gotten for too long from counterfeits posing as Christianity.
Let me put it another way.
Some folks are very religious about the wrong stuff like attire and architecture and furniture and...their PS parades don't amount to a heaven thing with that 1st Palm Sunday parade being exhibit #1.
Some folks are increasingly related to Jesus and their parades really...honor Him while pointing people in the His direction.
Check it/Him out.
Blessings and Love!
Monday, March 18, 2013
I got speeding tickets on the first days of beginning pastorates in Pennsylvania and Missouri.
When I was stopped in Pennsylvania, I was a 25 year green rookie and begged for a pardon because I was afraid of what the church might say. The cop said the local papers didn't report that kinda stuff and gave the ticket to me.
When I was stopped in Missouri, I was an ecclesiastical boy wonder in my early 30s who was being heralded as one of the youngest "senior" pastors in the franchise. More full of myself back then than I am now, I told the cop that I was a Presbyterian pastor - senior pastor of... - and he handed the ticket to me while muttering, "I'm a Roman Catholic."
There are two reasons why I haven't had a speeding ticket in almost 20 years.
First, I figured out the connection between speeding tickets and insurance premiums.
Second, I'm a police chaplain.
I thought about that when a rookie asked me if she/he should call a special church board meeting because she/he just got a speeding ticket and...[see the second sentence/paragraph in the preceding section]...
If you want to know what it's like to be a rookie pastor, put on a deerskin and go walking through the woods on the first day of hunting season.
Really, I don't get it.
Lots of churchgoers who really don't know that much about loving Jesus by loving like Jesus really think rookies are paid to be abused.
They comment on everything about 'em - attire, vehicles, where they shop/eat, PKs, facial hair (guys), hair color (gals), hair length (never really been an issue pour moi), professional baseball/basketball/football team allegiances, vacationing habits, pets, hobbies, perfume, cologne, deodorant, boogers, flatulences, and...just about everything else that would evoke horror in them if anyone dared to probe their...
Really, I don't get it.
I haven't cared about any of that kinda stuff since I got closer to Jesus and...
Well, again, like bikers say, if I have to explain that to you, you wouldn't understand anyway.
Anyway, I really don't get it.
I've been told it's because they have so little control over their lives that they try to control the lives of rookies, the church is one of the few places that suffers fools gladly, they're mad about something or even God and transfer their sick pathologies to anyone who will take it, they're demonically oppressed or possessed, or...
I don't know.
It's like trying to define what is is.
That sounds familiar.
And it's just too damned - please take that word literally in this context - familiar...true.
It is what it is though it should not be in churches where people are supposed to be notoriously grace-filled as expressed by inclusion mirroring the pattern of the Founder.
So I was asked if I had any thoughts about what the rookie should do about the speeding ticket.
Can you imagine me being asked if I have any thoughts about...?
My response: "Yeah, admit it quickly...It's better to dump your garbage before someone digs it up...If ya confess, it deflates 'em...On the other hand, if any fool - Jesus used a Greek word that we transliterate as moron - wants to make an issue out of it, I'll come and..."
Then I said, "I think this is a great opportunity to have some fun!"
Fun: "I'd get up on Sunday during the announcements and say something like this, 'You've probably heard about this from someone...'cause I hear police scanners are big around here...Dang, I got a speeding ticket on my way to church...Can you believe it?...I was going 46 in a 30 mph zone...It just reminds me that I'm a sinner and need Jesus to save me from myself and people just like...But if someone asks, yep, it's true!...I know the Kingdom will rise or fall on this, so, uh, if anybody is bugged, I'm sorry...God knows I'm gonna watch that little dial a lot closer and maybe consider taking another road to...'"
Help us, Jesus!
The preceding is metaphor for why mainliners have moved to the sidelines of spiritual activity related to Jesus in America.
The fact that anyone would even care about...
Messed up priorities.
On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for that rookie to make a confession that could prompt...
Bill Clinton comes to mind.
He's been a joke since lying about...so many things.
For example, he would have elevated trust as well as credibility if he said, "Yeah, you're right, I did inhale...liked it...but I was spending too much $ at Burger King and had to stop...Boy, I just got sooooooo hot around Monica and...she even liked cigars and..."
While I'm more excited with more energy for undershepherding than I've ever been since October 2011 (go back in the archives if you missed commentary on that), I'm really, really, really glad that I'm not a rookie anymore.
