Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love one another, & do unto others...

"We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule" ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's about process, not product

This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.
- Martin Luther

Monday, January 25, 2010

Put your money where other people's mouths are

For me and my sisters poverty is freedom, and the less we have the more we can give. Poverty is love before it is renunciation. It is not that we cannot have luxuries. We choose not to have them. This freedom brings joy, and joy enables us to give in love until it hurts.
- Mother Teresa

Johnny Poppin' 11; God is love

 7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. ~1 John 4:7-16
Someone, either Martin Luther or Ben Franklin once said that "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." When I look at my wife and children, I see proof that God must love me. Let's face it, the best proof is that He sent His only begotten Son as a sacrifice so that we could have a relationship with Him.  Is 1 John 4:7-16 harder to understand than John 3:16? He doesn't want any of us to go to Hell and He doesn't want any of us do die alone. What comfort? What a blessing? It's like a hug on paper.

Verses 13-16 remind me of John 17 at the last supper when Jesus prays for Himself, for his original disciples, and for all of us in the body-of-Christ. In that chapter, Jesus talks a lot about unity, if God is in us, we are in Him. It also reminds me of John 15:1-17 when Jesus calls Himself the vine and calls us the branches.

I'm not sure which is really the opposite of love, hate or indifference, but when I think about hate, I think about anger and violence and insecurity. When I think about love, I think about peace and confidence and altruism. Anger and hate are jealous and suspicious. Altruism has concern and compassion for others, even enemies.

I'm reminded of this whenever I think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other civil rights leaders like Macom X and Elijah Muhammad cared about the African American community, but it seems to me that part of what made MLK great is that he cared about America, all Americans, and about all Christians, indeed, about all peoples- no doubt because besides Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi, his greatest hero was Jesus. Violence is eye-for-an-eye, but nonviolence attacks the conscience, not the body. His goal was not only to secure rights for his people promised in our Constitution legally, but to secure respect for all people intellectually and emotionally. Rocks and Molotov cocktails are impotent weapons for hearts and minds, love is the only weapon strong enough to conquer thoughts and prejudices.

A pastor or teacher once told me that it's important to understand that John isn't literally saying that God is love, but more like God's love is the standard by which all other love should be measured by. After all, God isn't just a feeling. He's a real person, a spiritual being. Granted. But I think it's just as important to remember that love is not just some feeling. If you think that love is an emotion, then you won't have many successful relationships that will last very long. Family therapist Gary Smalley once wrote a book called "Love is a Decision," in which he suggests that strong marriages require constant commitment, honoring and respecting one another and forgiving one another, among other things.

A great exercise is to read 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute the word "Love" for "God," or "Jesus." If you do that, you'll get a great idea of who God is and what John meant when he said that "God IS love." Likewise, if you try reading it substituting your own name for the word "Love," your conscience will probably make you feel pretty embarrassed or even ashamed because of how unlike God and unloving you can be. I know mine did.

Our pastor recently gave a sermon on speaking the truth in love. I have to admit that it was pretty convicting. I get really bent out of shape when I sense that people are using religious issues to score political points. Words like "truth" and concepts like right-and-wrong can sometimes be used to bludgeon us over the head until we give in and accept that someone's opinion or agenda are right and if we don't whole-heartedly agree with them and pursue their agenda as zealously as they do, we aren't good enough Christians.

There are Christians who believe that they have an absolute monopoly on absolute truth and they become so passionate about it that they're willing to use "any means necessary" to be heard. What they don't realize is that people won't listen if they're banged on the head or have something shoved down their throat.

I realized that I don't always speak the truth in love either. Speaking in love means speaking with patience and kindness, not boasting or gloating, it means being polite and not being jealous or self-seeking or insecure or angry. It means letting the truth itself do most of the talking. It means that it's not even the truth that is your primary concern, but rather, the well being of the listener.


Help us to love one another as You have loved us.
You put us before yourself. Teach us to put others before ourselves,
even when we are most convinced that they are wrong and we are right.

