Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Now Sing We, Now Rejoice

Come from on high to me;

I can-not rise to Thee.
Cheer my wearied spirit,
O pure and holy Child;
Through Thy grace and merit,
Blest Jesus, Lord most mild,
Draw me unto Thee! Draw me unto Thee!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Personal Bible Study of the Lord's Prayer

When I was in college, our professors used to tell us to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. The other day, it dawned on me that Jesus calls Himself the Bread of life and that a healthy faith-life really requires daily time with Him. So I dug around and found other verses which I feel like relates to and/or expounds on the petitions found in the Lord's Prayer. (It's in the Bible itself, in case you thought it was just a tradition the church developed somewhere along the line; see Matthew 6 and Luke 11).

Our daily bread

I tend to beg and plead with God when I get to the to the petition in the Lord's Prayer about giving us this day our daily bread (especially that last week before payday). But I bet you'll think about that part of the prayer differently when you remember what Jesus calls HIMSELF in John chapter 6, verses 33, 35, 48, & 51.

Go ahead, look them up. I'll wait. In fact, why don't you go ahead and pray the Lord's Prayer right away after reading John 6:33-51. Mind blown? Let it sink in. 

It makes me want to seek Him in His Word & prayer more and daily. Hope it will you too. Why starve, when there's so much mana every morning?

Monday, December 02, 2013

This Advent, may HOPE take you prisoner.

Isaiah 2

New International Version (NIV)

The Mountain of the Lord

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Last Sunday's Old Testament lesson (above) was a wonderful reminder for me. Isaiah gave us an image of Heaven, where man "ain't gonna study war no more." 

Keep your eye on the prize, look past and through the darkness at the light at the end of the tunnel. Discouraged? Depressed? Frightened? Stressed? Look past your present circumstances and remember that whatever your're going through, it won't last forever.

If we put on the helmet of hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8 & Ephesians 6:17), God's hope will protect our heads- God will guard our minds (Philippians 4:7).

Lets face it, the holiday seasons can be stressful; work, family, finances. So guess what, maybe instead of focusing on everything you have to try to get done and who you think you have to please and how you're going to afford it- focus on Jesus. What a gift! The creator of the whole universe gave His only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we too can be His beloved children! 

When you keep that love in mind, it puts things in perspective. That perspective has given me a new motto:

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” - Prof. Cornel West

And this is why I have been praying this verse so much for myself and for others-  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

Psalm 33:20-22

New Living Translation (NLT)
20 We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Time for a Cease-Fire in the so-called 'War on Christmas'

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, -1 Peter 3:15
Why do some Christians become so hostile, defensive,angry, indignant, even downright belligerent about making sure to "keep Christ in CHRISTmas?"

If you truly believe that He is who He claims to be, then He certainly doesn't need mere humans to stand up for Him. God doesn't need us to fight for Him. And the truth is always able to stand by itself.

Instead, we should consider His example. Consider Philippians 2:3-8
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature] of a servant,being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfby becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Jesus didn't come down like Thor with a hammer and lightning and shout "Hey, look at ME!" Instead, He came as a frail, fragile, humble, poor, baby in a livestock feed-bunk.
Being sensitive to the cultures, traditions and feelings of others doesn't mean you're condoning apostasy. Being a Christian does not mean being territorial about His "birthday." So Jews, Pagans, Hindus, and Secularists all have festivals of light coincidentally this same time of year? So does materialistic consumer-capitalism, if you haven't noticed.

Originally being "Christian" meant being little-Christs, literally His imitators. How are we imitating Him when we are bullying others into silence and submission or whining about being allegedly victimized by the rest of the society? We are the mainstream majority here in the United States. There are certainly places where Christians face persecution and marginalization (Syria, Egypt, Nigeria) but the U.S. isn't one of them.
Back to 1 Peter 5, verse 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats do not be frightened.” and verses 17 & 18- For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
If we truly believe in Jesus, and want to be like Him, rather than DEMANDING that others honor Him, we will be ready, willing, and able to put up with whatever persecution might come. Both for His sake, and for the sake of those who would do us harm. Because that's exactly what Jesus did, He suffered and even died for the sake of those who hate Him.

