Monday, December 24, 2012

True Justice, Mercy, & Compassion

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: "This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ ~Zechariah 7:8-10

When my right-wing family, friends and neighbors wonder how I can call myself a Christian and yet be a liberal- this is why; verses like this.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

ADVENT; Promised through Prophets

Jeremiah 33:14-16
New International Version (NIV)
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.“‘In those days and at that time    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.In those days Judah will be saved    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

'Prophet, Priest, and Pirate' is the name of this blog. Jesus is out prophet (John 12:50), our high priest (Heb.4:14-16), and our king (John 18:36). He calls us all (John 20:21), if we follow Him to also be prophets (Joel 2:28-29) in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-9) and heirs and participants in His kingdom (1 John 3:1-3).

The first candle on the Advent wreath is the Prophets' candle. One thing that followers of this blog may know bugs the heck outta me is that Americans seem to think that prophets magically predict the future. That's not prophecy, its divination, which God strictly prohibits in Leviticus 19:26. Seeking out signs and omens to predict the future is a sin because God wants us to trust Him and know that He will be with us in the future and take care of us.

Prophecy, on the other hand, is delivering God's Word, His message. Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Joel, Malachi, Micah, and Zechariah- they all announced and declared the coming messiah- not by divination, but because God gave them His promise, and they repeated them.

When we share that God promises to love us, and He sent his Son Jesus as a sacrifice for us, to save us, forgive us, and stay with us, we are being prophets.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ADVENT; Step Into Christmas

Advent means “coming.” It is a season when we prepare for Jesus’ arrival. There are five candles in an advent wreath. 3 purple or blue, and one pink, and one white. Purple symbolizes both His royalty and our repentance.

As with every year, my hope is to post some Advent meditations on ye ole Pirate blog here- but as usual, my December is looking mighty busy so I'm not making any promises, just plans.
I'm thinking they may need to be shorter than is my habit (long winded/long worded) and my hope is to  post them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (as opposed to Sun-Sat.). Wish me luck.

Here is a brief refresher on the color and symbolism of the traditional Advent wreath.

  • An Advent wreath is a circle, which has no beginning and no end. Pine is used because it is "evergreen," also representing eternal life. However, the wreath is also foreshadowing of Christ's passion. Pine needles and/or holly leaves represent the crown of thorns and holly berries and/or poinsettia flowers represent the blood He shed on the cross.
  • The first violet candle is the “Prophets candle” and symbolizes the hope that Old Testament Jews had that a Messiah would one day come.
  • The second violet candle is the “Bethlehem” candle and represents the peace that the new God/Man savior would bring, ending the long spiritual rift between God and mankind.
  • The pink candle is the “Angels’” candle (or in some traditions, the “Mary” candle) it symbolizes the joy of Heaven that a Savior was finally to be born.
  • The last violet candle is the “Shepherds’” candle and represents the love or adoration of those ready to accept the gift of the Christ child.
  • The large white candle  in the center, often lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve is the “Christ Candle” and represents Jesus as the “Light of the world,” or the Epiphany, God on Earth.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Don't dishonor the poor

Whatever happened to the "party of personal responsibility?"

They blame minorities for electing Obama. Blame minorities for getting jobs and college spots under affirmative action programs? Blame immigrants for the economy? Resent people on disability, food stamps, or unemployment for wasting your taxes?
"Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?"

Aren't they the ones who cut your pay? Cut your benefits? Ship jobs overseas? Cut taxes on themselves so that they rise on the poor & middle-class?

Monday, November 12, 2012

True "Sodomy?"

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

~ Ezekiel 16:49-50

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Why is it?

Seems to me that the Bible is about love & forgiveness, and the Constitution is about equality and due process. Am I really wrong about this?

Seriously? Does it not occur to Tea Partiers that really they're proponents of nullification & states-rights and that they'd probably prefer to eliminate the Constitution with it's supremacy clause, its elastic clause, and that pesky 14th Amendment with its darned equal-protection clause.

And have you noticed that Fundamentalists are always telling us that we can't pick-and-choose what we want to believe from the Bible when it comes to evolution, abortion and homosexuality- but have they NOTICED how many times God commands us to care for the poor, the sick, the widows, orphans, hungry, and alien? How we're not to deny them justice? How its harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven that for a camel to get through the eye of a needle? Or how we should stock up treasures in Heaven, rather than in land and barns and possessions? Or how we should render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's (pay taxes)?

The best things any of us can do as U.S. citizens has got to be to actually READ, rather than just claim to be exceptional because of the Bible and the Constitution. If we know what they REALLY say- we wouldn't put up with all the ways people misrepresent, misuse and abuse them both.

Make it a New Year's resolution this year- regardless of how the election goes this Tuesday, promise yourself that you'll really read and try to learn for yourself what both of these foundations of civilization really say. May we all be more literate about them and more grateful for them. And by reading them, may we all become better citizens and may we all grow in our relationships with God.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517 (495 years ago, this week)
Dr. Martin Luther, a Theology professor at the University of Wittenburg, in Germany posted 
95 Theses on the Castle Church door- challenging Christians to discuss and debate what he believed to be errors and corruption in the church of the time.
Especially the sale of "indulgences," documents promising to keep people out of Hell and/or Purgatory. Profits of the sales of these indulgences often went to line the pockets of rich Bishops, cardinals and the Pope and probably helped pay for opulent palaces, chapels and Renaissance decorations in Rome.

