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.

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”

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?


Gods In It…(Pt.3)

In some ways this is the most difficult part for me to write because it tells the story of how I went from being a regular three time a week church attendee to striking out and”accidentally” establishing a ministry of my own. It’s difficult because what I’ve got to say is critical of certain aspects of not just my church at the time but mainstream churches as a whole. Over time what I began to see and hear became very frustrating to me, the message I kept hearing was that we need to be a church outside the four walls but as far as I could see there wasn’t any real practical or specific plan as to exactly what that means other than to just “be a good person” or “invite someone to church”. Being able to confidently share your faith with others is a weak spot with most Christians. But from my perspective, after all of the ways I had witnessed the Lord’s provision in my life through all of the circumstances I’d been through it was very natural for me to tell others how good He was to me! Over time what I was hearing just ceased to minister to me.  I wondered if I was being spiritually prideful or if I was just tired of sitting in a pew week after week hearing the call to GO being given but not feeling as though it was something most took seriously. I tried to make suggestions for various outreach activities but they were all ignored or dismissed. There’s an old joke about a church that was seeking a new minister, they were particularly impressed by one man and asked him to return and speak to  their congregation again, he does but he gives the exact same sermon! The elders met together and asked the young preacher “don’t you know any other sermons?” he relied “Sure, and as soon as this congregation start’s practicing THIS one I’ll preach another!”

One Monday morning in October of 2009 I couldn’t get my car started and wasn’t able to figure out exactly what was wrong with it and fix it for 26 days.  During that time I was unable to attend church and when I finally did get my car fixed I just didn’t want to go back. What happened was kind of sad but in another way it was a blessing because it forced me to make a change that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have otherwise made.  The next twist was what I thought was a God ordained partnership with a new friend I had found. Instead it was another necessary nudge that also helped serve the purpose of moving me from being a pew sitter to a well, whatever it is I’ve become…An evangelist, a counselor, or perhaps just a Christian who’s wiling to trust in a God that has brought him through so many things, and in His promises of a plan He has for my life to establish me and not to harm me!

In the beginning of this three part series I used a card game as an illustration to expound upon the ways in which I believe God has shown Himself in my life. Playing cards requires that you pay attention to what’s in your hand and that when you have something to “lay down” it’s best to go ahead and just do it. To me that’s what my blogging has always been about, trying to tell or “lay it down” to others that it’s not about what we may go through in this life, it’s who you go through it with that gives it meaning or value! Every story I’ve told here is about how God showed up in the midst of my circumstances and kept me from hitting bottom. I’d also like to say that what I’ve written here is a very abridged version of many, many ways God interceded on my behalf, far too many for me to even mention!  Nobody in my family has ever been hungry or gone without any thing they really needed. Even during the worst of it, when I lost my home, He made sure I had enough money to rent a truck, that I had help moving, and most important a place to move to! God knows me so well, and He knows what I can take and what I can’t take.

The following verse in Isaiah really sums it all up for me.

Isaiah 54:17

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

Our enemy comes only to kill,steal,and destroy! If the trials and troubles that you have in your life can steal your joy or make you doubt Gods great love for you than his weapons have prospered! It’s only through the blood of Christ and the sustaining power of Gods Holy Spirit that we can have victory over life’s most difficult challenges. For what was meant for evil against us, only God can turn into good!

One of the most common questions I’m asked by people regarding what I’m doing in my ministry is “How are you funded?” and the answer is that I’m privately funded by Jesus!

Say What?

That’s right! He’s sustained me through all things and now and has moved me into the position I’m in and even though I only make about 13,000 a year I’ve been able to financially support my ministry! I live a wonderful life It seems like I always have plenty of money for life’s little extra’s, going out to eat occasionally or just buying something I need, it’s absolutely true that you can’t “out give” God!  He’s made a 17yr old car that I got as a gift with over 255,000 miles on it last for two years and just last week I was given another car that’s the exact same model and color except it’s 10yr’s newer and in immaculate condition!

