Bread

Both my father and grandfather worked in bakeries for many years. Because of that, I can’t smell bread and not be instantly transported back in time and be sitting out front waiting for him to get off.

My dad said he couldn’t smell it anymore. And that being the son of a baker joked that it wasn’t until he was nearly in his teens that he knew bread came from anywhere besides their freezer.

They always had lots of bread…

But

If a man steals bread for his children how should we judge him?

Forced to make a choice between the “right thing” which is to obey the law, or the real thing, to do what’s in his heart, how should he respond?

Should he continue trusting God that somehow his children are going to be fed even though he’s watching them waste away before his eyes?

Assuming he’s exhausted all other avenues of charity at this point what should he do?

I know what I would do.

I’m sure there are many moral precepts from the Bible that we can apply this situation. There’s “thou shalt not steal”and for this scenario that seems to say it all. I do however find the stand Jesus took on the idea of keeping sabbath laws quite interesting and perhaps even relevant to this discussion.

Did you know that Jesus performed at least seven miracles on the sabbath during his three year ministry ? He also endured a lot of criticism by the Pharisees for it. Jesus’ answer to them was that the Sabbath was meant to be a joyful time of rest and communion with God not a burden to be kept. The Pharisees had turned something intended to be spiritual and refreshing into a religious and confining experience instead.

Is there any fair comparison to be made between the actions of Christ and our down on his luck dad?

The answer is yes,
no and
maybe!

The No:

I don’t feel as though Jesus would have attempted to rationalize stealing at all. By stealing the bread the man broke one of God’s laws not an ordinance of man like the ones the Pharisees trumped up against Jesus. He is just plain wrong.

The Maybe:

Jesus surely anticipated the reaction of the Pharisees but still chose to obey the Spirit of the law instead of the letter or unreasonable interpretation of the law. Do you think that the idea or spirit of the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” was intended to starve children or to be seen as more sacred than the lives of those children?

The yes:

Out of all the commandments Jesus said that there were two that were most important. In short to love God and love others. I think the reason He saw these as the most important is that if you kept these two you probably wouldn’t break any of the others.

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Jesus wasn’t worried about how he appeared to the Pharisees or to the other people. He did what he did out of love. He healed on the sabbath because love was the higher law He chose to keep. Is there any other excuse God might accept for breaking one of his commandments other than love? Just because you took a loaf of bread that wasn’t yours to feed your starving children does that mean you didn’t intend on replacing it later? When you stand before God, which as a Christian means every day, would you beam with pride over the loaf of bread you didn’t steal and see the children that died as being God’s Will or intent?

I know that I wouldn’t.

At one time or another each of us finds ourselves in morally ambivalent circumstances. In our hearts we know whether our actions are motivated by lust and greed or for the love and care of other people. In my experience it’s usually a struggle between them that I sometimes win sometimes lose.

Give us this day our daily bread

By saying that we’re asking God to meet all of our needs both physical and spiritual. To guide us in the choices we make and help us to be more like His Son. Even though others might not understand how or why or even where our bread comes from..

Two Hands

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You know what I think is a problem?

How easily Christian people understand that it’s wrong for the members of the Westboro Baptist church to protest homosexuality, military funerals etc… but who will then turn around and behave in a similar way by telling homosexuals that their sexual orientation is a sin and that they’re going to “burn in hell” for it.

They both use a similar rationalization saying that they’re doing it out of love or a sense of responsibility to either the people, God or both. They’ve both taken scripture out of context and fashioned it into a sharp pointy object or in some cases a club that they can then use to injure people with.

With or without the pretense of love, no one seems to actually be feeling it.

(the love that is)

Least of all the folks who’re on the receiving end of it!

In some ways I can understand protesting the death of young American soldiers involved in this curious war we’re in. More so than I can the actions of a group who’s “greatest commandment” is to love not being able to understand how much their actions convey the exact opposite.

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Based on very real necessity many homosexual people, especially teens, keep their sexual orientation a secret. Having never been placed in that position myself I can’t fully appreciate what that’s like. And even though I do know what it’s like to love someone I can only presume to how much of a torturous conundrum that must be! You can’t openly be who you really are or love the people you have feelings for. The only way I can imagine this situation being any worse is to perhaps have some hypocritical phony baloney Christian person tell you that somehow you chose this living hell for yourself.

To me this is either insufferably ignorant or just plain cruel…

I’m really not looking to debate with anyone regarding the meanings of specific scriptures. The one thing the Bible most certainly does not do is state anything in a clear way. If you’ve studied it you know that it’s actually a very complex document. One that in order to truly understand requires research into the supporting Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic translations. There’s also the contextual/cultural coloring’s to consider. As you study remember,the greatest obstacle to learning anything is thinking you know it all to begin with.