Luther's hope was to reform the Church, not to start a new one.
His main teachings were based on Romans 3:22 "...righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe," and Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Whatever his own faults or those of "Lutherans" who came after him, Luther's legacy is one that focuses Christians on that fact that we are saved by Grace alone (the free gift of what Jesus did on our behalf and in our stead on the cross), Faith alone- not by anything we have to do or try to refrain from doing, but only by trusting in what Jesus did- and we know these truths thanks to Scripture alone, not by philosophers or teachers or some new revelations given only to some magical and infallible representative of God- like the Pope, or like the Mormon's Prophet or any human leader- but only from God's Word itself, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Is there such thing as ghosts?

Luke 16:19-31 kinda leads me to believe that once you're in Heaven we'll be pretty oblivious to the pain of this world and Hell. Which, in spite of Samuel visiting Saul in 1Sam28 (in direct violation of Leviticus 19:26) suggests that it's pretty unlikely that the souls of the departed really visit the living.

But I could be wrong- "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ~Hamlet (who was visited by his father's ghost).

Still, I can't help suspecting that what people thing of as ghosts are often at best, their mind playing tricks on them or at worst, demons, dark-spirits, and Satanic angels posing as benevolent or benign spirits.

Beware of "meddling with powers you can't possibly comprehend" as Prof. Marcus Brody from the Indiana Jones films might say.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just so we're clear...

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. ~James 2:19

(See also: Dt 6:4; Mk 12:29; 1Co 8:4-6)

WARNING: This post will offend some people.

Yesterday on the radio I heard a Romney supporter explain how important it was to him that people recognize that Mormons consider themselves Christian. I have no doubt that many, many Mormons do believe in Jesus as their personal savior and are saved... although, I suspect that they remain unaware of some of the details of the doctrines of the church of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Here's some of what the person being interviewed said, along with things that he didn't say (which I'll highlight by making red and italicizing).

He said that just like Catholics and Protestants, Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God,
just not the ONLY BEGOTTEN son, of the one and ONLY true living God, because if a White man is good enough during his life he has the opportunity to become the god of his own planet, populating it for eternity with spirit-babies...

He said that they believe that Jesus died on the cross and on the third day, rose again from the dead,
just not that He died for the remission of our sins, defeating once and for all sin, Satan, and death itself, because Jesus and Satan are both brothers of the same father-god, and as noted above, it is by your own works-righteousness (merit) that you earn your place and status in the afterlife.

I don't know whether or not they believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He will come again to judge the living and the dead
but they do teach that Jesus appeared to Indians over here in North America after His resurrection, because after-all, they were Nephites, the lost tribes of Israel.

And of course, they may or may not believe that the Old Testament (Jewish Torah) and the New Testament ( Synoptic Gospels, book of Acts, and canonical epistles) are the Divinely inspired Word of God, but
They also believe that an angel revealed to Joseph Smith a third testament, written by a prophet Moroni on gold plates and buried someplace in upstate New York, also known as the Book of Mormon.

Call me a "Confessionalist," or orthodox or conventional or mainline, mainstream, Protestant, or whatever else you want to, but as a Lutheran, I believe that Christians are people who believe that Jesus is the promised messiah who died to forgive us of our sins, as laid out in the three major Christian confessions or creeds; Nicene, Apostles', and Athanasian. Sorry, but if he's Bishop, you'd think that Mitt Romney knows and accepts most of the LDS teachings and doctrines which do not align with these creeds, let alone most of the Old and New testaments. 

If you really believe that you can't be Christian and permit abortion or gay marriage, but you can be Christian and believe that you're working toward becoming your own god- I'm not sure what to say to you, except don't try telling me that someone who chose to join the United Church of Christ instead of atheism, agnosticism, Catholicism, Buddhism, or his father's Islam is not a Christian or is a secret-Muslim or is the Antichrist himself. Just stop. 

Vote for who you want to, based on what issues you believe are important. But don't fool yourself into believing that the Republican candidate is more "Christian" than the Democrat. At least not this year. 

Me, I think it's pretty weird that fundamentalist Evangelicals and conservative Catholics are so ready to vote for a Mormon because of a few social "wedge" issues. Abortion- not mentioned in the Bible at all. Homosexuality, mentioned maybe 6 times. Poverty and justice for the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens- almost 3,000 times. 

Oh, did I forget to mention, that Mitt Romney used to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights when he was governor of Massachusetts? Does that not tell you that he only tells us what he thinks we want to hear? Flip-Flop. Isn't that the accusation that right-wingers used to make against President Clinton back in the day? "Slick Mitt."

So, things Jesus didn't really talk about directly are what make you Christian, but following a false religion doesn't? You know what that reminds me of? 