It seems to me that all this getting prickly about this being a season just for Christ and Christians isn't very Christ-like. If anything it's pretty typically human. Sinful, selfish, short-sighted, human. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

O' Dark Early!

Psalm 119: 147

I am up before dawn crying for help. I find hope in your word.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Earth & All Stars

I love this hymn. It always used to be a "back-to-school" hymn (Lutheran K-8 & College). This year we hadn't sung it till today Lutheran Service Book #817. Based on Psalm 96:1, Psalm 149:1-3, and Isaiah 42:10-12.

Earth and all stars, Loud rushing planets Sing to the Lord a new song! Hail, wind, and rain, Loud blowing snowstorm Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. We too will praise Him with a new song! 

Steel and machines, Loud pounding hammers Sing to the Lord a new song! Limestone and beams, Loud building workers Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. We too will praise Him with a new song! 

Classrooms and labs, Loud boiling test tubes Sing to the Lord a new song! Athlete and band, Loud cheering people Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. We too will praise Him with a new song! 

Knowledge and truth, Loud sounding wisdom Sing to the Lord a new song! Daughter and son, Loud praying members Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. We too will praise Him with a new song! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Praise God for Liberal Ideas in the Bible

I'm not sure how you can oppose affordable health care, helping the poor, providing economic and racial justice and equality, or immigration reform when you read this psalm. I know I have "liberal glasses on," but come on.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Equity, Economic Disparity, & Redistribution of Wealth

Read 2 Corinthians 8, I believe it may just make you think that Saint Paul was... a SOCIALIST!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you

Isaiah 66:10-14

New International Version (NIV)
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
    all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
    all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
    at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
    and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
12 For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river,
    and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
    and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you;
    and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice
    and you will flourish like grass;
the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants,
    but his fury will be shown to his foes.

Today's Old Testament lesson is some pretty sweet poetry, not to mention seriously savory Gospel.
Sure the 10-14yr old boys will probably snicker at the breast-feeding image.
Be that as it may, it is an incredible image, finding comfort in the arms of a nurturing and compassionate parent. THAT is our God.

I may take flack for this from conservative LCMS Lutheran theologians, but lets face it, for eons many believers have likened the Holy Spirit to God's "feminine side." From the church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia) in Constantinople, to Michelangelo painting a woman at God the Father's side in the portion of the Sistine Chapel that depicts the creation of Adam (is she Eve, just some Angel, or the third person of the Trinity?). Skip all that if you like, God Himself is comparing His love and comfort for us to that of a new mom! Comfort personified.

My hyper-analytical brain went to work on the name Jerusalem right away. Was Isaiah talking about the geographical city of Jerusalem? or the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:20? For that matter, are God, Isaiah, & St. John all speaking allegorically?

"Salem" is Hebrew for peace or completion (better yet, whole, perfect & complete peace- Philippians 4:7). but no one really knows the true meaning of the prefix "Jeru." See, Jerusalem isn't exactly a Hebrew word. There was a city of Jerusalem before there was a kingdom of Israel (Genesis 14:18-20). Some people have said that it may mean something like "the King's" or "God's," thus Jerusalem would be either "City of God, or City of God's Peace." I know, ironic that so many have warred over it for so many years, right.

So let me speculate (God, and whatever Lutheran clergy forgive my if I'm being waaay off base here), I'm the first to admit that I'm no expert. But what if the Jerusalem Isaiah and John are both talking about here isn't a place, but a concept? The concept being the church. God's people. The "Body of Christ."

Revelation 21:9 says that the New Jerusalem is THE bride of the Lamb of God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all have God comparing Israel and/or Jerusalem to an adulterous wife. I have to be careful here, don't misinterpret what I'm talking about as antisemitic; its not as simple as the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, so the message of salvation goes to the gentiles. What I guess I'm getting at is that if the Church is His "Bride," and its the Holy Spirit who "calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies" the Church...

I understand that the visible church, the hierarchies and institutions, the politics and sin and abuse and denominational rifts and sects- that's not a nursing mother. Hours of banal council and trustee meetings surely isn't comforting. God knows plenty of pastors and evangelists have at least been raging hypocrites and and worst heinous monsters. So it may be hard to imagine the church on Earth being Christ's bride. But keep wresting with this idea with me.