Each one of us who thinks of him or herself as being Christian needs to decide for themselves what love means to them and then act on how they feel is the best way to express it. Yeah I do have a problem with how some people go about that but it’s primarily because they’re claiming to represent The Lord who I believe IS God and IS love! And as I see it, it doesn’t really matter if you’re right if you’re going about expressing it in a wrong way! That’s what it seems to mainly be about for some people is “being right” and that’s really not our mandate. We’re nobodies judge and neither are we required to interrogate people like an attorney. We’re simply supposed to be witnesses to a life changing love, to be ready to give our testimony when asked!

If Christianity is ever going to truly be what it aspires to be it’s going to have to start doing what it’s supposed to do and not continue to be used as a tool to oppress people like it was during slavery and like it is now towards homosexuals. It’s supposed to be about liberating people from bondage through love not putting them into it by pronouncing our judgement’s on them! The Christian church is still teaching people that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. And while many homosexuals do choose a promiscuous lifestyle so do many more heterosexual people. I believe that human sexuality is a spectrum line we all fall somewhere on.

So yeah I do have a problem with mainstream Christianity…

A big two handed one!

Believe it or not, I’d like to help do whatever I can to create a new more authentic version of Christianity that really does make love it’s highest priority. That see’s inclusion as it’s greatest goal. That doesn’t need a multi-million dollar building to establish it’s credibility with people and convince them that it and their pronouncements must be god ordained.

I think the time is coming soon when Gods people will separate out from those who’re perpetuating an adversarial relationship between the church and a world full of people He loves and wants to see in heaven someday. The great thing about it is that neither you or I have to wait another minute to begin to do something about it.

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven must be within each of us and so based on that we should all be our own walking, talking church!

And then there’s this quote…which seems to contradict my perspective

 If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and un-prayed for.

(C.H. Spurgeon)

Okay far be it from me to disagree with such a brilliant and Godly man!

But what is it he’s really saying?

First of all he says…IF!

Which of course means because we’re all in agreement about this.

And that the supreme act of love is to lay down ones life if need be.

Just as Christ did for each of us.

How did that work out for Him?

Our salvation and eternal life is possible because of His death

but ultimately it’s still a choice made by each of us to accept it.

Love, which consists of truth beauty empathy compassion and so many other things exists entirely apart from our belief in or our mis-perceptions about it.

YES! As Christians we should be willing to lay down our lives to save another that we love…But what if there was an easier way?

They say that to truly change the world we must first be changed ourselves. And if after first experiencing that change ourselves we could simply become a conduit to others for the same love that met us just as we were and accepted us?

No long term contracts or fine print. No pre-qualifying questionnaire…

No hoops to jump through or expectations to live up to.

 No I’m talking about grace!

Which is the un-merited favor of God

 

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Two hands…on the one is what you believe and on the other what you know to be true. Our actions can be a reflection of either. If we know love we act it out, the same goes for fear.To believe something implies a measure, however small, of doubt. Whereas knowing is a certainty about something. Two hands…they represent the choices available to each of us.

To Love Somebody

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Can there be any greater question asked than “What is love” or what does it mean to “love somebody”? Perhaps not! Over the past couple of years I know I’ve struggled to find those answers. I’ve pursued the truth and tried to remain open to the likelihood that it wouldn’t necessarily coincide with my preconceptions. Much of that “seeking” has been shared here with you and as always, I hope you find something in what I’ve written that resonates with you and casts light on your own path…

What do I know about Love?

The first and most essential “thing” to know and embrace is that love isn’t a thing! It’s it’s own entity. It’s alive and real and exists entirely apart from us. It’s a very tangible, personal, presence we can’t possess and that can only be given unconditionally! One that our hearts are either open and welcoming to or closed and isolated from. It’s ultimately powerful and imparts it’s strength to us acting as an agent of change in our lives for the better. Love can come to us through something as common as the “secret ingredient” in mom’s cooking. Or speak to us through the inner empathic voice we hear that says, “You were once like that!” It’s what makes a man rise up early smiling and eagerly head to work everyday! But love can also take us to some un-familiar places like “your knees” where you find yourself desperately praying to whatever god is listening for intercession on someone’s behalf.

