I Got A Rock

The Parable of the Two Sons
     28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
   29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
   30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
   31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
   “The first,” they answered.     Matthew 21: 28-31

I’ve had this parable on my mind for a few weeks, now. I see myself as the first son which, in this story, turns out to be a good thing even though it reveals a boneheaded type who tends to do everything the hard way. Yep, that’s me. Strangely, I’ve had another scripture bouncing around in my head for a couple of days. I looked it up and, oddly, it is the very next line of verse 31, up there.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

How many times have we read this little jewel, nodding our heads in agreement about how narrow minded and merciless the chief priests and elders of the people were. (That’s who Jesus was talking to, FYI) I wouldn’t say that I believed JC enjoyed offending the religious leaders of the day. Occasionally, He pitched a few to the general public. (John 6: 32-66) And they were very offended, indeed. Who could blame them? Tax collectors were worse than traitors. They extorted money from their own people for the Gentile overlords. They had placed worldly comfort over their own sacred heritage. To them, it was like spitting on your mother. And prostitutes, well, everybody knew what God had to say about them. (ex. Proverbs 7:11-27) Scripture was clear, but here was Jesus, telling them that these unclean, sinful people were, in reality, more righteous than they. How dare He?

Who is the church throwing stones at, today? Who do we come together and throw around our fear talk about, these days? Homosexuals? Lesbians? Muslims? Democrats? Sorry, I threw that last one in there for my Tea Party friends. Come on, people, who’s got the clean life, anyway? You? Me? Well alright, let’s get our rocks together and start hurling. I’m sorry if this upsets anyone, but the facts are clear. God can and will use anyone He chooses, no matter who they are or what they’re up to. If you have a problem with this, google this name: Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie’s ministry was one of the most powerful instigators of the modern charismatic movement. He carried the presence of the Holy Spirit in such intensity that whole churches full of people would fall, instantaneously when Lonnie called on Him. There was just one problem. Lonnie was gay. He died of AIDS in 1993.

As usual, I don’t know what I’m talking about most of the time. I’m just suggesting that we take another look at ourselves and how we express our beliefs. I don’t want anyone to question their faith, but maybe we should question how we live it. One son did the will of the father and one did not. Actions speak louder than words. I asked who the church is throwing stones at, today, and now I want to ask another question. Who is the modern pharisee? Who are the narrow minded and merciless ones, now?

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Christian PMS

Happy New Year!

According to the Jewish Calender, this is the first day of a very momentous new year. I won’t go into it, here. Look it up. It seemed very appropriate to say a few words, early this morning.

Some of us have been experiencing a life shift of sorts, lately. Don’t panic, this is a good thing. I have a very good friend who is deep in the throes of the early stages of child separation anxiety. I don’t know if that is an actual term, but I’m using it. The chicks haven’t left the nest, yet, but they don’t need Mama so much any more and that can really mess a gal up. It’s a difficult concept to grasp unless you’ve experienced it. Hell, it’s a difficult concept to grasp when you’re in the middle of it. She and I take turns telling each other that our extreme outbursts and random feelings of hopeless despair are totally natural and completely common among women our age. That’s what I’m attempting to accomplish, here. What most Christians, (the conscious ones, anyway), are going through right now is, in fact, God.

I’m hearing the same lament over and over again, from brothers and sisters at every level and in every denomination. There are feelings of disorientation, discontent, idiocy (ex. “I have no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.”), varying stages of agitation accompanied by a strong sense of compassion. The natives are getting restless. These feelings make us vulnerable to the little rocks and pebbles of despair, discouragement, frustration and contempt. They’re just rocks and pebbles, no permanent damage but they do hurt. The real damage occurs when we attempt to flee, wheeling around only to slam into a tree or fall in a hole. Everybody just calm down.

