Category Archives: Life with God

Posts about life in the Kingdom of God, the scriptures, and going about following our Lord.

Final Post – A matter of conscience

What do you do when it just stops? What do you do when you just can’t muster any energy to have faith anymore… to believe in something that you’ve devoted your life to?

I haven’t written on this blog for some time, and I believe that it’s indicative of just what I was going through for the last couple of years. A lot of people write about this after they’ve figured it out, or really solidified what they are. I thought it could be nice to say goodbye to this blog, and begin a new chapter.

Up front, I’m not an atheist. This isn’t that announcement. Sometimes, because of my incessant guilt and shame obsession, I wish I were.

Sometimes I really doubt a lot. But, I talk to God… at least, I think I do.

I don’t even know that I’m an agnostic. I don’t quite know what it is that you might want to label what I believe. But that’s actually kinda the point, I’ve grown weary with worrying about beliefs, and stuck in a rut of not living. But, I talk to God, all day… at least I think I do.

Sometimes it’s hard to know. But am I saying that to just make people feel better about where I’m at? Maybe. That’s another big part of the point.

I’m writing this because I don’t want to tell the same story over and over. I don’t want to explain myself over and over. In reality, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, but there are people who have invested many years in my life, and I’m attempting to explain my heart in order to honor them. They matter. They know who they are. (and if they’re taking the time to read this, thank you)

What is happening to me is difficult to explain to those who’ve poured love, help and concern into the last 11 years of my life. I have been hesitant for fear of disappointing them. I adore them. They helped me through some of the toughest years I ever experienced.

For decades, however, as long as I can remember, I’ve believed myself a monster. It wasn’t a constant thing, but more like one of those core memories that shape the constant things. If it were in Inside Out, I’d have a Monster-Demon-Possessed-Island. I didn’t think about it all the time, but you know, it’s back there.

Mom and dad would have their church friends rebuke the “demons” in me. They always wanted to fix me. And I found great comfort in the structure of the children’s home that I lived in as an 11-15 year old.

Looking back, it seems that after that I sort of went from authority structure to authority structure, finding people to please and make happy. I learned to survive that way. Adapt and become what they really want you to be… that was my motto. But I didn’t know that.

I am no victim. If I am, I do not know who by. It’s just me, it’s mine. It’s the path I’ve been walking.

All the time that I’ve been walking my path I kept looking off into the distance, hoping that one day I wouldn’t be a monster anymore. I was hoping that one day I wouldn’t be the piece of crud that I believed myself to be.

People pleasing, blending in to someone else’s agenda, became the prime way that I fought my own self-hatred. If I was making them happy and becoming a good me, then I could feel good.

Again, no one made me do this… I thought I had to in order to survive. It’s mine.

If I’m honest with myself, I know that over the last two years I’d been becoming increasingly skeptical of the stories in the Bible. I was having a very difficult time enjoying fellowship with my church. I simply could hardly relate to it anymore.

In June, we did a concert at that same Children’s home I lived in so long ago, and that day something just clicked inside my head. I was driving down the road, listening to our Dragons EP, (which, by the way, is all about this… though I didn’t know it when I wrote it) and I just started bawling.

I’ve been believing a whole lot of lies about myself. I’m a grown man and I don’t have to be afraid of being who I am.

That may sound stupid to some, but not to me. To me, it was the most liberating thing I’d ever experienced. EVER.

That weekend I knew that we would move out on our own.

If there’s anything my friends of faith and godlessness alike have taught me, it’s that you have to obey your conscience. If you can’t do it, then you just can’t do it.

I realized that my conscience was so messed up. I had to move out on my own. I had to figure it out and start over. I knew that I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t. I knew that this wasn’t a matter of disagreement, but of heart, and my heart simply wasn’t in it anymore. No one had hurt us and no one made us do it. I simply wasn’t there anymore.

But when I moved out, something happened that I simply didn’t expect.

Every passion for my “faith” or “religion” stopped. Every urge, every desire, every obligatory bit of drive was just done. I wanted to hide in a hermit hole and be alone… but no, I wanted to play with my kids. I wanted to just be done.

It was gone… just, not there. Suddenly I found myself panicking going, “What the heck do I even believe about anything?!?” I was terrified that I’d made a huge mistake.

This subsided when I saw the conversations growing between my daughters and I. When I saw myself making decisions based on what was good for our family and not what my guilt or shame was dictating.

