Thursday, November 21, 2013

As You Have Done it Unto the Least of These......

“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. 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.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“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.’  Matthew 25:34-40 NIV

Christianity is as much or maybe even more about what we do, in love, than it is what we believe. This man's simple act of love was "done unto Him". He lived the gospel in that very moment.... What he believed didn't save him.... it was what he did.... Funny, it was the "righteous" that totally missed Jesus....

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Shift in Perspective

     It occurred to me this morning as I was cleaning the house (yes, great theological truth comes to me as I clean the house...go figure) that much of our "Christian belief" begins with this premise; we are sinners who have fallen short and are separated from God and that sin causes death. This idea comes from Romans 3:23 and Romans 6.  I have a love hate relationship with Paul. Some of what he has written through the New Testament when I read it,causes me to slap my forehead and shake my head in disbelief thinking, "Paul, did you HAVE to say that?"  But then other things he writes have me shouting with agreement, "yes, yes, that's it!"
     So, much of Christianity starts the story there; we are sinners deserving of death and separation because God is a holy God and he hates sin, blah, blah, blah. We've heard it over and over ad nauseum.  But what if we change the starting point ever so slightly.  What if, instead of viewing God's creation as a loathing, dead, wretched pile of sin, we look at it as redeemed.  Colossians 1:20 tells us this,

 "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." 

     I don't know about you, but I don't remember EVER hearing a Pastor/teacher teaching that God has reconciled ALL things, ALL creation to himself. Why do we miss that? Why do we continue with the notion that we are separated when it's CLEAR we are reconciled! Jesus said, from the cross, IT IS FINISHED! The work was done on the cross, the temple veil which separated God from man because of God's holiness was torn in two allowing free access to God! This is the message, this is the gospel!  It's done, its finished, we are ALL reconciled. 

     That being said, I believe that, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is this; A Christian is aware of the truth of the gospel; that Jesus completed it it on the cross. She has been "awakened" if you will. He has come alive to the truth. The non-Christian is not aware. Our eternity is secure either way because we have all been reconciled. The difference is in how we live our lives RIGHT NOW. Remember,  Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand, right now. It's among us. The problem is that people are not aware of that and it is the Holy Spirit that reveals and opens our eyes to that. It is the Christians responsibility to SHARE, to teach and to LOVE people into that awareness.  

     The gospel is a mystery. I don't know how God does it, I just know He does. If we believe the Bible then we have to accept that truth.  I know some would split theological hairs and say that "all" doesn't really mean "all". that's fine. Then "all" have not sinned and "all" have not fallen short. It can't work one way and not the other.  Others would say that Christ's work on the cross was sufficient for all but only efficient for some. Personally, that's lazy.  To think that God, the creator of the universe; the author of life and Jesus, who according to Paul in Colossians "holds all things together (unless all doesn't really mean all) was only effective at saving some? Sorry, my God is bigger than that. Some how, some way, God reconciles ALL.  It's Paul's words, not mine. thank you God that I don't have to figure it out because you already did. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Demands of Being a Good Christian....

     I don't know about you but being a Christian is exhausting, pretty much most of the time. Granted, we live in a pretty busy and distracted society and that doesn't help.  Yet, visit most any Evangelical church and look at their "calendar". There are morning services, evening services, mid-week services, "small groups", "voluntary" service in the church, morning devotions (30 minutes required daily) and it leaves one feeling overwhelmed.

     Is this the way it's supposed to be? A picture of the early church in the book of Acts shows a different story.  There was temple life for the Jews up until its destruction in 70 A.D. but for the growing "Christian" community much of their worship life was centered around meeting in homes, sharing meals together, praying and teaching.  It was really a community of faith and not the "institutional" faith that later developed as it became more Westernized. But even more basic than that I'm reminded of Jesus' words written in Matthew 11:28-30,

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

     Is your faith, your walk burdening you down? It's not meant to.  Is your "church calendar" full of activity and busy-ness? It shouldn't be.  Or, is your life so full of "stuff" that it weighs you down? Maybe it's time to do a "garage sale" of sorts and get rid of the baggage.   Rest in Him... THAT is the message of the gospel!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Worship... Redefined...

Several years ago, I did some blogging on the concept of worship. I've been going through some of those old blogs and wanted to share or re-share some of those concepts, at least the ones I still agree with!

"...modern Christians want to understand what they are doing when they worship and through worship desire an authentic experience of God."

Worship then needs to be understandable and experiential. I guess it's like a roller coaster. You can explain to me how one works; you get into the car, it starts moving slowly on the track, goes up then comes down really fast and repeat. That's all well and good but I want to experience it first hand.  It's the same with worship. There is nothing wrong with understanding the mechanics of worship and is probably pretty important, after all, you have to know the rules before you can break them. However, experience is also necessary for a complete understanding of what worship is.

That's what I wrote then.  As I read this, what jumps out at me is the word "experiential".  Worship is an experience.  Our Christian life is an experience.  It's not about going to church, hearing some music, a 30 minute sermon (down from 45 min 15 years ago, thank God...) passing a plate and calling it a morning (or evening if you're church is hip and has an evening service).  EVERYTHING we do is an act of worship for the one who loves us and created us.  

So, in all that we do day to day is an opportunity to worship the one that created us. It's so simple. We don't need rules telling us how to worship. We just need to do it. In all we do....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'm Done (Part 3)

   Last one, I promise... Redemption  (another doctrine....) is such a common theme throughout the Bible and yet, somehow we have taken it and applied it only to a select few.  Theologians have split the proverbial hair so much so as to discuss the "efficiency and sufficiency" of Christ's sacrifice. Seriously? So let's think that out. God's love is SUFFICIENT for everyone but only EFFICIENT for some; the elect, they say.   So tell me, if God is our Father, as Jesus said He is,  what father is going to selectively choose one child over another to pursue and save? The thought of such favoritism is disgusting and horrifying and yet mainline evangelical churches teach it as truth.  If God is as big as we say He is (another doctrine) then He is big enough to finish the work he started.   Jesus said, "It is finished." It's done. the veil was torn in two and access to God has been granted to all. Well, people have free will (doctrine) you say? Yes, we do. My own children have free will but it has no effect on them being my children. They can "will" that away all they want but it doesn't change the fact that they are my kids. There is nothing than can separate them from my love and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of the Father! NOTHING!
     Like I said....I'm done. I'm done with the creeds and doctrines and dogmas that divide the body.  The church is the body of Christ on Earth right now but we have become so dismembered because of doctrine and dogma we are rendering ourselves almost worthless. Imagine what we could do if we united in love and singular purpose. Imagine if we put our petty doctrines and divisions aside and dealt with the real problems of the world; feeding the needy, clean water, the forgotten elderly, orphans... Just love people and share the love of God to all, we would change the world in love.  But instead, we argue over who has the right interpretation.
     The bible is an amazing, Holy, mysterious book. It brings life and light to all who search it. It points us to God and his transforming power. Yet, many have used it to promote personal and political agendas and as a weapon against others.  It has become a tool to control and manipulate by some. Like the pharisees we focus on the letter of the law while missing the intent and the deeper meaning; the Spirit in the words.