In Jesus name we pray,

"All You Need is Love"

by Lennon & McCartney from 'The Blue Album'

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.
Ted's paraphrase (in the spirit of 1 John 4:7-16)

All you need is God, God, God is all you need. 
There's nothing you can know that isn't known. 
Nothing you can see that isn't shown. 
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. 
It's easy. All you need is God, all you need is God

A Pirate Looks at 40

Song and lyrics by: Jimmy Buffett

Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You've seen it all, you've seen it all

Watched the men who rode you switch from sails to steam
And in your belly you hold the treasures few have ever seen
Most of 'em dream, most of 'em dream

Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

I've done a bit of smugglin', I've run my share of grass
I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last, never meant to last

And I have been drunk now for over two weeks
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I got stop wishin', got to go fishin'
Down to rock bottom again
Just a few friends, just a few friends


I go for younger women, lived with several awhile
Though I ran 'em away, they'd come back one day
Still could manage to smile
Just takes a while, just takes a while

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown

I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tragedy exposes hypocrisy

Yes, complain about me being a bleeding heart liberal, question how you think I could possibly vote for Democrats and still be a Christian, but as a matter of fact there are times when I am embarrassed, even ashamed to be an American, a "White," and a "Christian." Jesus wouldn't, didn't, and doesn't think, talk, or act the way that Billy Roper, Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson do. Yet millions of Christians continue to be amazingly loyal to the likes of Limbaugh and Robertson. God forgive us.

Haitian Catastrophe: For Racists, a Good Laugh

Posted in Anti-Black by Mark Potok on January 14, 2010  found on the Web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center

In Haiti, tens of thousands of earthquake victims are dead, with at least one official estimating the number could reach half a million when the full, horrifying effects of Tuesday night’s earthquake in the island nation are finally known.

In Arkansas, Billy Roper figured that made for a pretty amusing joke. So the former high school teacher and current head of the neo-Nazi White Revolution group today announced a food drive he called “Nutrition for Neutering.” “Yes,” Roper’s White Revolution website said, “you can get started on the ground floor with this charitable effort to provide one can of nonperishable food to each and every Haitian citizen affected by the earthquake who agrees to be sterilized.”...

For most Americans, the sight of the catastrophe in Haiti provoked an outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims. Early reports suggest that most structures in the island’s capital city of Port au Prince were damaged or destroyed. Men, women and children are wandering the streets with horrific injuries, and the cries trapped victims still are emanating from underneath tons of rubble...

Most of these comments are far beyond the pale of what most Americans, of any race, felt when they heard news of the Haitian tragedy. But it wasn’t only neo-Nazis who said ugly things. Some of the most astounding comments came from people in the ostensible mainstream — people like radio heavyweight Rush Limbaugh.
To Limbaugh, President Obama, in calling for Americans to open their hearts and their wallets to the plight of the Haitians, is interested in nothing but political gain. “This will play right into Obama’s hands,” Limbaugh said on his Wednesday radio show. “He’s humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this to burnish their, shall we say, ‘credibility’ with the black community – in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.” Anyway, Haiti “has been run by dictators and communists.” It produces “zilch, zero, nada.” And Obama is asking “people who have lost their jobs because of his policies to donate.”
“Besides,” the millionaire broadcaster added later in his show, “we’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.’

For his part, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson said on Wednesday’s “700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network that the Haitians had brought it all on themselves. “They were under the heel of the French… . And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ … [E]ver since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

Robertson, who once blamed the 9/11 attacks on abortionists, feminists and others, didn’t mention how he knew this to be a “true story.”

Pat Robertson 'A Public Relations Nightmare,' Says God

Almighty Holds Rare Press Conference

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - In the wake of his comments about the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Pat Robertson has become a "public relations nightmare" and a "gynormous embarrassment to me, personally," God said today.

In a rare press conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, the usually reclusive Almighty said that He was taking the unusual step of airing His feelings in public because "enough is enough."

"I pray that his TV show would just go away, but of course, when you're me there's no one to pray to," God said, to the laughter of the packed room of reporters.

While God held out no hope that Rev. Robertson's "700 Club" would be cancelled any time soon, He did say, somewhat ruefully, "If Pat Robertson were on NBC he'd be replaced by Jay Leno by now."

See the original article at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Here is a prayer from Sojourner Magazine's daily "Verse and Voice" (

"Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. God, we pray not only that we would strive to shine a light on the 27 million people trapped in modern slavery, but that we would also have the boldness and the wisdom to take action on behalf of these people, each of whom is precious in your sight. We pray for your kingdom, Lord. Amen."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 10; Question Everything

Test the Spirits
"1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." 1 John 4:1-6

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other”~Mark Twain

In other words, as one of my professors at Concordia Teacher's College in Seward Nebraska used to say, "don't take MY word for it- look it up!"

As I told you last time, there are people who are skeptical that I can be a follower of Jesus and subscribe to progressive political views as well. Well, there are also those who think it seems incongruent to be rational, skeptical, intellectually curious and religious or spiritual  at the same time. On the contrary, God invites us to question what we believe. He wants us to think through, understand and know what we believe and why we believe it.

If you read  back over my earlier posts on 1 John, you will remember that one of the reasons John was writing this letter to the early church is because there were a number of false prophets cropping up and he wanted Christian believers to have the critical thinking skills it took to filter out the hubris and hogwash from God's pure Word.