"You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." ~Matthew 23:24

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Greed produces greed!

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NET) 10 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income. This also is futile.

Hey "Job Creators!"

Mark 10:23-25 (ASV) 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Hey Billionaires!

1 Timothy 6:10 (ASV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Read, Mark, and Inwardly Digest

...more Scripture, that is.
Don't just take your priest or pastor's word for it, see what God's Word has to say for itself!

  • Good theology reads and asks questions, faith is strengthened by doubt. 
  • Bad theology makes judgments and assumptions and uses the Bible to justify political, social, philosophical, or even economic agendas.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Read for yourself!

"The word exegesis comes from a Greek word meaning 'to lead out.' As I have said, you start with the text and draw out its meaning, Eisegesis, on the other hand, is when you start with an idea or conviction, then search for verses in the Bible to prove your point. I was warned against eisegesis, and rightly so. The danger in this is that we can take verses out of context to support just about any point of view." ~Francis Chan, p.24 'Forgotten God,' 2009 David C. Cook, publisher.

People are constantly working eisegetically on the Bible, on the Constitution, on statistics, on science. I am only 40 pages into Chan's book, but already he has emphasized several times that while it is important not to simply make up your own extreme doctrines without accountability, it is also important to let the God speak through His Word rather than come to it with your own preconceived agenda, using Scripture to support what you've already made up your mind about.

If we are going to call ourselves Christian, don't we need to 1) actually read God's Word? 2) not just read it casually but really dig in and read mark and take it to heart? and 3) use Scripture to help us understand and interpret other Scripture?

One of my favorite teachers made a point of always encouraging his students to "check it out, don't just take my word for it, look it up yourself!" This is the best advice about all thinks Biblical, but more than that, it is important advice for everything; spiritual, philosophical, political, and scientific.Don't assume, don't blindly follow. Question EVERYTHING.

This policy may seem like it flies in the face of "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), but in this book about the Holy Spirit, Chan points out that Saint Paul praised the Bereans for not just blindly following his teachings, but examining Scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).

If you're afraid of your own doubt, or if you're scared that I'm some false prophet trying to unsettle your foundations, like the serpent challenging Adam and Eve, "did God REALLY say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Just remember, you're going directly to God's Word to find out what He REALLY said. Not a televangelist, not some politician, not your neighbors, not a devotional book or a pastor or priest, but God's own Word itself.

If we take the trouble to actually read the Bible ourselves, and ask God in prayer to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to what He has to say to us while we read it. We might just be surprised at how different God's ideas and our own have been.

Someone once said, "sitting in church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in the garage makes you a car." If you REALLY want to know Jesus, trust Jesus, and follow Jesus, you can't let someone else do it for you. You can't be lazy. You have to read His Word for yourself.

Likewise, if you're going to be a responsible, informed voter, you can't just let some TV commercial or some direct mail voters' guide tell you about the Constitution, you really need to get a copy and look up the amendments for yourself.

God doesn't just want you to say you're on His team or for you to pledge your loyalty to Him or to defend His traditions- H wants a personal relationship with you. And He gave us His Word so that we can get to know Him and grow closer to Him every day by reading what He says to us.

Give it a try. You don't have to read whole books at a time. Start with something easy, just a chapter, Matthew, Mark, or the Psalms. Find an easy to follow translation or paraphrase like the NIV, Eugene Petersen's 'The Message,' the Living Bible or 'the Story,' but don't put it off till next month or till New Years and don't just read it once a week- make an effort to read it every day or at least three or four days a week.

If you do, not only will your assumptions about God and Christianity get challenged, but you will see everything in a new way, including (if not especially) other people.

Before you assume that you know what good and evil are and what the world's ways and God's ways are, don't just use a verse here or there to try to back up some political point of view- actually commit to reading the Bible every day for a month. You will be humbled and you will know that all of God's Word points to Jesus, His love, forgiveness, mercy and grace and that you won't ever have to win arguments again or defend God's ways- because He already won the ultimate victory and He really doesn't need your help. He wants your heart.

James 3:13-4:10
New International Version (NIV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive,because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We must all become prophets

"Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and strength...We must all become prophets... We must all do something for peace. We must stop this insanity of worshipping the gods of metal. We must take a stand against evil and idolatry. This is our destiny at the most critical time of human history. But it's also the greatest opportunity ever offered to any group of people in the history of our world—to save our world from complete annihilation."
- Father George Zabelka
former Catholic Air Force Chaplin, speaking at a Pax Christi conference in August, 1985
What a great quote, right? It was part of Sojourner Magazine's Daily "Verse & Voice" email which I subscribe to. Everyday they have a Bible verse, an inspiring quote, and a brief prayer.

This one got me thinking about what idolatry is. Putting our trust, love, or fear into anything or anyone other than God. That's pretty much what it means to have other gods.

I saw a Bible study  advertised at a church recently that made me apprehensive. It offered a series of video presentations on the differences between God's values and philosophies as opposed to the worlds'.