Love is divinely kind and wise and it shows us great respect in that even though it seeks to restore us in all ways it will only go where it’s invited or where doors are open. Love truly is all around us and how tragic it is that we can’t feel it because our hearts aren’t open! I think its under these difficult circumstances that love becomes creative and His methods most interesting. Working behind the scenes, choosing, Inhabiting and directing the necessary people and circumstances into peoples lives who’re destined to play a critical part in some cosmic “perfect storm” of revelation when we, as I did,sincerely request it!

Actually I feel like what I did was to demand it. I needed a personally unavoidable demonstration not unlike what Paul experienced on the Damascus road. And while I certainly wasn’t blinded, as a result my viewpoint has definitely been changed! In short…I’d seen the sun in the sky with my eyes and understood with my intellect the laws governing the travel of its rays from there to here, but because I couldn’t constantly feel it’s warmth on my skin I called the whole thing into question.

Of course I needed all this proof to occur despite my heart being closed, frozen solid and surrounded by glacial walls! Somehow I expected love to find me there hidden within the many tangled layers of impervious defense I’d built up over my life in response to the fear of pain…protecting and suffocating me all at once! It seems as though there are definitely times we can be our own greatest obstacle and I’m guessing that’s why it took so many years for all the components to come together. Not only in my life but also in the lives of all who were to be touched by what follows.

And so it happened one perfect summer evening that love chose to act upon me through the simple smile of a young girl. I don’t recall any rapturous swooning moment or anything like that, only the gentle warmth that seemed to reach out to me and touch the cold place inside causing the first huge piece of ice to melt and fall off of my heart! It was an opening through which love could now move, one which also allowed me to feel again! And with these new feelings came an onslaught of new questions, the answers to which were always supplied by “love” as long as I chose to listen. It was in that moment, in my heart at least, that she became my daughter. It became my joy to give her whatever she might ask of me that wasn’t obviously harmful and to concern myself with her welfare. I also saw fit to provide a few unsolicited “wants” to her and her family who were seemingly struggling at the time. I don’t see it as being wrong in any way to love someone or to feel good about helping people but for someone like myself it can easily become a situation where it becomes a bit more about you than it is them and that’s kind of messed up.

Blissfully unaware of my diversion from the prime directive of ” first do no harm” I had waded in about chest deep and it felt wonderful! Then one day while I was reveling in my own self aggrandisement I heard a voice in my head say…

Do you realize that God The Father loves you that much? and SO much more! And despite everything He’s already done for you is still more than willing to meet you where you are…He’s also eager to show how much He loves you! And now that you know how it feels wont you at least give Him that chance?

There before me my dilemma crystalized in all its painful beauty. It was hard to look at but I felt as though it was a blessed opportunity that I welcomed to invoke a “pattern interrupt” in my life and to somehow be the man that love saw me as and somehow believed I was! Simple things in life can be hard to learn, namely that I couldn’t (as only He could) love anyone perfectly! Believe me, perfection is a BIG deal to me! I feel as though whats happened, whatever it may be, has been a real game changer for me. After feeling rather hopeless about certain areas of my life and being spiritually adrift I now feel the empowerment to begin again and make some needed changes! It’s been the impetus for me to look at other relationships in my life both past and present, and at the people who’ve tried to love me (however imperfectly) that I’ve pushed away. As a further result I feel as if I’m able to give and receive love with a new openness in every relationship I’m a part of as a result of my new…

open heart

Here’s a news- flash!

It’s quite unrealistic to expect a perfect love from ourselves or others because our “selves” are always going to get in the way! I have a tendency to not trust in love so I find myself looking for reasons to affirm that mistrust.

I’m looking for a reason to reject others preemptively because I’m pretty sure that they’ll eventually reject me and I wanna be ready! I’ve found that if you focus on peoples imperfections and judge them for them instead of realizing the miracle it is that any of us can love at all you’re sure to reap what you sow!

That evening, In just a single moment love showed me it’s perfect self and then left me at loose ends.. scrambling to somehow find a way to give back the perfect gift I’d been given. Its been a gradual change for me since then but day after day I can still feel the ice melt and fall off. I’ll always be in loves debt and I’m still looking to make good on that… The only difference is that now I understand it’s a debt I owe to everyone!

I’ve found this to be quite a wonderfully humbling revelation!

And in case you didn’t know…that’s what’s known as a “teachable moment”

One which I’m happy to say is still in effect!

If I have any real point to make here it’s only this…

Thinking that God loved me didn’t do me any good! 

It’s only when we start to really know how much He loves us and how passionate He is about being a part of our lives that we can begin to receive the good “things” He has for us and as a result be empowered to transcend all of the petty in comparison trappings of this life that are the source of so much despair!

Treat yourself and have a listen to Sister Janis as she testifies!

