Two Hands

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.

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Are You Serious?

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

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”

Look At Yourself…

I don’t know any perfect people.

I’d even go so far as to say that I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least a few issue’s that they’re working out, myself included of course. The same goes for people I don’t know, be they Christian or Atheist, rich or poor, even if you’re the Pope or the Dali llama it really doesn’t matter! All of us share the same gene pool, and there below our fancy Latin taxonomic name I think it should say in parenthesis…

One common approach used by those who feel compelled to address this greatest of all truths as a spiritual problem or sickness is to engage in various forms of self medication. To, by the use of ritualistic practices, behaviors or good works, overcome or compensate for their bad or evil nature with good or righteous acts. For Christian people this sometimes means regular church attendance or being involved with some personal ministry or outreach effort that their church supports.

One thing I’ve noticed about volunteer work in the church is that there’s usually far more people who’re willing to sign on to do high profile activities such as taking meals to homeless people or visiting the sick than there are who are willing to work at the church.

There are certainly exceptions, but usually they have to pay people to come in and do the cleaning, lawn care, and other more mundane tasks that are essential to the function and care of the church whereas outreach ministries provide their participants with an immediate “this looks AND feels good for me”  pay off.

I do understand that in the body of Christ there’s a place for everyone to serve and I’m a huge fan of doing so but have you ever wondered why people who consider themselves to be servants all seem to be gifted the same way?

Call me cynical or whatever but it’s hard for me not to see it as strange, it’s as though what they’re really wanting is for themselves to be glorified by these works instead of God.


Over the past several years I’ve been on both sides of things. I’ve been the person in need and I’ve been the one who was in a position to give. I’ve been helped, and helped others as well. I’ve also been confused by people who would help you as long as by doing so they looked like a hero but then, when it was a much smaller matter where perhaps just a word from them asking after me and my situation would’ve meant a great deal they suddenly seemed rather indifferent.

I can still recall how struck I was by my own feelings when after volunteering with a local outreach ministry I found myself filling out insurance forms so people could get medicines at no cost from pharmaceutical companies. Within a couple of weeks I began to dislike doing it because of how boring and confusing it was at times. I began to feel uninspired, wishing I could be involved in some other aspect of the ministry that I might find more interesting.

I remember thinking… “this just isn’t my area of spiritual gifting!” I continued to show up and tried to do my best. It sounds bad to say it but when I eventually became financially unable to continue making the hour long drive in twice a week I was actually sort of glad.

These scenario’s are just small examples of what I think it means to look into your own heart and see how self centered and prideful each of us are. Of how desperately each of us are in need a Savior, and how amazing the grace of God which is extended to each of us through His Son Jesus is!
To me, the most remarkable part of this story is how faithful God has been to me. How He’s shown me through untold small miracles how much I mean to Him. How is it then that I can turn away from what could’ve been an opportunity to share Christ’s love with someone else through simple things or grow weary in serving God because I don’t think it’s a good fit for me? Things like spending time with people you may find repugnant but who God has put on your heart, or perhaps doing boring, tedious things you may not actually like to do.
Who knows, maybe if by our doing these things in a selfless manor hoping for some privilege to share Christ through it we might just find our real place of service. We all want to find our purpose in Gods kingdom and play our part in His great plan. For some it’s to be center stage with the white hot spot light and Gods anointment on them, and for others it’s to work in the background in a supporting role of some kind.
What most of us don’t realize is that it’s only through our trusting God and being willing to do whatever He calls us to do in whatever circumstances we find ourselves that we’ll ever truly find our way. There comes a point where we have to stop looking at ourselves and start looking only to Him as the source of everything! We don’t look down, or back, or anywhere else but to Him! That’s when the power of the Lord our God will be seen in a mighty way in our lives and in the lives of those who we’re seeking to serve in His name!

The Problem…

In some ways it’s the height of comical irony that a culture such as ours so steeped in the worship and reverence of love could have it so wrong…

but it does.

It’s often confused with sex, perhaps as a result of the perception that it’s somehow inherently explained by the misleading commonly used expression

“make love”.

Sadly, many settle for the red-headed step-child of love “attention” primarily because we don’t really know the difference. Children, both young and old, act out in bad behaviors that are really just cries for help or for “love”.

It’s sometimes described as a feeling, but that’s kind of like saying Gods creation is God and then worshiping “it” instead of Him. We’re told that love is a choice, which is true, but how does that help us to make loving choices? We’re inundated with a constant flow of dis-functional concepts and examples from every possible source! Through the song lyrics that brainwash us daily all the way back to the fairytale stories that were read to us as children.

I feel very comfortable in saying that all of the most screwed up things that you and I have done in our lives are directly related to our misunderstanding of God and of love, and our search for both.

Almost invariably, mans search for love and his quest for the understanding of it are motivated only by his selfish desires to marshal it’s great power for his own purposes. Man has become a master at peddling illusions and perpetrating lies on his fellow man in order to get what he wants. One is seen as being successful in this life by demonstrating an ability to manipulate others and more importantly to convince themselves that it’s love that they’re offering. None of which would be possible apart from the basic ignorance about the true nature of love that’s so prevalent. We’re like blind people feeling around in the dark who are stung, bitten and burned as a result of working through a process of elimination hoping to find the real thing.

As unfortunate as ignorance is,there’s still cause for hope in that ignorance can be dealt with through simple knowledge. Whats most unfortunate are those of us who have allowed fear to take hold of our spirits. In acting out of fear we acknowledge our own personal insufficiency by believing that we are the source of our limited provision. We’ve been taught to look out for number one which is of course ourselves because if we don’t who will? certainly not a benevolent God, afterall, everyone knows that God helps those who help themselves right?. But in truth, God helps or comes to save those who absolutely cannot help or save themselves!

And that’s exactly the work I believe God is wanting to use His church to accomplish!

God Is Love!

As His representatives and ambassadors, disciples and followers, evangelist’s and ministers, church members and children, shouldn’t we have, based on our personal relationship with Jesus, a much greater familiarity with love than those who don’t or who aren’t any of those things?

Love is the answer!

Perhaps we as the church have forgotten that. We live in the midst of a world full of people who are crying out for answers, are we prepared to give them? Shouldn’t we be the ones teaching the world about love?  This world is a vineyard ripe for harvest, and the only real preparation necessary for us as Christians is to truly receive that love and those answers first ourselves! How can we say that we know the Lord, or that we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, and then stand idly by in the presence of so much need in our own assigned area’s of mission field earth?

We’ve been given the perfect example of what love is in Christ.

I don’t think there’s any way that I personally could ever be thankful enough for what He did for me. If I really mean that, then what does it mean?

We need more than a “revival” what we need is a revolution! A love revolution…

And since love is an action word, a “verb”, that means we need to shift our focus away from merely talking about it week in and week out to one of making some thoughtful plans to implement it in some way scratch that, every way possible! I’m not talking about some token “feel good” project that doesn’t require much from us. What I’m suggesting here is that we work in earnest the great harvest that’s been prepared before us! Just as Christ held nothing back on our behalf, How can we do any less?

We can make the most of the opportunity before us by bringing everything we have to bear on this Kingdom battle for the souls of those around us who our Heavenly Father dearly loves!

Or we can listen to fear…

It’s a choice each of us has to make,there is no way to “abstain”

We can either choose to live in love or be imprisoned by fear.

We can choose to serve the One True God and His Kingdom…

Or be a slave to the one who opposed Him and who is also our enemy.

Is that a problem?