So a month or so ago, I gave myself permission to be officially done, at least for now. I gave myself permission to say, “I am not a Christian.”

But I’m not done, and I know it.

I’ve tried learning about atheism, zen, whatever… I’ve talked to people who’ve left the faith. I’ve tried to bolster it. I’ve got nothing.

I get up each day and talk to “God.” I ask, “What are we doing today?”

And in some ways, I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

My guilt and shame addictions are non-existent for the most part. That’s a big deal. A life-crippling, emotionally paralyzing big deal.

The self-hatred has no place in my home. I won’t allow it anymore.

I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to question anything you don’t see evidence for. I’m teaching us to be kind and merciful to each other as well as our neighbors. I’m teaching them that they don’t have to be afraid to be themselves when they walk through the streets… that, in fact, the world needs more colorful little girls who are unabashedly themselves.

The world also needs more dads who have their dad bods and aren’t afraid to play with princesses.

I don’t know where I’ll land. Honestly, I’m not worried about it. My faith was so desperately tied up, twisted into and weaved into my people pleasing that I couldn’t, in any way, distinguish the two.

I can’t sort these out while still in the middle. Imagine trying to untangle a ball of twisted up twine from the center out. It won’t work. Instead you have to be on the outside of it all to sift through it.

So, we’re simply restarting many aspects of life. We’re going to move across the state and begin anew. We’re going to dance in the moment, right here and now. We’re going to keep asking questions because, well, anyone who knows us knows that this is what we do.

We’re going to play and live today.

Now, to some, this may sound like many things. Even the act of writing this was excruciating. For the most part lately, I just feel calm and peaceful, but when the voices of what I *think* others will think get going in my head, it brings on a stress that’s like no other… and then I get dishonest.

I can’t debate this, it’s simply my experience and where I’m at.

I can’t sit around and be talked into anything by some random blogger or facebook user that reads this. It’s simply not where I’m at.

I’m going to take some time to live. Some may think that this is a loss, that we’ve lost faith, or that we’re giving up.

I will argue this. I feel more alive than I can remember feeling in quite some time. I’m not hanging anything up. I felt a song calling me away, and I just had to follow it and see where it led. Now I can’t look back. Our hearts simply aren’t there anymore.

It’s hard to not fear disappointing, or even angering those who’ve invested in us. It’s hard to even work up the language to describe the experience or the thoughts.

But… declaring to my friends that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to work against them and pretend to be one of them was one of the hardest and best decisions that I’ve ever made. But I’m glad I did it, and I’m so crazy excited to see what’s next.

My wife and I, (and even our kids for the most part) believe that in our case, we simply need to start new to figure out what we even want, and who we even are.

How often do you have a chance to ask yourself, “Is this my life?” and if it’s not, how often do you get a chance to start all over.

I think it’s worth asking ourselves this question each and every day, and live life today, here and now, playing along with the music.

We’re going to take this time to celebrate our family and dig in to see who we are and what beauty is there. And hopefully, we’ll get chances celebrate everyone in our path.

Oh, to live… it’s the greatest adventure.

 

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Of disciples and powers – or – Give to Caesar?

I’m going to take a risk at rambling here. I haven’t written on this site in over a year, I think. But this weighs heavy on my heart, and I want to get some thoughts out.

Christians debate round and around about politics, government and morality. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like the Accuser has us at one another’s throats to cut each other down and rip one another apart with our opinions and ideas.

First, let’s look at the calling of the church. We are the sons and daughters of God, the descendants of the “seed” mentioned in Hebrews. That seed being Christ, the seed of Abraham that was said to be a blessing to *all* the nations of the world.

We are meant to be a blessing to all of the nations.

Can we be a blessing if we’re busy cutting each other apart? Can we be any help if we’re at each others throats so much about how the world should be behaving that all they see is division, anger and hatred?

No, we cannot. And we will not should we choose to persist in our behavior.

We are behaving as those who do not believe in our King who intercedes for us before the throne of God. We are behaving as animals out for mere survival, thinking only of temporal nations and not the everlasting rule of the One True King that will never, ever end.

I think it is genuinely essential, crucial for us to look at the teachings of the early church, those who were mere generations after the apostles who walked and talked with our Lord and Messsiah. What did they have to say?