Are You Serious?

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It can be difficult to know who is!

It’s always been a challenge for me to figure out and I suspect others probably wonder  the same about me! Of course at times I wonder how seriously some things actually should be taken. Perhaps it’s because of my analytic nature that I focus so much on details and have a tendency to be more literal in how I understand things. I’m someone who’s quite serious,too much so in fact,who’s trying to interface with a read the fine print “Just Kidding” world.
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This fixation of mine seems to play out most noticeably in my relationships, both personal and professional. I don’t think it’s really so unusual or remarkable in any way,on the contrary! I see this mindset as being rather common hence the familiarity of the phrase in our culture. However,when combined with any sort of OCD or perfectionist tendencies it typically leads to disappointment and frustration on the part of all who’re trying to understand the appropriate roles of the respective parties in any given situation.

Enough setup?

Looking back on my spiritual journey which for me began at age nine or ten it seems to of,almost without fail, follow a distinct pattern. I find myself being drawn into “all things spiritual” until I reach a point where I can’t find answers to my questions or perceive “it” or myself, as somehow being in contradiction or one of us not living up to the associated claims. All of this is based on or evidenced by how I see “God” manifested in the world, in myself,and in other Christian people I know. At times the answers I do find seem to conflict with what’s taught or simply lead to more questions.

Here’s one…

Is Christianity the perfect ideology for people with low self esteem?

The idea of redemption was never hard to sell to me…As a youth I was so full of self loathing that the idea of being someone other than myself or a better version of who I was seemed like an answered prayer! (I’m still rather frustrated on this score) There are times that I think Christianity would be the greatest thing in the world, that it’d be worth screaming from the rooftops about if it simply did what it claims to do! I suppose that yet again I’m just “doing it wrong” but it’s awfully hard for me to conceive of a God who loves us so much and yet Who would make it so complicated or confusing to be redeemed or to get a taste of that victorious life we’re teased with!

In first Corinthians fifteen Paul talks about our faith being in vain. I don’t think I’m taking too great of an interpretive leap here to juxtapose the relevance of his statement to our spiritual lives. To me He seems to be saying that if Christ didn’t walk out of the grave then what we believe is in vain. If we’ve been crucified with Christ,born again and are in truth new creations in Christ which will someday rise just as He did,why are so many of us still dead in our sins?

“Because someday hasn’t come yet dummy and as long as you dwell in this tent of flesh,you’ll fight this battle regardless of how you feel about it”…The Holy Spirit

WOW! He’s in a mood today…

Anyways, my point is that if our new lives in Christ aren’t a miracle of some kind isn’t what we’re believing also in vain? I understand the eternal aspects of this statement but I also have to believe there are significant implications for our here and now lives as well! It is a bit confusing when you read what Paul says in Philippians about his own righteousness.

Philippians 3:9

KJV And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Or verse 12 of Chapter three in which Paul goes on to say…

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

And of course this confusing admission of his own inadequacy.

Romans 7:14-16

KJV For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Obviously Paul saw himself as a work in progress! That he was running a race,not that he had finished one…

There are however ways to know we’re on the right road!

Galatians 5:22

KJV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Certainly I”m not SO arrogant to in any way expect more from myself than Paul did!

Or am I?

Or pigheaded enough to be unforgiving towards myself when God the Father has already seen fit to forgive my many sins…

Surely not!

WHEW! Glad that’s been cleared up…

So, then what am I really so unhappy about or what are my real expectations?

Oh not much…

I once heard an analogy when I was in addiction recovery that related to what’s known as “recovery time” and “clean time”. It served to help distinguish the differences between them. The phrase “clean time” relates to how long someone has gone without using whereas the term “recovery” is an indication of the healing that’s occurred in someones life, of how much of the causative component involved in a persons addictive behaviors have been dealt with. Clean time is also known as “white knuckling it” the idea being that a persons sobriety is a function of their own “self will” and that inevitably it will fail.

Recovery time is so much better because once we understand the reasons we used to begin with we’re much,much less susceptible to their influence. Nothing is quite so liberating to an addict as understanding why it’s not just “okay” to be who they are and sober but how actually fantastic it is! They’ll never go back to using because they understand how much better off they are where they’re at! It’s no longer a struggle to stay sober,because from this new perspective you know that YOU’VE WON! And that you can live in victory over your addiction because you have something that’s SO much better!

That’s what I want from my spiritual life!

I’m tired of white knuckling it!

And I can’t stand the frustration of the failure that comes with it.

Which is what most religion comes down to in my opinion

and I definitely don’t believe in that.

What I do believe in is love.