Peter does talk about God's Word (the Bible) as mother's milk for newborn babies (1 Peter 2:2). Jesus Himself is the Word of God... and while we're at it, the Holy Spirit is the very breath (pneuma) of God. Maybe this is just all so much Divine mystery, but stay with me just a little further. There is what people call the "invisible church."

The point was this- That if/when we allow God to live and work in and through us collectively (call it fellowship or koinonia or communion or whatever), then this "body" can surely share the satisfying, consoling love, joy,comfort and peace, which can only originate from God Himself.

We are (or should be) the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ and there for, the city, the kingdom, the community, even the very body of of Christ. And in that way, His PARTNERS.

So that not only are we welcomed by God the Holy Spirit (Soul, Wisdom, Breath, Thinking, Inspiration) to find warmth and comfort under Her wings (Matt. 23:3&), but as we gather into God's family, we too can extend peace like a river to those who need it, by sharing God's love, forgiveness, and grace.

Matthew 23:37

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cesar Chavez Prayer

Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I will know my people's plight. Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person. Help me take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life. Give me honesty and patience, so that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life. Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world. Amen.

- A prayer by Cesar Chavez

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Equality & Justice

The LORD promotes equity and justice; the LORD's faithfulness extends throughout the earth. ~Psalm 33:5

I don't know about conservatives, but as a liberal, this is what I think of when I pray "Thy kingdom come." ALL men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights."

Maybe the right wingers aren't so off when they say that our laws were based on the Bible. Ya suppose Jefferson ever read this verse in Psalm 33?

Ah, but to we Americans really believe in and treat everyone equally? Throughout the Earth? Do we evenly & fairly offer genuine justice? To everyone?

I don't have a problem including "under God" in the pledge, so long as we remember the "with liberty and justice for ALL" part, and try to make it come true.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

POEM; Denominational Deconstructionism

The end is near

God is angry
about permissiveness
about abandoned traditions
about relativism most of all.

there are bats in our belfry
and snakes in our basement
disregarded Tupperware in the kitchen
that the Ladies' Aid would like to have claimed
or they will put it on the auction block next Summer
Should we contract ahead for fuel oil now
for next winter?

Somewhere between esoteric eschatology
and banal minutia

I sit


with Tillich and Kierkegaard,
Barth and Dostoevsky
and stewing
in Purgatory.

No matter how many indulgences
Tetzel would sell
he'd never get me out of this Earthly Hell.

Its not other people, as said Kant
but out of this church voters' meeting
that I want!

Motion to adjourn

to the tavern
with professors Luther and Melanchthon
for a pint

will join us.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Luke 11:29-54

When you read Luke 11:29-54 (especially the 7 woes), what you might notice is that it's not that Jesus is such a social or political revolutionary (He is first and foremost the Son of God and our spiritual messiah, He is about our souls), but those who opposed Him, the Pharisees & teachers of the law- they were all about social & political power and prestige when THEY'RE the ones who should've been concentrating on the spiritual.

It's kind of like how those who claim to oppose class warfare are usually the ones who've already been benefiting from waging war on the poor.

Jesus makes clear that God desires mercy over sacrifice, sincerity over lip-service, a real relationship with Him rather than just fiercely identifying yourself with Him. Repentance and regret over the sins of our ancestors rather than fancy memorials. And justice, liberty, and equality rather than institutionalized religious elitism.

I can see participants in the reformation seeing Luke 11:29-54 as applying to the church of the renaissance as much as to the Pharisees. We need to read it as if it applies to us in the 21st century West too.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The War's Over!

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They shall not overpow'r us.
This world's prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He's judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him. 
~'A Mightly Fortress' by Martin Luther

This past week things just seemed to pile on. I admit, I'd succumed to the "diabolical D's;" doubt, discouragement, and depression. It felt like I was under attack. Too many hassles seemed to continue to wear me down. I really began to wonder if there wasn't some kind of spiritual aspect to my stress. Was this "Spiritual warfare?"