Origen quoted a prophecy of Isaiah:

Who among the believers does not know the words in Isaiah? “In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be revealed, and the house of the Lord on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills. All nations shall come to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his way, and we will walk in it.” For out of Zion shall go forth a law, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more [Isa. 1:2-5]. (Letter from Origen to Africanus 15)

The nations are not, at this moment coming to the House of the God of Jacob because we are so divided against one another. We are of this or that affiliation. We are on the left. We are on the right. We are of our opinion.

The church is meant to be a beacon of hope, light and life. They will see our love for one another and be amazed and say, “Look! See how they love each other? Let’s go and ask them how we should live!”

And our humble reply is to obey the master.

But no, they are not coming to us. I believe that part of this is because we are beating down their doors to force them into submission to a master they do not have any interest in serving.

Paul, in 1 Thessalonians tells us to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and work hard with our hands, that the outside world will see our work and glorify God. We don’t give them time to see us work hard and with love because we’re too busy NOT minding our own business and caring for the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not to spend our time judging and assessing the world and their ways, but to focus instead on one another in the church. That we should watch out that we do not behave as the pagans, or those who are not following the King do. He says that we would have no one to speak to if we insist on judging the world. That’s not our domain. No, ours is the church, the Kingdom.

We are a transcendent nation meant to go beyond any borders, tribe, tongue or political affiliation. We are not of this world. We are citizens of the king who have BEEN RANSOMED FROM THE VERY SYSTEM WE INSIST ON BEING PART OF AND PROPPING UP.

I’m no socialist, communist or capitalist. Though my earthly citizenship is in the U.S., I have to acknowledge that my King, the Christ, Jesus, ransomed me with His very blood to rescue me from thinking like this earthly nation. And not just this nation, every nation. One of the many things he has ransomed us from is the idea that the nations could ever fix it all.

The scriptures make clear that the nations and powers are tools of God. God uses them for his wrath and to carry out justice. But Jesus never allowed his disciples to take up this task. In fact, when Peter drew his sword to stand up for Jesus (the way we so often do day to day, thinking we need to defend the author of all life) he was disarmed and only made more glorious work for Jesus to carry out in healing.

Jesus had to heal the man Peter saw as an enemy of God. Peter had good intentions, the same as so many of us, and Jesus disarmed him despite those good intentions.

Can you see this scenario in our daily lives? We see so many as a threat to God and his morality. We draw swords and work hard to control the powers of this world. But when we play by their rules, drawing the sword (whether by word or deed) we only wind up cutting off ears and making more work for the Father to do despite our actions.

As far as participating in violence goes, there’s not room here for me to list the many, many writings from the early church fathers regarding this. They are clear. For some meaty lists, Christian History for Everyman or go here for another list that is even longer.

In my opinion, there’s no disputing what they had to say. They were clear. Those in the first 3 centuries of what we call Christianity were forbidden to participate in the violence of the powers.

Personally, I would go even farther to simply look at the example of Jesus himself. He and the disciples stood, walked and talked in the midst of one of the most horrid, debased empires. The debauchery around them was intense. And yet, you don’t hear Jesus speaking out against the governing powers of Rome. Instead, he focused on those who were trying to follow his heavenly Father.

He even stood before the powers, innocent and blameless, and subverted them by submitting to death. He overthrew them by being still rather than overthrowing them with the very tactics that they used day in and out.

Our King rules with a power that submits and subverts, overthrowing with love, rather than force. There are no laws against the calling of Christ to love one another. The powers cannot stop us.

He taught us to pay our taxes without complaint.

Paul and Peter taught us to pray for our rulers, regardless their sin. It should be noted that they did this during the time of Nero, a disgusting man who would light Christians up as torches to light his garden. He enjoyed our torture. Yet Paul and Peter were still there telling us to submit, as our Lord did. To pray and beg God for mercy and grace on them.

Christ, Paul, Peter, John… they all stood before the horrid authorities over them knowing full well that God is our defender.

The martyrs throughout the centuries faced the beasts and executioners knowing full well that God is our defender.

We, however, live in fear of a nation falling apart in immorality.

God is still our defender. And fear IS NOT A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. 

The difference I see between us and the early church is that we have a government that seemingly asks and requires our participation. Rome did not do this. America, however, permits us to have a voice.

Therefore, we really should do what we can.

But, this does not mean that we should behave as though we are fighting for America. We are not, and it is imperative that we DO NOT.