My thinking is that God wants us to value people and relationships rather than material wealth or possessions. I assume that God thinks of success as bearing the Fruit of the Spirit rather than having a great career or influence or authority. I'm pretty sure that God wants us to trust Him rather than armies, policies, missiles or a defense budget to keep us safe.

But how much do you want to bet that this class is about wedge issues like homosexuality and reproductive rights? Maybe with some creationism and school-prayer thrown in for good measure?

Bottom line, God- not our philosophy or world view, God- not our political party affiliation, God- not absolutism and avoiding relativism, God- not our nationality or traditional values or way of life, God is God, and we are not. Even more than pacifism or disarmament, that is at the core of what Father Zabekla was saying in this quote.

We must constantly come to Him and ask Him to help us keep Him and no-one and nothing else on His throne in our hearts. And once we do, we must all remind each other to do so too- THAT is what it means to be a prophet. Because many, MANY of our fellow Christians only think they are worshiping Christ, when really they are worshiping Christianity- or better put, "Christianism."

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Awesome Hymn to Pray

Awesome hymn today. Think of it as poetry. I may use this as a prayer, because I need every one of these stanzas pretty much every day.

O God, My Faithful God
By: Johann Heermann

O God, my faithful God,
True fountain ever flowing,
Without whom nothing is,
All perfect gifts bestowing:
Give me a healthy frame,
And may I have within
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unstained by sin.

Give me the strength to do
With ready heart and willing
Whatever you command,
My calling here fulfilling.
Help me do what I should
With all my might, and bless
The outcome for my good,
For you must give success.

Keep me from saying words
That later need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.

When dangers gather round,
Oh, keep me calm and fearless;
Help me to bear the cross
When life seems dark and cheerless;
Help me, as you have taught,
To love both great and small
And by your Spirit’s might
To live at peace with all.

Hymn # 371 from Lutheran Worship (#696 Luth. Service Book)
Author: Ahasverus Fritsch
Tune: Was Frag Ich Nach Der Welt
1st Published in: 1630

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shut up and listen

"Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. … We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Presidential Candidate NOT A CHRISTIAN???!!!

The God Makers, one of the most powerful books to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding the rituals and doctrines of the Mormon Church, reveals the inner workings and beliefs of Mormonism. Through personal interviews and well-documented evidence, you'll discover the true nature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its hidden worldwide agenda.

Golden tablets revealed to a land speculator in upstate New York?  Jesus came to North America after the resurrection?  Whites only Heaven?  Polygamy?  You (if you're a White male) can become the god of your own planet?  Satan & Jesus brothers? God their father had sex with Mary?  And you thought they just couldn't have caffeine or alcohol. Sure they're good people, but this is not Christianity.

  • Golden tablets revealed to a land speculator in upstate New York? 
  • Jesus came to North America after the resurrection? 
  • Whites only Heaven? 
  • Polygamy? 
  • You (if you're a White male) can become the god of your own planet? 
  • Satan & Jesus brothers? 
  • God their father had SEX with Mary? 

And you thought they just couldn't have caffeine or alcohol. Sure they're good people, but this is not Christianity.

Sorry conservative Christians, but your Republican nominee is the one who's not a Christian and may  even be serving a hidden agenda. Ironic since you've been claiming that Obama is the Muslim Antichrist since the last election.

Okay, okay- to be fair, I don't know if Mitt Romney really believes any of these bizarre doctrines and I'll stipulate that most LDS members are completely unaware of them and in their hearts believe that Jesus is the only son of God who died on the cross for their sins.

However, it troubles me that so many Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and other both fundamentalist and main-line denomination Christians don't realize that the fastest growing religion in America doesn't officially accept the truths confessed in the canonical creeds.

And yes, I'll be honest, it also confuses and obviously really irritates me that so many well-meaning believers were duped by the lies about Obama being some kind of "islamofascist."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why we need Fellowship

"God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened." ~Dietrich Bonhoefer
Call it fellowship, community, koinoina, ecclesia, prayer-group, Bible-study group, renovar√©, support-network, surrogate family, Christian friends, or just plain Church- we all NEED to be connected and in relationship- not only with God, but with fellow believers. God made us this way. 

If you don't have a church-home, ask God to find one for you. The three best ways to grow in your relationship with God are Word, Prayer, and Fellowship. Sure, you can read the Bible on your own and you can pray anywhere at anytime, but don't neglect Fellowship. Take a coal out of the fire and it quickly cools.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Enemies List

Enemies list: this fallen world, your own sinful flesh, & the Devil.

Notice who is NOT on this list?
Your classmates, coworkers, neighbors, employer, casual acquaintances, athletic rivals, political opponents, people of different colors, from different countries, and who speak different languages... Pretty much everyone. Keep it that way.

PS- if you do put anyone on that list, remember that Jesus said to love your enemies.

Oh, you say you don't think of THEM as your enemies, but you feel like they treat you like the put you on THEIR enemies list? Well, turns out Jesus also said to pray for those that persecute you. You might want to give it a try.

If you constantly feel threatened by everyone, it might just be that you're the one who's overly competitive... Or insecure... Or paranoid.

