Archives For Things Spiritual

The Nature of God

2014-04-03_13-58-04Here’s one person’s attempt to summarize the Gospel in a single sentence. It’s by Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House. He says “The Gospel is the good news that God comes to us through Jesus to show us his love, save us from sin, set up his kingdom and shut down religion.” Just thirty words, but I think he does a great job of getting to the heart of what Jesus’ message is all about.

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

If you are interesting the the things behind these words check out his book entitled: The End of Religion

Revolution….

March 23, 2014

Young and old, rich and poor, and people from every social, economic, political and cultural background are starting to rethink their faith. A fresh movement is happening, and in its purest form is about one thing: following Christ. This transformation is reshaping the Christian landscape. Believers are starting to simplify their faith in order to exemplify Christ—a simple yet profound way to live out the gospel. This has become a revolutionary concept.

This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information.

SOURCE: When Revolutions Become Religions – Stephen Mattson – Red Letter Christians.

If you are interested see a further discussion of this topic over at RedLetterLiving.

We all know the story of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – four remarkably similar accounts about his life. What we don’t agree on is our interpretation of what he taught. I’m talking about the Gospel message that Jesus intended to be a guide for how we should live our lives, and to be passed on to others to help them understand what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus shifted us from the law-based religion of the Old Testament to his radically new principle-based way of living, and it just makes sense that he’d choose to use a different style of teaching to do that. Parables and metaphors replaced rules and regulations but the downside is that it leaves the door wide open for a myriad of interpretations that make us wonder if we’re all reading the same Bible. I have to admit that sometimes I wish God would have just replaced the Ten Commandments with another set of stone tablets with a whole new set of rules carved into them. Things like “Don’t even think about being violent…ever.” and “Take care of the poor, even if it means reducing your standard of living.”

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

Critizing The Church…..

February 16, 2014

Communities like RLC (Red Letter Christians) are so important because the Church, those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ have more responsibility to be constantly examining our actions and behavior than anyone. This isn’t about being “self-hating Christians” or “criticizing the Church” it is about growing up. In the end, the wisdom and understanding needed to change the world and do real good will not come from the past, but from working together in the present

SOURCE: What If God is Pragmatic? | Yaholo Hoyt | Red Letter Christians.

Look Into Their Eyes…

February 9, 2014

Make no mistake, there are some horrible people in prison, people who delight in the power of causing others suffering. Some are mentally ill. Others have been wounded first and learned that way of life. There is no excuse for violent crimes.

I just want you to see their eyes for a moment. I want you to see the pain and the fear. Their eyes don’t change the past for anyone, but they tell us a deeper, more complicated story. They show us that there are some trapped people who can’t find an escape hatch. If they could, they’d use it in a heartbeat.

I like prison ministry because it cuts through all of the grandstanding Christians are tempted to do. A guy in blue prison scrubs can comb his hair nice and wear a cool pair of sneakers or sport an impressive tattoo, but even a prisoner on top of the inmate pecking order is still in prison. You can’t act like you’ve got your act together for long—especially if you’re going to open yourself to the Holy Spirit.

While volunteering in that prison I never felt like I could write about it. I didn’t want these men to become a writing project. As I look back on them, I think of their struggles and uncertainty. I pray for them. The reality is that many of them will end up back in prison. Change can take time.

SOURCE:  Ed Cyzewski: What I Saw in a Prison Inmate’s Eyes – Red Letter Christians.

Diversity

For decades people have been prophesying about American Christianity’s demise. Church attendance is dropping, our culture is becoming increasingly immoral and the president is probably the Antichrist. Various pundits, experts and research groups have seemingly made a living predicting American Christianity’s downfall, and yet, while Christianity has become extinct in numerous parts of the world, it continues to live on—and sometimes thrive—within the United States….

There are faith communities for those who are conservative or liberal, egalitarian or complementarian, Calvinist or Armenian, traditional or modern, young or old, Norwegian or Cuban—you get the point. We often view are differences as a bad thing, as a sign of disunity and mistrust, but we serve as a sort of system of checks and balances. American Christianity is a beautiful patchwork of unique characteristics, all united in Christ, challenging each other, holding each other accountable and complementing our various strengths and weaknesses.

SOURCE: The Six Best Things About ‘American’ Christianity | Stephen Mattson.

I am a very strong believer that what makes the U.S. so unique is our diversity. Most of us celebrate our differences without attacking others who think differently than we do. I firmly believe that our ability to do just that is what make for our longevity as a democratic country. I am in awe of our founding fathers being able to create the framework to make that happen.

I celebrate diversity in most things but I have seemed to lack that facility when it comes to my spirituality. I have not been able to understand that it is also a strength when it comes to why we continue to be for the most part a nation aligned with Christian values while so many other countries are quickly falling away.

But I came to this game to have something to live/play, not something to offer/justify; to find the Teacher within, not teach others that they’re ignorant of the importance of an ideal; to belong with others united in comraderie, not divided by heritage or heredity. 