We like where we’ve been, we’ve picked our spot and sunk our roots. Everything was cozy and in its place. Not anymore. More and more, we’ve started to look around at our spot and it’s really pissing us off, just like PMS. Problem is, we don’t know what to do about it. Sure, we know what we’ve been taught in Sunday School for our entire lives, but that line just isn’t working anymore. Now what? Maybe you’ve been asking Abba, “what up with that?” You’re used to Him being silent, occasionally, but now He’s talking. Problem #2; He’s saying the same thing over and over, but for some reason you just can’t understand it. You hear Him, but you can’t really hear Him. Meanwhile, you’re stumbling around finding yourself, amazingly, under His protection and even in His favor despite your best efforts to be wretched. Go figure.

I write all of this in order to spread the word and the word is this; It’s not just you, you’re not alone in this, and most importantly, things are about to get a whole lot better. The world around us has a serious shake down coming, but here’s the good news. You were shaken first and now you’re ready to stand when everything else looks like it’s going to hell in a hand basket. Abba has been positioning His people for the Big Bang. I don’t know how it’s going down but I can feel it, almost smell it. He never does anything without telling His people first.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Peace; that’s what they’re gonna see. That’s what they’re gonna want.

 

Where Do You Live?

All of us have experiences, whether joyful or painful, that were particularly instrumental in shaping us into the individuals that we have become. Such events can be traumatic, hilarious or revelatory, each one leaving a deep, emotional marker in our minds and on our hearts. Some of them are old, beyond cognitive memory, and only the feelings and impressions remain. Some of them are new and vibrant but no less deep, no less defining. They build us up or tear us down. They provide the tools that we use to either cope with life or dig the holes that we repeatedly fall into. We endure them, sort through them, reach some sort of conclusion, and then pack them away in our enormous thought warehouse. This is the house where we truly live, desperately trying to function properly within the confines of our own customized perceptions. It can resemble a theme park or a prison, but inevitably, it is the standard by which, and the shelter from which we view ourselves and the world.

 

Coming in a far second to Abba, Himself, I would have to say that my bed is my greatest solace. When the going gets tough, the tough go to bed. I try not to wallow around in self pity and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a depressed person, but for some reason my bed is the safest place, in my distorted view, that the secular world has to offer in times of personal struggle. I don’t necessarily sleep, I just hide there. I read, write and talk on the phone, all from my snuggly command post. I must admit, with the modern conveniences that we currently enjoy, one could run a business, even a country and never have to leave the safety of their favorite pillow and blankie. Perhaps because my bedroom, to me, was the safest place in my home when I was a child, I have come to consider it likewise in adulthood. From a  child’s point of view, that perception is understandable but not realistic. Yet, this conclusion has carried over into my adult belief system, realistic or no. Whenever I am confronted with a situation where I am to be denied my safe sanctuary, I am tempted to respond in an irrational manner. Traveling, moving, late nights and house guests have all evoked this behavior in me and each episode can be traced back to my fear of being separated from my bed. Silly, isn’t it?

 

There is a point where our loving Father will carefully reveal to us our dysfunctions, exposing their futility. In His unfailing mercy He shows us the prison bars and offers us the key. Now what do we do? If we use the key and leave our confinement it means we must trust Him. We must give Him our fears and trust that He will protect and guide us through the wilds of reality. On the other hand, He will not force us to come out.  He will allow us to stay locked away in our self-imposed incarceration — for a time anyway — before He visits us again with another gentle invitation to freedom. Every painful crossroad, every bare revelation is an opportunity to follow Him out of the strange nonsense-world we’ve created for ourselves and into the warm sunlight of truth. We must know and accept the truth in order to move and function in the freedom that truth provides.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

How did we get so turned around in the first place? How did we come to accept and live by the conclusions we reached long ago, due to conditions which no longer exist?  We put our faith in the creation, rather than the Creator, in order to satisfy the illusion that we had some sort of control, that we were able to save ourselves.