Try to connect more and control less. You'll be surprised by how nice life can be when you invest your energy in supporting others instead of defending yourself or defeating others.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. 
Divine God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
I will always think of this as "Jim's Prayer." Jim Sullivan was an English teacher and Baseball Coach at Los Angeles Lutheran Jr/Sr High School where I taught years ago. Jim had it memorized, which always amazed me. Most of us are lucky if we get the Lord's Prayer memorized. He used it in meetings , devotions and chapels. He'd grown up in Catholic schools in New York where he learned it.

St.Francis and Jim were both examples of the values Francis has us ask from God. I would like to try to memorize this prayer because prayer transforms us and I want God to use this prayer to make me more able to live out this prayer.

be different from the world

" In judgment and action those who follow Jesus will be different from the world in renouncing their property, happiness, rights, righteousness, honor, and violence. They will be offensive to the world. That is why the disciples will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer (on Matt 5:10)

Sure enough, if you live modestly, humbly, in deference to others, with empathy, compassion, altruism and respond to violence with non-violence, you are going to be viewed derisively. Even other Christians will resent your adherence to this path.

Maybe that's part of what it means to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16) behaving like Jesus presents a contrast with the selfish, materialistic, power-accumulating, aggressive, ambitious values of this world.

Like salt brings out a food's own flavor and light exposes one's "true colors," maybe living out Micah 6:8 creates so much cognitive dissonance for some people that they (subconsciously at least) know that they're choices aren't so godly after all and it irritates them. Nobody wants to be accused of being self-serving or short-sighted. That's why I love that bumper sticker so much that says, "annoy a conservative, live like Jesus."

As 19th century social activist Mother Jones might say, the Gospel is going to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." (Garrison Keillor modified it a little and I put that one on the top of this page.)

No wonder Hitler had Bonhoeffer killed. Not only did Bonhoeffer's liberalism expose Hitler's fascism and authoritarianism for the tyrany it was, his authentic Christianity exposed Hitler's pharisaical hypocrisy for the mere political appliance that it was.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Good vs. Evil? Get real.

There is no possible source of evil except good. 
~ Saint Augustine 

When I first read this quote, I thought that the theological implications are staggering. Its too much to even consider. But THINKING is what good quotes provoke.

Is this the kind of axiom that people chew on for eons without coming up with anything that satisfies everyone, like "why do bad things happen to good people?" (One answer, by the way, is "there's no such thing as 'good people.')

I had a student once who was incensed with God. After all, God, they reasoned, had created Satan. How could a loving God even ALLOW Adam and Eve to sin in the first place? If He REALLY is both all-knowing and all-powerful, how could he let that happen?

The issue is not the answer. The issue is the question. In stead of asking "how?" The student should be asking "why?" 

Consider a perhaps more corny proverb, "Without the dark, we'd never see the stars."

Once you start thinking this way, less easy, less simple, you may end up considering more nuance. For example, the difference between God's causative and permissive will.

Currently there's a huge (and absurd) uproar in the media since the CEO of a major fast food chain expressed his religious views on a controversial issue. Whatever you think of this topic, his tone of voice didn't sound belligerent to me when he said it. I imagine that he's sincere, although cynics will note that the flare up in the "culture wars," served him well , creating a PR bonanza.

The issue is that he fears God's causative will. He anticipates that God will punish us as a nation if we continue down a certain path of tolerance for what he understands as something offensive to God.

It seems to me however, that God is a patient parent who permits us to be responsible for our predicament, rather intervene incessantly like some kind of control freak. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe He's distant, removed or indifferent, like some Deist clock-maker imagined by many of our nation's founders during the enlightenment. I'm just saying that I think that God chooses to allow us to have to work things out between ourselves instead of spoiling us by making things too easy all the time.

Thank God. If He really were constantly sending hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes to chastise America for our corporate sin, we surely would've been wiped off the map LONG ago. Didn't we begin with slavery, greed, rebellion, and abuse? From the Spanish conquistadors to the Dutch, English, and French, This continent has been wrought with war, corruption and abuse of the earth, its resources and of the indigenous peoples.

But let's say that God does operate in the absolutist, black-and-white manor in which many of us either assume or even with that He does? 

Who's to say that when His punishment comes, it is for requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control? 

Maybe God's angry with us for allowing Wall Street to sell mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and make obscene profits off of bundled derivatives while executive salaries rise to insane levels, anywhere from 500 to 5,000 times those of workers and piling on massive bonuses on top of it all, meanwhile restricting the rights of those workers to collectively bargain for reasonable compensation?

Those who believe God uses only His causative will, refuse to believe that we can remotely influence the environment. God is sovereign, therefore, we aren't capable of damaging the Earth. That's their view.

If you suspect that God may, in His permissive will, allows us to face the natural consequence of our own sinful nature- you might just see that maybe our refusal to do anything about global climate change is why we face so many extremes in weather lately, including the hottest summer and deepest & widest-spread drought since the great dust bowl of the 1930's. Thank God we understand more about erosion and soil conservation than we did back them.