The Kingdom of the Living God is the goal. His kingdom is eternal and will have no end.

The nations of this world will, without doubt, pass away and no trace of them remain in the scope of the rule of our King.

Don’t be afraid. Set your eyes on Christ, the king. He will defend. He does not need us to pick up swords, whether physical, emotional or the swords of our tongues. He needs us to live, love and move in Him and Him alone.

Do we hide our heads in the sand? No. Speak up as you are given right to for *actual* injustice. But do so in the Spirit of our King, not on the basis of opinion.

Our opinions and mindsets cannot be fueled by the talking heads of our age. We cannot allow the church to be shaped and molded and manipulated by Spirit of the age that keeps us fighting. The fighting and bickering is their culture, and not ours. 

We were never told that the world would know us because we fight, argue and scream louder. No, they will know us by our love. Our minds must be renewed to not get entangled with their logic that the cross has turned into foolishness.

Yes, the cross has turned their culture and political wars into foolishness.

We have to give ourselves over to this truth, the cross is foolishness to the wise of this world. Our minds must be given over to THE WAY of Christ to be renewed and saved from thinking about ruling the world the way the powers, people and cultures who war against one another.

There is no power that can go to war against the love presented in the Cross.

There is no power that can prevail against it.

If, however, we spend our time listening to the logic of the world rather than the teaching and instruction of our master, we will fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our faith. What we do is call ourselves Christians, but neglect to let the love and clear teaching of Jesus guide our actions, mindsets and even our voting.

Instead of weighing who to vote for or what causes is just against ideologies like Capitalism or Socialism, we should be weighing all things against the living, breathing WORD of God who walks and talks with his Church.

If we do not weigh all things this way, the cross, when presented, will look like nonsense. We will scoff at loving actions because they do not line up with our ideologies.

Make no mistake, the way of Christ, His love and self sacrifice *is* a threat to every power because, in the end, it will undermine all of them. But, if *all* submit to the Way, then the powers have nothing to do. The systems break down. The poor are cared for and the rich are generous.

Sure, the thought of those last few statements may make some bristle, but it *is* the picture painted by the scriptures, and it is the heart of God that all of his children live together, in harmony and generosity.

We are meant to be the salt of the earth. We are meant to be the Body of the Living Christ.

May we all ask ourselves, every morning and night, “Father, how is my mind overpowered by the culture around me? Teach me, loving Father to think like you think. Teach us to love as you love. Teach us to see what you see. Teach us, blessed King, teach us how to live.”

27 Seconds

How disheartened I was to find out that I had misquoted one of my favorite movies and solidified it on a recording.

I had this thought about a scene in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It’s a wonderful scene where Molly is trying to show Mr. Magorium that he has much to live for. They’re in a clock shop, setting up all of the clocks in order to hear them all chime at one time.

You see, at this point in the film there’s a comment made about 37 seconds of time… I had always thought it was 27 seconds, so when I looked up the quote as I was writing a song, I googled 27 seconds, but apparently others have misquoted this as well… so I fed off of their misquote and immortalized it in my song… oh well, right?

Mr. Magorium: 37 seconds.
Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.
Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

And it’s true. That moment always shook me. I’m an incessant worrier. I’m a worrying junkie. I have to get a fix. But one of the most oft ignored commands of Christ is to *not worry.* And yet, it’s the hardest one for me.

I believe that if I’m honest with myself, I love having the stress there as my excuse to have vices, as an excuse to escape and be selfish. Maybe that’s harsh, but I find it valid. There are valid reasons for stress, I’m not criticizing that, I’m merely saying that a lot of times we totally miss the beauty in front of us due to our worry and fretting.

We’re meant to be like Christ, to find him in every face, every moment… instead, we often seek comfort and pleasure, trying to escape our worry. We worry about finding ways to escape our worry.

So, I want to give you this song as a Christmas present. This is probably just about my favorite song I’ve ever gotten to bring to life… may you see the presents in front of you. May you see Christ in every moment, and find who to kneel down and wash. In my life, it’s often been my friends, kids; the people right there in front of me.

I used to pine for big ministries, but now, I see that my ministry is this minute. The small things that can give the world around us hope and life.

Merry Christmas.