While I'm not so fundamentalist/evangelical to blame every problem, stressor and mistake on Satan- I'm also not skeptical/humanist enough to discount or deny the existence of angels and demons. I may be my own worst enemy and there are plenty of obstacles provided by the world itself, but I also know that the Devil would love to see us harm, whether he has a direct hand in it or not.

So, I hunkered down on my daily scripture reading/devotions & prayer time and I sought some prayer-cover from some warriors I know. 

Two things got me thinking about the very concept of spiritual warfare though. First (and most importantly) Easter. Jesus paid the ultimate cost on the cross, but then He didn't descend into Hell to suffer more, He went there to declare victory. Christians should always remember that Jesus won the victory against sin, death , and the Devil. There is nothing that we can add or detract (like Lincoln said about Gettysburg). 

The other thing that got me thinking was how many (so called "Christians") use fear and anger to manipulate people into accepting Christ. Hell, judgement, an angry God, torture by demons all seem to be ways that some among us seek to guilt and pressure us into falling into line with their positions and opinions. They want us to believe that we're either on God's side, or on Satan's side.

First of all, Satan is NOT God's equal and opposite. Satan is finite, individual, limited, and defeated. Secondly, God IS love. He does not coerce or manipulate. He is patient, kind, and merciful. He loves us enough to sacrifice His only begotten Son so that we can become His adopted sons and daughters.

Now, I'm still a bit beleaguered and fatigued, anxious and stressed. And I'm sure's heck accepting and grateful for the prayers of others. Perhaps I'm being tested, or "on the anvil" as author Max Lucado calls being tempered and prepared by the Lord. Perhaps I'm not facing anything that anyone else goes through. But no matter how tough it gets (and believe me, a lot of people have it a lot worse than I do), I know that my Redeemer lives. I also know that I don't have to worry about fighting, all I have to do is stand firm and claim the victory Jesus already won.

See also Psalm 46: 1-11, Romans 8:31-19, Ephesians 6:10-17, and Revelation 19:11-16

Thursday, April 04, 2013

No Harm (so no fear)

Luke 10:19-20 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Monday, April 01, 2013

Love enemies | Do unto others | Judge not | Produce good fruit

I read Luke 6:27ff for morning devotions today.

Once again I'm dumbfounded how anyone could read Jesus teachings and claim to believe & follow Him, yet also behave the ways we often do and support media, business, & political leaders who behave the way they do.

Luke 6:27-45, reminds me of kind, compassionate, & humble people who advocate for the oppressed and oppose bullying.

How if one reads & internalized Christ's teaching in Matthew 5 & Luke 6 could anyone still hold onto a philosophy focused on self interest?

I encourage my non-Christian and skeptical, agnostic, & humanist friends to read just these 2 chapters of the Bible. I'll bet you'll end up appreciating, respecting, even admiring Jesus in spite of how ridiculously hypocritical His followers can be.

I also encourage my conservative and religious friends to review Matt 5 & Luke 6. I'll bet the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to just how much 21st cen American Christians are just like the Pharisees and teachers of the law during Jesus time. My prayer is that God will reveal to you how the media demagogues, political shills and televangelists we listen to and support are just the blind leading the blind.

May knowing what Jesus really taught change all our minds... and hearts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Psalm 49; The Rich Die Too

5 Why should I be afraid in times of trouble, when the sinful deeds of deceptive men threaten to overwhelm me?
6 They trust in their wealth and boast in their great riches.
7 Certainly a man cannot rescue his brother; he cannot pay God an adequate ransom price
8 (the ransom price for a human life is too high, and people go to their final destiny),
9 so that he might continue to live forever and not experience death.
10 Surely one sees that even wise people die; fools and spiritually insensitive people all pass away and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their grave becomes their permanent residence, their eternal dwelling place. They name their lands after themselves,
12 but, despite their wealth, people do not last, they are like animals that perish.
13 This is the destiny of fools, and of those who approve of their philosophy. (Selah)
14 They will travel to Sheol like sheep, with death as their shepherd. The godly will rule over them when the day of vindication dawns; Sheol will consume their bodies and they will no longer live in impressive houses.
15 But God will rescue my life from the power of Sheol; certainly he will pull me to safety. (Selah)
16 Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich and his wealth multiplies!
17 For he will take nothing with him when he dies; his wealth will not follow him down into the grave.
18 He pronounces this blessing on himself while he is alive: "May men praise you, for you have done well!"
19 But he will join his ancestors; they will never again see the light of day.
20 Wealthy people do not understand; they are like animals that perish.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Short, Simple Prayer