I'm not about to say that God never actively intervenes- His greatest intervention was sending His only begotten Son to die on a cross for us. But I think that it is short-sighted and frankly Pharisitic to assume that He ONLY acts in such an angry, punitive manor. 

I don't pretend to have all the answers and solutions for all of society's controversies. But I do believe that God is Himself, and allows (perhaps might even prefer) for us to be more pragmatic and less intractable in our politics, our ideology and our dogma. That does not mean being soft or gullible or unduly influenced by the World. It simply means not letting the letter of the law eclipse the spirit. It means not letting the tale wag the dog. 

Being tough minded does not mean being thick-headed, hard hearted, slow-witted, and stiff-necked. When we think that we're the only ones who know what God wants, we may as well be saying that we know better that God and we're no better than those who don't know God in the first place.

Maybe God permits evil to challenge us, to make things complicated. After all, He created us in His image, didn't He? He didn't create us to be dolls, puppets or action figures that He constantly directs or plays with. He created us to be creative, thoughtful, and capable of managing complexity.

One of the gifts God gave us is free-will. Ironically people are constantly arguing for their own liberty, but are fast to deprive other people of theirs. As long as we have free will, we will make decisions that will make things complicated for each other. And until He's ready to take us home with Him once and for all, I believe that God's going to keep allowing us to have to deal with that complexity. 

Thinking that life is all good verses evil is ridiculous. In the first place, Satan and evil are not equal to God, they are part of creation, not co-equals to the Creator. In the second place, Christ has already defeated Satan. In the third place, if you believe that God is sovereign, then we need to trust Him and be patient both with God and each other- in stead of throwing tantrums and pitching baby-fits all the time.

Christians need to learn what lessons they can from some really dumb people in the Bible.
  • Jonah 4- the prophet gets angry at God's compassion
  • Luke 15:25-31- the prodigal son's jealous older brother
  • Matthew 20:1-16- the parable of the workers paid equally
Thanks to sin, life is always complicated. It would sure be a lot easier if we wouldn't keep making it worse by fighting each other or trying to "tattle" on each other to God in the meantime.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Romans 13
13 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

When George W. Bush was in office right wingers liked to pull our Romans 13:13 as a way to tell dissenters to shut-up. Now that a Democrat is in office, they've conveniently forgotten about the verse.

Call me an old fashioned "law-and-order" type, but I think that Rom 13:3-5 says a lot to people on the right wing fringe. There are the Libertarians who want their drugs and the Militia/White Supremacy/2nd Amendment types who cut off any discussion of reasonable and responsible gun regulation with the insistence that the founders "knew we'd need out guns to protect us from government tyranny!"

Look, do you believe the words of Abraham Lincoln or not? If government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people," then you also need to believe the words of a comic strip opossum from the 1950's, Walk Kelly's Pogo who said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!"

Government in the United States is a tool, that's all. Not a boogie-man. It derives it's just powers from the consent of the governed (that's us). And if you don't like it or disagree with it, if you feel it has become destructive of your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." 

But guess what- we're blessed enough that we don't do that by armed insurrection, we do it at the ballot box, in the media, and by becoming politically active and involved in our communities.

The word "citizen" means someone who participates in government. Civility is respect, no matter how much you distrust or dislike them, is entitled to the same dignity and respect that you expect to be granted. That's called the Golden Rule, do unto others (Luke 6:31).

My contention is that when governors and politicians show disrespect for public workers and union members, police officers, fire and rescue workers, government employees and public school teachers- they are disrespecting all of us. And in a democracy, we the people, not only our elected officials, are the authorities.

Sure, this may be a confusing analogy, but my point it, we must put EVERYONE's best interests ahead of those of party, PAC, and political career. Granted, in this day and age doing so may take courage, but- say, isn't there a book about that? Profiles in Courage. Hmmmm. Seems I remember John McCain talking once about how much he was influenced by John Kennedy's famous book.

I think it may be about time that the likes of Paul Ryan and Scott Walker started reading Profiles in Courage instead of Ayn Rand. Come to think of it, they might want to read some other books too, like Romans, Luke, Matthew...

Tempted by life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

I'm a total geek when it comes to both religion and civics. So last night, I'm teaching at Vacation Bible School on Matthew 4:1-11, when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert and it hits me. Christ was tempted in every way we are- with the very inalienable rights that Jefferson claimed that He (God, therefore Jesus) endowed us with.

Stay with me.

So Jefferson derived his "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" from the writings of royal pediatrician and British natural rights philosopher, John Locke. Part of what Lock believed made us all the same and therefore all "created equal," were what he called natural rights. He believed that he had observed that everyone is driven toward certain things, life, liberty, and property.

Locke isn't the only great thinker to think this. Thomas Hobbes believed that we're all in a constant state of conflict and competition for power and resources. Theologians might call that our state of original sin.

Sigmund Freud felt that we are all driven by the basic survival urges of pleasure and pain, or sex and death.

Abraham Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, including everything from food, clothing, and shelter (the teen equivalent of life, liberty,and property) all the way up to self-actualization.

