Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All are Welcome

I consider myself a pretty easy going kind of person. Live and let live right, but the one thing I don’t like is when I feel forced to take a middle of the road kind of stance. First and foremost the middle of the road is a dangerous place to be even for an opinion. Second in my walk, my learning and growing to be a disciple of Jesus I believe when I can truly effectively reflect Christ in all that I do I won’t have to take a stance against anything. If my stance to is to reflect the truth of Christ like it should be everything else will fall away right.

With that being said churches all around the world are made up of people just like you and I. This is the church this is the steeple open it up and here are the people. You and I both know people are sinful and as such are imperfect. I want to say I have never been a part of anything that would be akin to barring anybody from entering our church. Clean unclean rich or poor never have I sat and pondered out loud how best to rid our churches of the unsaved.

I am not na├»ve I know people can be very unwelcoming over particular views and opinions. There are churches that preach hurtful sermons but those kind of churches run by those kind of people are far and few between. That is not the status quo for the churches I attend or would be privy to. That isn’t what I signed up for, did you? Was I absent the day we passed out pitchforks?  

So why is it every time I turn on the television or scroll across a couple newsites I see one community after another lighting their torches banging on church doors for us to let them in? Have you checked the door, we don’t have bouncers. Who’s barring anyone? 
The church is becoming more progressive than I can stomach at times and yet the torches are still lit. People are still beating upon their chest and trying to kick in our doors as if they were locked. Given I have never seen anyone ever being turned away, do you really think all this commotion is for us to be more accommodating or could it be they are more interested in you coming out? Are the crowds gathered before the church wanting in like they say, or are they simply waiting for us to close our doors?


Friday, October 17, 2014

God is the Ultimate Reality

Reality as we know it is far too complex for a baby’s brain to comprehend all at once. The learning development of child happens in stages. All those big blocky bright colorful toys are designed to stimulate a newborns mind. Some toys make particular noises while some have certain textures, but they were created for newborns learning to adapt and manipulate their new environment safely. They are building the skills they will need in the real world.
This early stage of learning in only intended to teach a newborn the basics shapes, colors and sounds. As we progress in our learning we tend to gravitate toward more age appropriate tools of learning. The shapes we use become more complex and the sounds we muttered as a baby begin turning into the proper vowels and consonants needed to communicate. Even though we shed all of the newborn things we do not discard the skills we acquire. They just become part of us.
By the time we reach our teen years we are being prepped for our next big steps which would be finishing school finding a job and navigating more meaningful appropriate relationships. As we mature we begin to attain the utmost of responsibilities bringing with us all of those learned skills. Some of the skills we have learned are deliberate lessons, while other skills are picked up with the various ups and downs God will toss our way. We’ll call those life lessons.
What I am finding out in my walk with Jesus is that although all these lessons and skills are necessary for life; if we want to find the Kingdom we are not done learning. No matter our age or understanding we still have some very big steps ahead of us.
A newborn’s mind is incapable of understanding the fullness of our reality but this little fact doesn’t stop us from teaching loving and nurturing a newborn into adulthood and beyond. Likewise our minds are incapable of understanding the fullness of God’s reality all at once. Reading scripture staying connected in prayer is how God is loving and nurturing us into His Kingdom.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I will not Comply

Parents worldwide work extremely hard to support their families. We put in a decent days work and go home to raise our children. One of the things I have started to notice with my children is there is a difference between following an instruction, as opposed to complying with an instruction. Following an instruction insinuates even if at a subconscious level an understanding of the instruction. While merely complying with an instruction is either a direct or indirect attempt to subvert the intent of said instruction. Scrapping your uneaten dinner into the trash complies with the instruction of clearing your dinner plate before dessert, but it clearly misses why the instruction was given.

A great biblical example of complying with an instruction would be the fellow asking Jesus “well who is my neighbor?”  We are never given the name of this individual but he is clearly looking for the parameters of this commandment so as to go around it. Are we talking next door? Are we talking anyone within a 20 mile radius? Even if he was innocently looking for clarification the question itself shows a misunderstanding of the intent behind the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself.