 

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…… 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  
Rom 1: 21,25

Following Him into the light of truth, real truth, means coming out from under the burden of producing our own salvation. It means exchanging our limited understanding for the limitless joy and freedom of the Spirit. It means that we will never, ever have to stand behind those bars ever again, aching for meaning and acceptance, watching life pass us by, wondering why we can’t find ourselves out there in the procession.

36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.   John 8:36

Active Love

Aw, that’s too bad. Sorry to hear it.

How many times have I heard that before? How many times have I heard myself saying it? I’m not going to let this turn into a bitch session, I’m not going to let this turn into a bitch session…..Not everybody is called to minister to the lepers. Some are called to wash clothes, cook meals, listen to a story or hold a child.

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.   Matthew 27:55

Scholars agree that there was a significant group of women disciples who, perhaps, did not spend the bulk of their time healing the sick and raising the dead. They cared for the needs of the Teacher and, no doubt, the other disciples. They probably had some children in tow. I’m sure the men did their share of the work, but the bottom line is this: after the feeding of the five thousand, there were some dishes to wash. I doubt that they did much complaining. After all, hanging out with the Son of God, watching Him change the world and accepting His offer to share in the joy of it, was ample reward. There were hard times. Sometimes He said and did things that were difficult for them to accept. Sometimes they were mocked for their decision to follow Him around like they did. I’m sure that there were times when they wondered where they were going to sleep that night.

Love requires action.

Don’t feel sorry for the couple who just had their third child and are in desperate need of a date night. Offer to watch their kids for a few hours this Friday night. Get to know the old man in the wheel chair, smoking cigarettes on the church’s back porch during service every week. Trust me, God will forgive you if you miss worship to make a friend. Mow your neighbor’s yard. Dress up like Santa and sit in your front yard the week before Christmas. I really knew a guy and his wife who did that every year. It was the sweetest thing you ever saw. Weird, you say? So, he’s strange but we’ll take our kids around on Halloween to eat candy handed out by who-knows-who? Get creative, have fun. Yes, serving God and having fun can happen at the same time. If it’s a drag, don’t do it. Loving is a good thing. Caring for each other is a good thing.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!    Psalm 133:1

Look at the exclamation point at the end of this verse. This was a very enthusiastic statement. And why not? We were designed for relationship, we can’t live without it. Everybody wants signs and wonders, everybody wants a miracle. Everybody wants to see God and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we won’t see God until we can see each other.

Last installment? of the Love Series…

Loving others requires active involvement.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The first part was about recognizing love. How did that old country/western song go? “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” Everybody’s looking for love. Verse four tells us what love looks like. Verses five and six tell us what love doesn’t do, transitioning to verse seven which tells us what it does. These are very good things. Notice the  word, ‘always’. When Abba says, ‘always’, we can take that to the bank. Here, He says it four times.

It always protects,…..I was reading a post on Facebook by a man saying goodbye to his friend. He and his friend had become close, years ago, during combat and now his friend was dying. In the brief but touching eulogy, he told a story of how he had been strapped to a stretcher, unable to move, when they had come under fire. His friend had covered him with his own body, firing a heavy artillery weapon of which he knew nothing about, to protect him. That is love. It is much more powerful than a sentiment in a card and much deeper than my feelings for chocolate cake. We’ve all heard stories like that. Some of us are honored enough to have personally witnessed or participated in something like that.

…always trusts,…..You cannot love what you cannot trust. Even if that trust is betrayed a thousand times over, it must be extended for the thousand and first time in order for love to exist and thrive. Maybe that makes me gullible. Maybe that makes me look stupid. Maybe that makes me vulnerable to pain, but a life that pulls away from life, is no life at all.

…always hopes,…..What is a basic tactic for weakening a society in preparation for invasion and conquest? Destroy the hope of the people. A group of people who are bound together in hope is a formidable opponent. Hope can stretch the human capacity for suffering far beyond any preconceived speculation.