In our weakness

Sometimes we need to outright declare, to tell the heavens that LIFE, LIFE with capital letters, will have its way. Life, the living breathing Word of God. The Logos. *THE* Truth with a capital T. It is going to set things right, and we get to join in. So, I wrote this song with a few friends in mind… some of them are embattled in the trenches of cancer and sickness. But they’re still crying out to the Father. They’re still clinging to the hope and truth that is, and always will be. _________________________

life takes over the sun in it cracks through the clouds to dry the sweat on our backs A breeze it blows to refresh and to revive we can’t keep this joy inside   Life takes over and the concrete breaks with flowers blooming that erase the hate of the daily life, and all its strife the mundane is swallowed by joy   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength   Life takes over hear the heavens sing They see through the lives of pain That the kingdom comes Hear their message as it echoes across the plains   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength We will sing Your praises from our sick beds We will sing Your praises in our strength   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength

Well… how many loaves have you got? – or – Why don’t you give them something?

Mark 6:34-42 (from the Kingdom New Testament… emphasis mine to show you what stuck out to me today)

When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the huge crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd. So he started to teach them many things.

It was already getting late when his disciples came to him and said, “Look: there’s nothing here. It’s getting late. Send them away. They need to go off into the countryside and the villages and buy themselves some food.”

“Why don’t you give them something?” Jesus replied.

“Are you suggesting,” they asked, “that we should go and spend two hundred dinars and get food for this lot?”

“Well,” said Jesus, “how many loaves have got?” Go and see.”

They found out, and said, “Five, and a couple of fish.”

Jesus told them to sit everyone down … Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to give to the crowd… Everyone ate, and had plenty.

Maybe I’m just emotional, (a few people have hinted that I have those tendencies) but what I see here is an amazing example of the Father’s heart for us. Set aside the spectacle of the miracle and you see a relationship. You see mercy, and you see grace (power from heaven) coming through to make up for where we fall short.

_______________

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting a missions organization who does disaster relief. They train young people in the scriptures, in hearing the word of God, and to discipline their bodies relentlessly. A few loved ones are participating in their year-long program, and they had graduated from the “boot camp” portion of the internship, so we went for this event.

We toured their  dorms, which are on a cargo ship. The ship is no cruise liner. Paint is peeling. Things are not pristine. But… things are clean, well loved, and maintained. They’re using what they’ve got to the fullest extent that they can.

In fact, every single piece of machinery that this relief organization owned had been given by the same faith that Christ had when he asked the Father to bless those loaves and fishes.

These folk impressed me with the lack of excess in what they utilized. They didn’t squander their finances trying to transform a crusty ole ship into a fancy, cozy ship. No, they said, “What have we got? oh… it’s a crusty old ship. Let’s lift it up to the Father and ask him to bless it to feed the many.”

And you know what, the Father has done the same thing with them, no… he’s done more with them than he has with the feeding of the 5,000 we read about in Mark. Yep, we’re meant to do greater things than Jesus, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the proof. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the stories.

_____________

I want that too…I’m jealous.

_____________

I look at my home. I live in a trailer, in a village of trailers. Not all of them are in the greatest shape. They’re kind of like those ships I was talking about… run down and such.

We can spend our finances on life together, on people who we can have fellowship, on necessities, or … we can try to transform our trailers into something their not, attempting to make them into condos and fancy places that people are in awe of.

Sure, I want people to feel welcome, safe, loved in my home. I want it to be a place where people come to be creative and find life.

But will I do that by getting fancy stuff and redoing everything? I’m more and more convinced that, no, this isn’t the way. Sure, if God wants that, he’ll provide it. But no, I feel him asking me to take my finances, my stuff, my everything, and lift it up and ask him to use it to feed the people. And a lot of time that money goes to food, feasts, and fun, meeting needs… (kinda like the lady pouring out the expensive perfume on Christ’s feet)

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we've got to make our house pretty

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we’ve got to make our house pretty

The people need spiritual food. The Father wants us to utilize what we’ve got and let the Kingdom infect everyone. He wants to take our lack and make those around us wide eyed with the glory of God… but it’s bigger than that, this is a principal at the very foundation of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom  is upside down.

We build earthly kingdoms with might, money, aggression and strength.

But the Kingdom of heaven is built on grace, that amazing power from heave. It is built on mercy, utilizing even the weakest aspects of our lives for great, great things. On the creative and incredible heart of a Father who loves to make something out of nothing… those moments when we cry out, “But Father! There’s nothing here!”