Even...know not to mess with war veterans whose only Commander-in-Chief is Jesus.
Peddle to the metal!
Blessings and Love!
Friday, March 15, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Ezekiel
God's people often feel like exiles in foreign lands.
That's because so much of what it means to follow God as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture runs counter-culture; or as Paul wrote, "Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete."
Again, being Godly often runs counter-culture as the Word and world don't always see things similarly.
For example, it's worldly to be all about me, myself, and mine. It's Wordy to be for others as being for Him with service above self; remembering His revelation about confirming belief by behavior: "As you do it for them, you do it for Me."
Ezekiel knew all about that.
He was exiled from the "holy land" and living among the unGodly in Babylonian captivity.
He often makes the big prophetic point that sin - rejecting God's will - leads to emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical captivity; so his message is consistent with all Biblical prophecy: get back to God or else.
Get back to God and experience His favor in time and beyond.
Now before going on, I've gotta admit Ezekiel - like Daniel and Revelation - isn't the easiest book to read and understand with so many symbols and visions that are really out of this world.
Still, scratching the surface of Ezekiel provides some powerful insights about relating to Him directly and relating to Him as we relate to others.
God expects us to give His Word or witness to others whether they want it/Him or not: "Whether this nation of rebels listens or refuses to listen to My message, at least they will know a prophet has visited them...It is vital you feed them My words, whether they choose to digest them or not...It doesn't matter whether they listen to you."
The parable of the sower comes to mind. We scatter the seeds of salvation all over the place. Whether those seeds hit pay dirt depends on Him and them in a predestination and volitional kinda way beyond our responsibility. We're supposed to report His Word without regard to the response. We spread the Word. The response is up to Him and them.
Parenthetically, you may want to go back to the opening paragraphs about Esther for more on the predestination/volition paradox.
Just like the parable of the sower shows, the Word is often rejected: "The people of Israel will refuse to listen to you because they refuse to listen to Me."
If we take it personally, can you imagine how He takes it?
We're just the messengers!
I can't imagine how He feels as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.
Sure, there must be sadness and anger and so much more; but the big point is rejecting Him includes forfeiting His favor: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, stoning the prophets and killing those sent to you. How often I would have gathered you together as a hen gathers her baby chicks; but you rejected Me and My best for you."
Rejecting God, of course, goes back to the garden.
Only being born again and from above can change the DNA inherited from Adam and Eve.
Only when we become more intimate with Jesus than our first parents can we become more like Christians than Adamsons.
But make no mistake about it!
Those destructive emotional, intellectual, and spiritual genes are deeply embedded within us; which is why "We all like sheep have gone our own ways."
Or as God told Ezekiel, "You are living among a rebellious lot. They have eyes, but they do not see. They have ears, but they do not hear. They are a rebellious lot."
It's like that old hymn: "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide...for the good or evil side..."
Again, God to Ezekiel: "It's each person's choice whether they listen. Some will listen; others will refuse because they are a rebellious lot."
It's like that big line in Monsignor: "God gives us our choices; but we, ourselves, must choose."
Choosing God taps into His favor.
Rejecting God forfeits His favor.
Matthew 25's judgment scene comes to mind; along with His revelation to Ezekiel: "I will deal with them according to the way they dealt with others..."
Again, "As you do it for them, you do it for Me."
Now listen carefully.
God always provides the path back to Him.
He asks Ezekiel, "Do you think these dry bones can live?"
Obviously, He's referring to people who have rejected Him previously.
Let's put it/Him another way.
Can people be rebirthed?
The good news from God through Ezekiel: "Prophesy to these dry bones. Tell them to listen to what I say to them...I will breathe breath into you, you will come alive..."
That's why prophets talk so much about God!
Prophets know people can be rebirthed by getting back to God!
Again, we've got to stop reading books about the book and just read the book to get closer to Him!
We've got to move from secondary sources to the Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior!
We've got to be primarily related to God to turn trickles into rivers of living water!
Then the dry bones can be resurrected.
Then we will be rebirthed - born again from above!
It's a matter of focusing on Him.
It's a matter of filtering our lives through Him.
It's about choosing Him.
It's/He's the only intelligent choice.
Believing is seeing; and seeing is blessed.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!