He’s made sure that my daughter always has nice clothes to wear because He knows that there’s no way I would be able to do what I’m doing if I thought she was being made to suffer because of it or if it prevented me from taking care of her. I’m sure that there will be some people who read this and say “Your circumstances were the result of your own bad choices!” Sure I’ve made some bad choices, who hasn’t? But if I had gotten the choices I wanted I would’ve gone back to work driving a truck, remember? or “I think that there are quite a number of other more practical ways to explain everything that you’ve attributed to God“, and in response to that I say, “You’re right! But this is my story and I’m going to tell it how it make’s sense to me, I was there, I lived it, and from my perspective it definitely doesn’t make sense to me any other way so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree as to whether “Gods in it” or not!

Well, I’ve laid all of my cards out on on the table, and slid my entire pile of chips into the pot. And all I want out of the sum of my life’s experience is to be able to say that when it came to my faith, “I wasn’t just shuckin’! To be able to say that my belief in God not only sustained me but moved me into action, and that I chose to step out in faith and answer what I feel is the call on my life which ALL Christian people have. To live, despite the circumstances of my life in such a way that others just have to say…

Gods In It!

Matthew 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In Jesus’ Name

Who hasn’t called out Jesus’ name in the midst of some threatening circumstance? I’ve heard people who by their own admission weren’t believers let it slip when they were frightened or startled. I’ve also noticed it’s His name that people most commonly use to announce their frustrations over someone or something they feel disgusted towards…as if to say “Lord, please deliver me from the vexation of this”

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People trade on His name and spend it like a currency to convey the justness and importance of their petitions to others or to make a dramatic point.  I’ve seen it used manipulatively at times to engage the emotions or conscience like a “hotline” to peoples’ hearts. In that moment, nobody denies it’s effect or challenges it’s power even if they openly doubt His existence.  why is that?

I think that it’s because on some deep  level of our consciousness there’s an acute awareness of  exactly who Jesus is and just how powerful His name is!

James 2:19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

I’m pretty sure I’ve felt that trembling inside of me before!

I’m not advocating taking the Lords name in vain, quite the contrary.  What I am saying is that we should use the authority it holds for exactly what it was intended because of all that Jesus did to give us that power and authority over sin, sickness and death!

“In His Name”…

John 15:16

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Luke 9

1Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

2And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

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What might happen if more Christians were to approach their own circumstances and those of others wielding His name with the same boldness and authority as the apostles did. Not vainly, but with the same familiar sincerity some unbelievers seem to have. If we could, after hearing of some needful or hopelessly unfortunate situation pause for a moment of reflection, and then feeling no hesitation or doubt,  place the matter in Gods hands by praying over it in Jesus’ name!

I’d love to find out!

Of course many of us do some or all of those things already. We’ll claim the blood and the authority given us through Christ Jesus faster than some can say,

“No thank you, I really don’t believe in all of that hoo-doo mumbo-jumbo”!

I think too many Christians are scared to step out and claim the authority we have as heirs of Christ. It’s not something that’s taught in a lot of church’s, maybe because most Christians are too spiritually immature and they’re afraid that if they do they’ll end up with a “wildfire” on their hands of people doing all sorts of off the wall stuff  “In Jesus’ Name’…

Better a wildfire than no fire.

2 Timothy 3:5

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

There’s great power in Jesus’ name! As Christians we all have a responsibility to understand that and to respect the power of His name and definitely not take it in vain! I also feel as though it’s a  privilege to share Christ with people and to act as His ambassador to “whosoever” will listen to me. As it was with the disciples, I don’t feel as though our primary mandate is to perform miracles of healing but instead to preach the kingdom of God. Neither do I feel that the time of miracles is past or that we shouldn’t always pray for peoples’ healings and deliverance’s.  It was clear to Jesus that He couldn’t perform any miracles in Nazareth because of the doubt of the people there which supports the idea of our primary function being to “free the captives” of sin first.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, we’re asking for His will to be done in the people or circumstances we’re praying for. But The Lord isn’t going to violate anybodies freewill either! That’s The commission, to show people the grace and love that’s not only being offered to them by God for eternity, but that’s all around us everyday. To tell people of Gods great desire for them to come to know Him! While we’re doing this, we’re called to lay hands on the sick and see them healed, and to not hesitate to take authority over demons wherever we find them, all of these things we’re called to do…

In Jesus’ Name!