"Lord... Look down here," ~Athol Dickson

Good thing too

"God can pick sense out of a confused prayer." ~Richard Sibbes

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Something every teen & preteen needs to learn

"...and patience is better than pride." Ecclesiastes 5:8b

God is my refuge

Psalm 59:16-18 "As for me, I will sing about your strength; I will praise your loyal love in the morning. For you are my refuge and my place of shelter when I face trouble.
You are my source of strength! I will sing praises to you! For God is my refuge, the God who loves me."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

From the heart

"Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart." ~Martin Luther

Its all about trust

"Don't expect faith to clear things up for you.
It is TRUST, not certainty." ~Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Relax, Take your coat off, stay awhile. Make yourself at home.

"Prayer for many is like a foreign land. When we go there, we go as tourists. Like most tourists, we feel uncomfortable and out of place. Like most tourists, we therefore move on before too long and go somewhere else." ~Robert McAffee Brown

Friday, March 08, 2013

What a friend we have in Jesus

"Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God." ~St.Terrsa of Avila


"Lord, let me make a difference for You
that is utterly disproportionate to who I am."

~John Piper

Thursday, March 07, 2013

God does not stand afar off

"God does not stand afar off as I struggle to speak. he cares enough to listen with more than casual attention. He translates my scrubby words and hears what is truly inside. He hears my sighs and uncertain groppings as fine prose." ~Timothy Jones

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Wealth from Oppression

Psalm 62:10
Do not trust in what you can gain by oppression! Do not put false confidence in what you can gain by robbery! If wealth increases, do not become attached to it!

Buck Up

"If one has never suffered,
one cannot understand
what hope is."
~Martin Luther
(See also Romans 5:3-5 & 2 Corinthians 1:4)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

In the secret place

" In the secret- in the quiet place
In the stillness, You are there
In the quiet hour
I wait for you
'Cause I want to know You more...

I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more."

~Andy Park

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Great Tragedy in Life

"The great tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer." ~F.B.Meyer

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Can't sleep?

"Find rest,
O my soul,
in God alone;
my hope
comes from Him."
~Psalm 62:5

Swap the Sloop for a Skiff

Ahoy Mateys- If you're one of the wee few who follow the PP&P, you probably already realized this, but you can now follow this blog on the go. Check us out on your phone, iPod or favorite mobile device. Blogger now makes us compact & convenient! Tell your friends. Maka Pule!

Stark Contrast

29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 

31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 

~LUKE 12:29-31

Here's a stark contrast between what God wants us to do and what we naturally want to do left to our own devices. We worry and fear and compete. God wants us to trust Him, depend on Him, and do as He does/has shown us to do. We want to gather, accumulate and defend what we've hoarded. "Mine, Mine, Mine!" And we do it all following Machiavelli's philosophy "The ends justifies the means." Following the world's rules; "all's fair in love and war" and "finder's keepers, losers weepers," "possession is 9/10ths of the law," and "he who dies with the most toys wins."

Whereas, God doesn't want us to use people and love things, He wants us to use things and love people.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, to love and pray for our enemies and to sell our possessions and give them to the poor. After all, what is His kingdom? Is it the political revolution that the crowds were clamoring for in John 6:14-15? If it were, instead of being sacrificed on a cross, like a sheep lead to the slaughter, wouldn't his followers, or even the angels, come and overthrown the Romans and established a thousand year reign in Jerusalem (see John 18:36)?

Isn't Jesus' kingdom about reconciling sinners with God? Isn't it about grace, forgiveness, and mercy? Isn't His new commandment to love one another? Therefore isn't expanding God's dominion achieved by spreading love joy peace and patience? Aren't the statutes and regulations of the Kingdom, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? 