I have often felt like I’m nothing to work with. Even more, that I’m in the way. But no, I’m me… he made me, me. And he made you, you. Offer it up, just like those pitiful few loaves and fishes, and he will bless it to feed the multitudes.

The kid test

I’m spending some time thinking about logic… I’m going to be a little blunt here, but I think that it’s fun.Story marches on

I was raised learning tons of theology and such. After my parents passed away, I became obsessed with apologetics and doctrine. I had to get it all right. God worked in it. He met me there. He’s a good dad like that. He meets us where we’re at, and, like the good shepherd that he is, steadily and gently leads us to where he wants us more and more.

After a year of giving up on finding the real Kingdom of God, (people actually gathered together to let him rule over them) all of the doctrine i had so clung to stopped making sense.

Have you ever stopped watching network television for a long period of time, and then went back to it and all of the sudden you find that all of the commercials make you feel like a total moron? Yeah, that’s how I felt when I would hear theology.

“You believe that? Huh?”

The mental gymnastics that so many of us evangelicals have to do in order to even adopt the bogus *faith alone* doctrine is wacky. But we’re often so immersed in it that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s as though we believe that if we think about God wrong, He will fall apart. But he won’t. He’s good like that. If you believe the wrong stuff about your dad, he still exists, and he’s a mere mortal. You can pretty much bet that God who is so much greater will hold up under the weight of our confusion. God the father, who isn’t just good with a little g, but is himself GOOD, Truth, Logic, Wisdom… (not as attributes, but it’s who he is) Those things can describe things that people possess, but he is those things. They are what they are because of who he is.

He remains unchanged no matter how goofy we are.

So what do we have?

We get to be his kids!

Do kids want to know stuff about their dad, or do they want to actually know their dad?

When our relationships with God are based on logic and desperately trying to define him, we will all wind up arguing about what we see, think, interpret. We keep trying to nail down the Spirit that moves this way and that, shooting those nails through the wind and hitting each other in the eye. That wind should be our guide, not our slave.

You can no more nail down God than you can the wind. And if you are arrogant enough to try, you will wind up nailing him to a cross in the process. 

The Kingdom of God is so amazingly upside down. I love it. It’s so gorgeous. If you’re wise, haughty, proud, you won’t get it. It won’t make sense to you. Truth himself designed it that way… you have to be a little one to get in. You have to be willing to get small.

In our everyday relationships it would be pretty unhealthy for us to spend all of our time attempting to define and have solid and unshakable beliefs about those we claim to love. No. Instead of defining friends, we get to know them, we walk with them. We cannot control them.

Why on God’s great earth do we try and make this very mistake with the king of all creation?

I think we need to judge theology based on a kid test. Imagine the logic of a child, and apply it to what you’re trying to teach.

Gets a lot simpler, doesn’t it?

Someone was trying to tell me that even the things Jesus taught before he died were part of the old covenant, and that you had to *divide* the word/scriptures at the point when Christ dies and rises again. But what’s funny, is that Jesus himself told his disciples to go and teach everything that he taught. He didn’t say, “…go teach that everything I taught is now cancelled out by my resurrection…” no, “go teach it, and tell people to obey it.”

So, if I’m a child, and Jesus said that, I’m gonna go. “Okay, sure.” I’m not going to go, “Okay, he’s meaning that he actually wants us to teach that he covered it all with his death and resurrection and we really don’t have to worry or bother with that pesky sermon on the mount that he preached that really makes my stomach hurt when I take the time to ponder each and every verse… nah, God’s gonna look at me and pretend I’m Jesus and not actually dirty ole me.” 

Whew… no. I’m going to believe what he said.

I challenge you, all of you, me too, to step back from our concrete ideas of who we think God is, and look more simply at the scriptures.

Over the last few years I’ve taken great joy in reading from people like NT Wright and have had the privilege to learn from my dear friend Paul Pavao. When I read and listen to them talk about God, the cogs start turning. Things start to make sense. I don’t have to lie to myself about one passage to make it fit with the next.

Does that make sense?

It’s amazing how much good translation of the Apostle’s teachings often comes down to simply reading the text, and believing what it says. I know, it sounds funny… but we American Christians are no good at this. We read one thing, and we’ve been told sooooooooooo many times that it means another that we immediately run it through a filter and water it down… or worse, blow it up to overtake other passages.