…always perseveres. “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.” ~Mohandas K. Gandhi~    Here is a man who knew what he was talking about. Perhaps there are some who would not agree with my quoting the Mahatma in my ‘Christian’ blog, but so what? Gandhi changed his world through non-violent, loving perseverance. He practiced the most basic of Christ’s teachings and prevailed against the greatest military power in the world of that time. If only Christians could grasp a fraction of this man’s belief in, and understanding of the power of love.

Love will always promote the well-being of another over itself. Always.

There’s No Place Like Home

I know, I know, I haven’t posted since Thursday. I’ve missed you, too.

We’re still talking about Love, that it is Abba’s very nature, and that we understand so little about it. We’re looking at verse 6 from 1 Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I’ve been asking one question of myself and of God, over and over for the last ten years. What is the truth? I’ve asked Him many times to show me the truth. I have gone down numerous delusional paths in my life and I know that they all lead to the same tragic conclusion, destruction of myself or others or both. Unlike love, the truth can be extremely painful. But while truth exposes the lie that has been told to us, or that we tell ourselves, love leads us out of the prison that the lie has kept us in. Truth shows us where we’ve been, Love shows us where we’re going. If we live in our prisons too long, we begin to fear freedom. That’s the pain of it. Now it’s time to choose.

Some people believe that following the Way means following rules and rituals. They think that it’s a long list of don’t’s and can’t’s and shouldn’t’s. I know because that’s the prison I’ve been in for some time. That’s why we get mad at God when He doesn’t do us favors or He allows something difficult to invade our mellow. “Hey! You up there! I’ve been toting the line. I’ve tithed and taught Sunday School and given up smoking and cussing and drinking..where’s mine? I did for you, God, now You do for me!” God is love and Love rejoices with the truth. Abba knows that it’s not about deserving or earning. If that were the case, His love wouldn’t be free. He offers Himself and His love freely, no strings attached, no points, no do’s, no don’t’s. He gives and we receive.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   John 14:6

This is not a rule, this is a direction. The way to freedom lies through the open door of Christ’s willing, loving way. I don’t have to do anything but say, ‘yes’. He’s done everything else. He made the way back to love. Truth shows us how lost we are and love leads us home.

Love will always promote the well-being of another over itself. Always.

My Eyes Adored Ya

We press on with part three of the Love Series……….Look at me, like I know so much.

In verse four, we talked about love as it relates to words and actions, now let’s move right on into attitudes. Verse five gets heavier. Here’s the whole thing, again.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I don’t know, I may not be up to the task. Verse five covers some intense topics. You realize, I’m just flying by the seat of my pants, here.

It does not dishonor others,..Do I really need to expound on this? You know, we not only dishonor others with our words, but with our actions, as well. If somebody’s being dishonorable, it is neither your job nor mine to ‘out’ them. Only Abba sees the hearts of men and He knows the whole story, and then some. It breaks my heart in two to hear a brother speak against a brother. Maybe you don’t agree with your boss, your spouse, your pastor. Maybe you feel strongly about an action or a decision. For cripes sake, grow a pair and take your grievance to the source, otherwise, shut up.

…it is not self-seeking,….Whoa, Nelly. To me, this is the standard by which all feelings considered to be love should be measured. Love gives, it does not take. Man, oh man, I could go for days on this one. Look, there are people and things that we feel strongly about. If those feelings conflict with the well-being of those who are close to us, who depend on us, or to whom we are in covenant with, that is not love. Remember pride? Love gives, pride takes. Selfish wanting for the sake of one’s own personal gratification, with no regard for what is lost or who gets hurt is destructive and prideful.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.   1 John 2:16

…it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn’t matter who did what to me. It doesn’t matter whether or not they have it coming.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.   1 Peter 3:9

I could say a lot, but Brother Peter sums it up well enough for me…..so that you may inherit a blessing. The bottom line is, God forgives us and we should do no less. It reveals Him to a hurting world. He likes to see a heart filled with mercy and He blesses it.

Love will always promote the well-being of another over itself. Always.