SOURCE: http://www.quakerquaker.org/profiles/blogs/the-quaker-game-of-life

Like my Quaker friend in the quote above come to this game play and not to justify my existence. I hope some of my words here are taken as teacher and not to just push my ideals on you.

2014-01-18_17-49-05Pope Francis, laying out his hopes Wednesday for the just-begun year, urged people to work for a world where everyone accepts each other’s differences and where enemies recognize that they are brothers.

“We are all children of one heavenly father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny,” Francis said….

“What is happening in the heart of man? What is happening in the heart of humanity?” Francis asked. “It’s time to stop.”

SOURCE Pope Stresses Strength, Courage, Hope in New Year – ABC News.

I want to end this first month of the new year 2014 with some inspiring words from the new pope of the Catholic church.He has the courage to speak out on so many issues that other fear to embrace. I admire him much for that.

These handful of sentences pretty much sums up one of my life’s primary purposes. I know I am just a simple-living senior citizen but even my contributions to the world mean something. I blog here and especially over at Red Letter Living hoping to convince just a few of you who might be acting otherwise that diversity is a good thing and loving each other is the main thing God expects of us. Why do we seem to gravitate toward the opposite feelings?

Pope Francis continues to pluck my heartstrings with his words.  I can’t imagine a better religious figure for our times. I pray that some of his hope rubs out some of my doubt about the world.

It Forces Human Interaction

The common response among many believers is that God commands us “to be a good steward” of our wealth, which is the Christian way of saying “I don’t want to give away any of my time, energy, or resources to people who are just going to flush it away.” Thus, the accumulation of wealth is quickly adapted as a form of spiritual virtue, highly esteemed among American believers and attributed as a sign of God’s favor.

But giving directly to the poor forces us to actually interact with humankind, with the people God wants us to be with! Christians have a nasty habit of donating to charities and organizations simply because they don’t want to be uncomfortable or get their hands “dirty.” It’s their way of “helping” without having to actually do anything….

SOURCE:  Stephen Mattson: 5 Reasons We Should Personally Help the Poor | Red Letter Christians.

We now come to the final reason given my Stephen Mattson for helping the poor. I am a strong believer in the idea that you must give a face to something in order to make it real.  In other words just talking about the poor in a general way does not give it much meaning but when you see a small child crying because he is hungry you see the face of the poor.

We Christians have a way of insulating our ourselves from the very people Jesus meant us to be fully engaged with. We also have a way of justifying our inaction with phrases like “I will  pray for you”. Strip this most common Christian phrase down to its reality is the same as saying “I don’t want to be involved with it so I will just pass it on to God to take care of.”  Jesus insisted that we, like him, get our hands dirty and be our brother’s keeper. To lack in doing so is well, unChristian…

Mother Teresa was once asked in an interview, “What do you say when you pray?” She replied, “Nothing, I just listen.” So then the reporter asked, “Well then, what does God say to you?” Her answer: “Nothing much, He just listens.” 

– Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne;Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

 

Listening To God

Love Trumps Efficiency

Even if the poor waste their resources, who cares? That doesn’t mean we should give up on them.  Imagine if God started forgiving only those who deserved it? (Gulp!) We’d all be in big trouble. The amazing thing is, Jesus wasn’t what we would consider fair or efficient—His love was radically unfair! His disciples continually failed, yet Jesus didn’t abandon them, even after one of them (Peter) denied Him three times while Jesus was in the process of being executed (after being betrayed by another disciple: Judas)….

Unfortunately, many churches and Christians today are acting more like big banks, treating “charity” like a loan application, dispensing aid and resources only to the specific poor they deem “worth it.” Are they sober, mentally stable, spiritually healthy, and capable of work? Ok, sign these papers and we’ll give you a Gift Card to the local grocery store—but if you misuse these funds don’t come back!


SOURCE: Stephen Mattson: 5 Reasons We Should Personally Help the Poor | Red Letter Christians.

This is a big one for me. So many Christians readily recognize the grace of God for themselves but will not personally pass it on to others around them. I am just a “there but for the grace of God go I..” person. I can see where some of the decisions I have made in my life could have resulted in me being one of “those people”. I can imagine that my going deaf in midlife could have turned me into a completely different person if my wife, and God, had not be in my corner.

The church that I was recently a member of did an admirable job of adopting a couple of families during the Christmas season. They provided them with gifts for the kids and some food for a couple of meals during those special holidays. But that was pretty much the sum total of their capital spent during the year to this area. For several months I put out the monthly bins at the church to collect food for a local soup kitchen only to see a pittance of cans at the end of each month. Finally being discouraged I stopped even that effort.  I was told by the pastor that people’s lives are so hectic with their families they just didn’t have time for the poor. A poor excuse in my mind….

It is just very hard for many to see that Jesus intended love to trump efficiency every day. We all have to try to keep the words of Jesus in our hearts and in our actions on a daily basis, not just those special times of year….