Sometimes knowing why we do or don’t do something can make a huge difference. Understanding why we have speed limits doesn’t mean we can speed recklessly when we deem it’s safe, but understanding high speed collisions makes it easier to follow the posted speed limit. Jesus said “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Why? I think there is a huge difference in complying with God and following. The people Jesus was speaking to had lived to comply with the law while completely missing the why or the intent of God’s law.
As the ones our children look to for answers it is important that we do our best to always have an answer, if we’re honest sometimes we don’t have a straight answer for them. We may find ourselves saying because I said so. I don’t know why just do what I ask. We say these things for numerous reasons, but God isn’t limited in knowledge and wisdom like we. While God doesn’t owe any of us an answer to the why He gives an instruction it doesn’t hurt to ask. Jesus never asked for any of His disciples to comply with Him, He asked for people to follow. Why? Because we will always follow what we love, and never love when we are forced to comply.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A+B=C God is Good?

I wonder how many people are willing to believe in God but just cannot get pass an issue of anger. How many people really want to worship God but somehow feel wronged by God? I know reading the bible it can be extremely easy to assume if we live like A +B then C should equal God being good to us. What if that way of thinking is wrong? A closer way to see the same equation would be to say if I act well, then God will be good and the sum of it all is I get a great life. A+B=C God is Good.

Could this be the source of people’s anger toward God? Do people give it the good old college try and just assume that because they have lived up to what they thought God wanted that now they have a gripe against the All Mighty when their lives aren't what they were expecting?

I know a lot of people who aren’t willing to worship God because He did this or this happened to me. While all these may seem like legitimate deal breakers, I am asking if that was ever the deal in the first place. Who promised anyone a sweet life?

I cannot imagine a world where this kind of reasoning would actually work. Everyone is entitled to follow what they think will bring them joy, but that is where we get ourselves into trouble. We all have so many different varying views an opinion to what would constitute a great life. While it may be great for money to never be an issue that would wreak havoc on any monetary driven economy. It may be a desire that you would always be desirable to the opposite sex, what about the other person’s freewill to reject you?    

We all lose people to old age, disease or other unfortunate mishap. Does this mean we are entitled to be grudging God for what appears to be His lack of concern for our hurts and dire needs? Do we have a case against God when who we thought would be the love of our lives suddenly walks out on us?

The truth is A+B doesn’t equal C God is good. Much like 1+2 doesn’t give us the right to go blaming God for all the wrongs in our life. Anger is the mask we wear to shield our eyes to the truth; God is good all the time and all the time God is good. This is hard for me to write or say but there is nothing wrong with being mad at God. He knows your pain; He feels the anger and resentment, all the anger in the world won’t get you to where you want to be. Your anger towards God may end up being the biggest waste of time and effort. I traded my anger toward God and what I got in return was amazing. I don’t see the world through a fictitious pair of rose colored glasses; I know it’s upside down. The sweet life is I follow Jesus as the one who lovingly took my place of the suffering I rightful deserve and He did it because I didn’t know my head from a hole in the ground.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Getting Over Self

Kristin and I were reading Bonhoeffer's Ethics last night.  He identifies the fall of humanity with the eating from the knowledge of good and evil, and therefore the redemption in Christ with the abandonment of the knowledge of good and evil.  He shows that Jesus' instruction that we "Judge Not" is connected to this letting go of the knowledge of good and evil (the source of our fall).  Instead of knowing good and evil, which caused disunion between us and God as well as disunion between each other (thus sin = broken relationship with God and each other) we are called to simply know God.  In knowing God through Christ -- we find union with God and each other.  There is no decision between good and evil, because only one thing is known and that one thing is God--which is why Paul can say that the knowledge of Christ causes all other knowledge to fade away--only that one thing is important.  The punchline of this is the call for the Christian to be good without knowing they are good.  To know we are good is to acknowledge another possibility; which leads us to disunion from the one thing we are invited to know.

We have been focusing on characters of scripture through the past several weeks, and I have been again impressed at how unimpressive the most impressive heroes are.  When we tell stories, we quite often emphasize the strengths of characters.  When there are character flaws, such flaws must be overcome.  But it is not so in scripture.  Flaws have consequences, flaws are exposed, occasionally a flaw is overcome--but the emphasis is almost never on individual conquest, but God's faithfulness to use a person despite, and even because of their shortcomings (real or perceived).

The witness of scripture is clear--the one thing that matters is the goodness of God.  In Christ we are invited to know God; but not to know and therefore judge between good and evil.  We are like children with an undeveloped self-identity.  We are loved by our parent, and invited into a loving relationship with our parent.  Everything else fades in importance to that relationship.  We are not expected to sort out all the problems of our siblings--for they too are loved by our parent.  When is the last time you allowed your self to get lost in the love of God.  Do you find a self-help culture to helpful or does such reflection drive a wedge between us and God?