This is not the mind of a child. This is the mind of a worldly, carnal, experienced adult. Kids look at a teaching, and take it for what it is. You tell them about the tooth fairy; they believe in the tooth fairy. You tell them about anything, they believe you.

Go read through the Gospels, those amazing tales of the Good News. Read them straight through. Sit down and enjoy them. Try and find a translation that you’ve not memorized from before to jostle your logic a bit. Most importantly, ask the Father for a clean slate to work from. To take in his heart.

And one final note, when the Gospels were written, these were what was taught to the people about what Christ had done. Not the Romans road, not the atonement. No… Christ’s life. The whole tale, teachings and all, of Christ initiating the kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

They weren’t divided up into old and new covenant teachings. They were taught. That’s kind of important, don’t you think?

I’m disturbed… but I want to hear more

TheDeliberateDetective5Have you ever felt that way, disturbed by something… but yet, you want more.

I love reading the Kingdom New Testament. It’s a great translation by NT Wright, and he loves to word things in a way that really hits you as new and fresh. He purposely went out of his way to have texts almost seem like you’re reading them for the first time… because we need to.

This morning, I was reading through Mark. The story in chapter 6 about Herod and John the baptist really caught me in a totally different way.

We all know the story: Herod snatched up his brother, Philip’s wife. John apparently spoke out against this, directly to Herod and out in the open, on a very regular basis. The King of Israel is, after all, supposed to be aspiring to greater things. But I’ll quote the passage here at vs 20. (emphasis mine)

Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a just and holy man. So he protected him, and used to listen to him regularly. What he heard disturbed him greatly, and yet he enjoyed listening to him.

This caught my attention. Herod enjoyed listening to John. I enjoy listening to good teaching too. Herod listened to the teaching regularly. Herod protected John.

Wow… I had never really noticed that.

The rest of the story is scandalous. Herod has some fancy party on his birthday. Everyone has their eyes on him. Herodias, this wife of his has her daughter come out and do a sexy dance. Herod was so taken by this, that he blurts out, “Tell me what you’d like, and I’ll give it to you! Whatever you ask me, I’ll give it to you-right up to half my kingdom!

(oh… the words of so many a man only thinking with the flesh)

She asks for John’s head on a platter, and because he had all eyes on him, his status, ego, lust driving him… he gives in and has his guards serve up the head of the greatest prophet of all time.

It’s harsh, and I believe that this happens to me all the time. Well, doesn’t happen, in specific, but the scenario is certainly set up.

I have never found myself relating to Herod in this story until today. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s bad. But either way, I learned something.

Herod knew the Word of God, and knew well enough to protect it. He was disturbed by it. It bugged him. He revered it, however, enough to keep John alive despite him publicly and loudly slandering and correcting him. It was no small thing to be a ratty prophet wandering around the wilderness shouting that the king of the Jews was living a sinful life… no small thing at all. And when you put it in that perspective, the fact that John had survived this long says something about what had to have been going on in Herod’s conscience.

This fateful party was a turning point for Herod.

Personally, I believe that all of us have been given this ability. I also believe that one way or another, at one time or another, we wind up in this metaphoric party as well. There’s a decision we know we’re supposed to make. The call of the living Word of God is crying out to us from the dry and lonely places, trying to call us out from our comfort zone that keeps us from hearing the voice of the Father.

And then it happens. The stage is set for us to choose. Comfort, desire, pleasure, ease is dancing before us… that moment is so imperative.

I don’t know, maybe this is a bit extreme, but I know that in my life there have been times when I’ve been lured in by the siren’s dance, and, enamored with her beauty, realized that I couldn’t have both the living word and her comforts. I’ve cut off the head of the messenger of God to silence him and stay in my ease.

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I’m sitting here staring at the screen. I hate ending on this note. I always want to wrap things up all happy and inspirational, but maybe God is just putting a warning on my heart. It’s tugging at me, and it’s real. I better pay attention… so I suppose that I will end with that… I’m being warned, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can be warned too.

Beware the metaphoric Herodias in your life. Beware the choice to cut off the Body of the Living Christ in order to stay in your ease. If his voice beckons us, and disturbs our slumber, may we drop to our knees and rejoice that his everlasting love and mercy has been given to us once again, and that power from heaven has fallen to give us ears to hear and eyes to see.