I try to help eighth grade Civics students understand their common need for civility, reasonable classroom behavior, and Locke & Jefferson's rational of natural rights by discussing psychologist William Glasser's theory that we're all driven by five basic and genetically-driven needs; survival, love, competence, autonomy, and learning.

Before you start thinking I'm on a hopeless tangent, let me bring you back to Matthew 4 in the desert.
After Jesus is baptized by His cousin John in the Jordan, the Bible says that the Spirit led Him into the desert where He fasted for 40 days and then was tempted by the Devil.

First, Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread... Jesus had a right to LIFE after all. Jesus let Satan know that God's Word, nourishment for the soul is more important than mere food for the body (Deut. 8:3).

Second, Satan led Jesus up to the highest part of the temple and told Him to jump off- why not, God promised that you won't get hurt... take advantage of your LIBERTY. Jesus pointed out in resisting this temptation, that just because God promises to protect us doesn't mean we should push our luck (so to speak, see also Deut. 6:16 & Exodus 17:7).

Finally, Satan offers Jesus the world. Literally. All the power, wealth, and fame He could want (PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS/PROPERTY), if He's just forsake God the Father and bow down to Satan, acknowledge who really ran the show. To which Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:13 "You shall Fear the Lord your God, serve him only..."

So you see, Jesus knows what we need and He knows what it's like to not only need these things, but to desire more of them than we need. Hoarding any of these things, that is ruthlessly pursuing our own "rights" at the expense of detriment of others- that is selfishness, that is greed, that is sin, THAT is tyranny!

Monday, July 30, 2012

All you need is love

8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. 
~Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)

So if you won't take Jesus Word for it (Mark 12:30-31), will you at least listen to St. Paul?
(No, I don't mean "Sir Paul," although he sang it pretty well too.)

My point is, fearing, judging, denying rights, taking advantage of, isolating, marginalizing, arming ones self to the teeth, neglecting, disparaging, lying about, defaming, mis-characterizing, thinking your superior to... doing all of these things to your neighbor are not the same as loving them.

...workers need to be paid

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Romans 13:6 (NLT)So the Tea Party is pretty much anti-God? Obviously Scott Walker and Grover Norquist don't read their Bibles.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Liberal Values

Liberal values ARE Biblical values. See if you can't spot these values in the following passage of Scripture: Empathy, Community, Compassion, Responsibility, Peace, Love, Humility, Integrity, Equality, Dignity, Respect.

What's missing? War, Revenge, Privilege, Apathy, Indifference, Fear, Anger, Indignation, Selfishness, Bigotry (both latent and overt).

Romans 12:14-21New International Version (NIV)14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited. 
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Get Fruity!

When you think about it, these are like Jesus' character traits. Why wouldn't anyone want to be more like Him? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop these in your own character and life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Relativism vs. Absolutism

Conservatives are always railing on what they think is the greatest evil of our time, relativism.

Ya know what? They may be on to something, because I believe that there are at least a few real absolutes in this world; God's grace, God's mercy, God's kindness, God's patience, God's forgiveness, and most absolute of all, God's unconditional and undeserved love.

Thank God for how absolutely amazing these are. And may God use us to share them with others. Amen?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Anger Management

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. ~Ephesians 4:26-27

A lot of people have used part of this verse as marital advice and rightly so. Couples that make a point of resolving their arguments avoid building up resentment and building up walls between each other.

But this verse is important to so many more people for so many more reasons.

Anger is Normal

Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, unless we get carried away with it or try to quench it in unhealthy ways. Jesus got angry with the money changers who had changed His Father's house into a den of robbers. 

God the Father was angry throughout much of the Old Testament. Some people mistakenly think this is a bad thing or that He's somehow a different god than the New Testament God until you look closely and see what He got angry about; injustice, idolatry, cruelty, self-indulgent hedonism with wanton disregard for other human beings, rape, human sacrifice to false deities, etc. etc. 
"But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." ~Romans 2:7-9
Anger is just a feeling. God has emotions just like we do.

God is jealous and wants us not only to love Him, but to love others as ourselves. He created us for relationships and community, interdependence. He has every right to be angry or indignant when we deny, defile, and disparage Him, His creation, and those He created in His own image (everyone).

Psalm 103 promises that "He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his angerforever;" and that " The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

Bad Examples

People often site the Apostle Peter as an example of a Christian who struggled with anger issues. This should not be used as an excuse to let ourselves get carried away with anger. I'm sure Peter would tell us he wished he didn't get so angry so quickly so often. Call it impulsiveness, zeal, passion, or over-enthusiasm, he could be like a charging bull until Jesus rebuked him.

Peter's not the only example of Biblical figures with anger issues. Moses struck the rock in anger and frustration without giving God credit for His miraculous provision of water in the desert for the Israelites. 

Paul's thorn in the flesh may well have been guilt over how as Saul (before his conversion), he so zealously pursued not just persecution of the early church, but virtual genocide. One might call what motivated him indignation, "defending" his Jewish/Pharisee faith from the infidels, or you could call it anger & hatred, religious bigotry.