It is counter-intuitive, but lots of things in life are like that. The harder you chase after things, the more you lose. "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?(Mark 8:36 & Luke 9:25)" But if we unclench our greedy fists and open our hands in praise & thanksgiving, God pours out His blessings beyond what we can hold or hope to collect on our own.

This is the difference between our selfish, sinful human nature- like Thomas Hobbes described; all mankind in a constant struggle and war for security, resources, and power- AND- selfless, Christ-like new creations producing the fruit of the Spirit. And what do you do with fruit? Pick it, eat it, and use whats left over to plant more fruit trees! 

"Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness" ~James 3:18

"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." ~2 Corinthians 9:10

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Challenge for Lent; Say WHAAAAT?!!
A Valentine Prayer for your Arch-Nemesis?!

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," ~Jesus (Matthew 5:44 ) 
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Okay, so I try to actually do what Jesus says, even as counter-intuitive and counter-cultural as it seems. But, what about that total jerk (I'd use profanity, but after all, this IS a religious blog). That MONSTER that I just can't deal with? What about the person who DESERVES my loathing and not my loving?

Really? Isn't that ALL of us? Seriously. Maybe there's someone who just seems to constantly make your life a living hell. Maybe its their attitude, their behavior, things they say. Maybe they're really "gunning for you," they really enjoy hurting you or demoralizing you day in and day out. 

First of all, I bet that if you step back and get some perspective, you may realize that you're just might be being a little bit paranoid. Odds are they're actually indifferent toward you.

But okay, so for whatever reason, you've neurotically given them way too much space in your head. Even if it IS just your imagination, what ABOUT that person? How on Earth do you ever muster the humility or self-discipline to pray for THAT person?

When in doubt, read the instructions. Most people who've been reading the Bible for a while will tell you that St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13 is the "Love Chapter." I'll bet you see it quoted all over the place today since its Valentine's Day. 

So here's my idea. Take verses 4-6 in particular and pray them FOR that person. A Pentecostal or Charismatic blogger might tell you to pray them "over" that person. Here's the passage, followed by how a prayer like this might look-
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
"Dear God, __________________ is driving me CRAZY! I don't know if they hate me or if they're deliberately trying to make me feel like this, or if they just don't care how they treat anyone.

Lord, PLEASE change their heart, change their attitude, change how they treat me.

Make them patient, make them KIND! Don't let them be jealous (if that's whats going on), make them be humble, make them respect others, help them not be so selfish. Whatever I may have done, help them not be so angry with me. Help us to start over. Help them see things more clearly.

In Jesus Name, Amen"

Yeah, come to think of it, this might require that you read 1 Cor 13 over and over again until you have it memorized so that you can apply it like this. That, or you'll have to pray for that person the next time you crack open your Bible, or start carrying a small Bible around with you, or download one of those free Bible Apps onto your iPod or smart phone. Well, really, would any of those things be such bad ideas?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Challenge for Lent; Love our enemies

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," ~Jesus (Matthew 5:44 ) 
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Here's a challenge for Lent: instead of giving something up, start something. Start praying for your enemies.

Who are your enemies? You figure you're such a good person that you don't have any enemies?

How about the person who cut you off in traffic or took the parking spot you were hoping for? How about the family member or in-law who makes snide remarks or jabs about something you did or said? How about the ex who you feel betrayed by? That co-worker or boss or customer or whoever at work that just knows how to zap the joy out of your day or trample on your last nerve?

What if, instead of wasting your energy on being ticked off at them, you said a quick prayer for them?

Sure, you COULD say a prayer ABOUT them; "God give me patience with this jerk" or "God, would you DESTROY this idiot?!!"

But what if you prayed FOR them? "Lord, I don't know why this person said that (or acted a certain way), but please help them to have peace- if only so that they won't be such a jerk." or how about "Lord, please help them to realize that the way they just said that makes people feel like crap."

Oh, I know it doesn't come naturally, and it won't be easy. But I'm putting out the challenge. ( I may or may not be able to write something about this throughout Lent, but with God's help, I'm going to try to do it for the next 40 days.) Join me if you have the guts. If we say we believe in Jesus, this is one way we can actually comply with His directions, not to mention imitate His example.