So, how do you know if a new teacher, a preacher, a TV evangelist, a Web site, a pundit, a book, a doctrine, a discovery, a sect, a movement, a cult, congregation or denomination is genuinely Christian?
Do they "acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God?"

If they put their focus on themselves or yourself or some gimmick or trick or ancient "hidden" teaching that they say that Christian leaders have suppressed for thousands of years... Bottom line, if they don't agree that only Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one, the promised messiah, the only begotten Son of God who died and rose again to save us from our sins- then they aren't Christian no matter how much they claim to be.

In Mark 8:27-29 Jesus asks His disciples who people thought He was- a prophet, a teacher, a social revolutionary, a political leader, Elijah, John the Baptist... And He asked them who they thought He was and Peter answered, "the Christ, the Son of God." That confession is what Christianity is built on.

We should be skeptical and not just swallow every baited hook thrown our way. We should ask questions. And we should be ready to answer when people question us.

Our savior is not ourselves, He is outside us. It's not our "divine inner-selves", nor is it any group of goals we must accomplish or a level of being we must aspire to, it is one person, Jesus. Anything or anyone that points away from Him as the Christ, that thing or person is an "antichrist."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 9; This is how we know what love is

1 John 3:11-24 (New International Version)
Love one another
 11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

 16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

 21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
I feel a little like I'm repeating myself with each of these posts, it's all about love, love your brother, love your neighbor, love your enemies. But maybe I'm writing the same things because John was writing the same things. Why? Probably because he wanted to drive home the point. Repetition is a valuable tool for teachers. Why else? Probably because Jesus kept repeating it to John and the other original disciples during His time on Earth, and remember that John was one of Jesus' inner circle, he was "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was there to hear Jesus teach this:

36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~Matthew 22:36-40

 No wonder John says that "this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another"  And the very convicting indictment - "Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."

Not only is murder murder, mere hatred is tantamount to murder. I don't know about you, but if this is true, then I myself have to beg for God's forgiveness because I am no better than Adolph Hitler or Jeffery Dahmer! And often I've hated people in God's name. "Damn terrorists, damn politicians, damn perverts, stupid racists, freaking cult leaders!" I may try to rationalize myself, tell myself that it's okay to be prejudiced against prejudice people, but the fact remains that I've failed to love others as God's precious creations regardless of their shortcomings.

It confounded me when I attended church once in Topeka Kansas. There was a different church on three of the four corners of the intersection. We were going to the Lutheran one, but across the street there was a picket line in front of the (I think it was Episcopal) other church. People calling themselves "Christian" were protesting another Christian congregation with signs that said things like "God Hates Fags." My understanding of Scripture was that God loves all men and wants them to receive salvation in His son. Something was wrong.

So how do we love? "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus' example was humility, servanthood, and even sacrifice for the sake of others. On the one hand, it's so simple, there aren't 9 pillars of 8 steps or 256 laws or even 10 commandments- just two things; believe Jesus and love one another. On the other hand it is SO difficult! loving others means abdicating the throne of our life, giving up our ambitions, our agendas, even what we imagine are our rights. True love puts others before yourself.

   Ever since I was a kid people have questioned my faith. "How can you be a Christian and support Democratic candidates? How can you be so religious and so liberal at the same time?" I'm sure some have even questioned my salvation. One of the reasons why I tend to be more progressive politically even while being so orthodox theologically is because of what Saint John wrote next;

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"

As far as I can see, this blows away the "ownership society" sense of entitlement and the whole argument for eliminating inheritance taxes and especially supply-side "trickle-down" economics. We are our brother's keepers and we all ought to help however we can, even if those we help don't seem worth helping.

Jesus doesn't demand that we make pilgrimages or ritual sacrifices. He doesn't expect us to pray five times a day facing East, and He certainly doesn't ask us to destroy the infidels with suicide bombing missions. But what He does ask is a tall order. Millions of us who like to call ourselves "Christian" fail to keep these two simple commands several times a day, every day:

"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."

Dear Jesus,
Grant us Your Spirit so that we won't become jealous of our brothers or greedy with our resources like Cain did when he resented and killed Able.
Grant us Your Spirit so that we will be able to love and care for all of Your children, even those that disagree with us, even those who don't acknowledge or believe in You, even those whom we perceive as offensive to You.
Grant us Your Spirit so that we will have pity on those who don't have the same material advantages that we do.
Please Lord Jesus, Grant us Your Spirit so that we can truly believe in You and genuinely love one another as You have commanded us to.
In your holy name,