And it’s transformative power!

So what I want is a personal encounter with it, or Him…

1 John 4:8

KJV He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

After all that I’ve been through…

all that I’ve seen and done.

I have to be honest enough to say I don’t have it!

which gives me the perfect opportunity to end this post using my title and the likely reaction to it by some!

Are You Serious?

Truth Incorporated

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATruth is kind of a big deal to me. Maybe because knowing the truth has always been the best way for me to have peace of mind! It can be considered knowledge,and of course knowledge is power! Power needed to overcome the fear and anxieties which accompany it’s antithesis of lies and confusion. Over the year’s I’ve become frustrated with how unnecessary and manufactured that confusion often seems to be. Businesses use deceptively simple premises that sound good on the surface to entice people into becoming customers. Then when they’ve got you in the door they employ some form of a “bait and switch”. To my way of thinking, this sort of marketing strategy is little more than legalized falsehood…It seems as though you can lie in the large print if you tell the truth in the small!

That’s Corporate truth!

Over my lifetime I’ve been taken in many times by such tactics, which are, like any successful scam based on the greed of it’s intended victims. You have to present a “something for nothing” scenario in order to peak the selfishness of the intended “mark”. Because I’ve been burnt before, I’ve become quite sensitive and even resentful towards any institution or corporation that attempts to use this method to engage me. I’m leery of any offer which seems overly generous or “too good to be true” and rightly so I’d say!

Christianity can also be misrepresented to people. They’re told that after trusting in Jesus Christ as their Saviour they’re born again and that their burdens in life can be laid down there at the foot of the cross. Most people understand that to mean that life as they know it is going to get easier but if you’ve been “around” at all you know that’s not really true. I’m not saying that it never happens or even that it can’t happen, what I am saying is that it’s a process. One that requires a lot of hard work over time. One that you’ll need lots of help with! People who are mature in their faith know this is true. If you think that Satan is just going to stand by and watch while someone grows in Christ you’re dead wrong! Nope, he’ll attack anyone who’s moving in the opposite direction that he is! Truth is, if you’re not encountering his handiwork maybe you should consider which way you’re headed!

According to data I’ve looked at, Christianity is in decline in the United States. Why? I think it’s because we’ve totally underestimated our enemy! We don’t believe we’re in a spiritual battle and that lives are at stake. No, either we’ve somehow been convinced that half measures and playing Church is God’s purpose for us as His ambassadors or perhaps we just don’t care.

There’s a lot more to being a Christian then just walking down an aisle and saying a prayer! That’s just the start! But if you want to live a victorious Christian life there’s a lot more to it. I’m talking about discipleship,which can’t sail without relationship! Relationships that run much deeper than shaking someones hand on Sunday morning and that aren’t put off by the walls that people have built around their hearts.

2888670193_949c834e3aThis symbol appears through the Ancient Ephesus. This symbol, a code unknown to the Romans was used by the Christians to indicate they were followers of Christ

Somewhere along the way the church’s priorities have changed from operating in the five fold ministries they’ve been called to in Ephesians four to instead function more like a business whose goal is warm bodies in pews paying tithes. God’s Spirit won’t occupy and empower that…but without His Holy Spirit they’re selling a product that doesn’t really work! Maybe that explains the large number of dissatisfied Christian consumers who’ve left the church seeking something they perceive as being based more on integrity.

These types of marketing strategies don’t work on people who,because of their sense of integrity,see them for what they are. Who aren’t only interested in their personal gain or benefit but also in that of the other parties involved. They seek true value, to pay a fair price for any goods or services because they understand the interconnection that exists between all members of an economy and have an uncommon respect for what’s known as “parity”.

The last time I was in church the pastor made fun of people like me who write blogs critical of the church. He said it was like saying “Lord I love you, but Your bride? Not so much” I understood his point but maybe not all church’s deserve that title…

Gandhi didn’t think so!

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not just here trying to be critical or condemning, I freely admit that I’m struggling just as much as anyone to try and understand what we as the church should be doing.

When I ask myself that question it seems to become less about “what” and more a matter of how can we do it?

By what power?

Again, we know the answer…by the Holy Spirit!

Okay,how do we “get that”?

What does the Bible say?

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

I read this quote the other day and it stopped me in my tracks…

 “I am Pentecostal by necessity, not by choice.” Dick Brougdan

I do know this much…LOVE is the answer!

The answer to any problem as I see it is to simply figure out a way to get closer to God, Who is love!

And then we won’t be able to not love others in a genuine way just as He loves us!

Now that sounds like the truth to me…

Not “Truth Incorporated”

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