Anger is often a reaction to hurt or fear

Think of an animal backed into a corner. Ever seen a cat or an opossum hiss? Generally it's because they feel threatened. Bears, honey badgers, rattle snakes? Same thing.

I contend that most people who claim to be Atheists aren't. If someone genuinely doesn't believe in God, then they may be incredulous of believers, but mostly they're indifferent about religion. 

Most people I've know who claim to be atheists are seething with anger. Sometimes they have a right to be angry with human institutions like churches or religious or political movements, or perhaps with their parents or some pastor or other religious figure who were hypocrites.

But sometimes I think that they're wounded or disappointed and blame God for not doing things differently. 

Be Proactive, not Reactionary

Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden told his players that emotions could be their enemy during a game. He wanted them to be prepared for anything, to be so well practiced, that their reactions would be automatic. Getting too caught up in emotional responses to situations could impair their judgement.

When we allow our anger to determine our behaviors rather than Godly principles like love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, etc. we are prone to get ourselves into trouble- not to mention do a lot of damage. 

Think about when you most often succumb to temptation- or for that matter, go looking for it. Often it is when you're angry. 

When do people resort to violence? Use profanity? Make over-generalizations? Use racial slurs? Indulge in pornography? Over eat? Abuse drugs or alcohol? Impulse buy?Take advantage of other people? Become most highly competitive? Commit adultery? Cheat? Vandalize? Steal? Slander people? Start rumors? Conspire against someone? Over react? Demand our own way?

Yep. When we're angry. At least I know that's when I'm most likely to sin or make bad choices. I bet if you think about it, this may be true for you as well.

We use anger to justify putting our own interests ahead of other people's rights, needs, and desires.

Oh, you might say that people do those things when they're sad or lonely or hurting or depressed or feeling sorry for themselves and you might be right, but what is depression? Isn't it self-hatred? Someone once called it anger-turned-inward.

When you get down to it, anger is often about feeling resentful that you aren't getting your way. Bottom line, it's often triggered by selfishness. Wanting control. Lucifer wanted that. Adam & Eve wanted that. Cain wanted that. Anger and pride go hand in hand. Anger can lead to idolatry.

Ironically, Coach Wooden would tell you, giving in to anger takes away the very control that it seeks. Anger can make you reckless.

You can't dig your way out of a hole

As soon as you try to feed your anger with sin instead of seeking God's help, you are "giving the devil a foothold." Often we give our spiritual enemies leverage to use against us by giving in to our anger and pursuing it rather than surrendering it or finding ways to dilute or dissipate it. 

If some one budges in front of me in line, will shoving them back make things better or just escalate the problem? Two wrongs don't make a right, right. If one partner is unfaithful, does it really solve anything for the other partner to "get even" by cheating too? 
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate:only love can do that." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Strategy for Chilling-Out

Anger management is not just a new Charlie Sheen sitcom. It is slowing down and thinking things through. One trick is to count down from one hundred backwards, another is rhythmic breathing, and a great one is just taking a deep yoga cleansing breath.

There's an old trick that recovering addicts have found that sometimes helps them. When they most have an urge to give in to their old addiction- they tell themselves to HALT. 

They ask themselves, what could be causing these feelings? Is it hunger? Low blood-sugar makes people cranky, even irrational. Just like anger. Grab a snack to help you feel better. Just like those Snickers commercials.

Are you genuinely angry? Is there a good reason for you to be so angry? Are you justified in your anger? If so, wouldn't it be better to be rational, deliberate, and strategic about how you deal with the issue? Think it through, talk to wise people you trust for advice, and especially pray about it.

Lonely? Seek fellowship with those who will bring you back to joy rather than anger, with those who will encourage you and build you up- not contribute to the negativity or indulge your self-pity. If nothing else just get out and be with people rather than sitting and stewing. So what if they're shallow acquaintances rather than anyone you have some deep intimacy with. Social interaction is vital. So what if they're platonic friends and not some romantic ideal? The key is being with people. And remember that you're never truly along because God is always available. Always, always pray- no matter how angry you think you are. God has a way of calming you down.

Tired? Yeah, guess what, just like hunger, fatigue and sleep-deprivation also make us really irritable. Crankiness looks a lot like anger. Get some rest. As a matter of fact, while it may not be good to "let the sun go down on your anger," it may be better to let the dust settle and sleep on it for a while and look at things from a fresh perspective in the morning.

The best thing about the HALT trick is that it reminds you to be responsible for your behavior- rather than letting it be controlled by your feelings or your physiology.

'Let go and let God'

Why is it so important not to let yourself get carried away with anger? Not only does He tell us not to take revenge (Romans 12:19), but "human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." ~James 1:19-21

Too often many Christians allow themselves to be motivated by fear and anger. We thinks somehow that we have to "defend the faith." I for one would much rather have God defending me. God doesn't need you to fight His battles for Him, but we would do well to let Him fight our battles for us.


Dear God,
Shape my being into earnest kindness,
A reflection of Your perfection.
Grant me the grace of self-control,
That I may not display any anger.
Should I have such an outburst,
Instantly remind me to seek redress,
For such is offensive to You.
In Jesus' name,