Because it's my blog ...

Because it's my blog ... I can post this.

Please, no matter what your theological views, read it ...

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/parents-lgbt

It feels a bit like it ties in with my posting of the Barna survey on how many Christians follow the teachings of the Pharisees over the teachings of Jesus.

Again, I am not saying this is an easy issue.

But we should pay attention to the pain.

Such pain ...

 

God is for the poor?

I taught yesterday at one of our satellite venues.

I stated that the way the incarnation happened demonstrates (as does almost all of Jesus’ life) that God's heart, as Philip Yancey writes, tilts toward the underdog.

I shared the Scripture from Isaiah that Jesus read in Luke chapter 4 as he inaugurated his earthly ministry where he announces that God has anointed him to:

“… preach good news to the poor,

to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

recovery of sight for the blind

to set the oppressed free …”

After the service, a woman approached me quite vigorously as I tried to sneak out to get home to my family and my warm and comfortable home.

She looked me right in the eye and said,

“I have a question for you:

If God is for the poor, like you said he is, why am I still poor?

Why doesn’t my car start?

Why does my heat get shut off and no one seems to care?

If God is for the poor, why doesn’t he help me?”

“Um,” I said … “I don’t know the answer to your question. God never promised to make you ‘not poor’ but he sure promises to be with you, no matter what.”

Cheezy smile … hoping this answer will appease.

“Well, that is no help to me,” she said.

“I just want to know why I am still poor if you say Jesus came to give me good news. Where is my good news?”

When I got home I told Chuck that Jesus had confronted me about how smoothly words about God’s concern for the poor had dribbled out of my middle-class mouth from the pulpit.

I am still unsettled.

How would you have answered Jesus had he asked you this question in his “distressing disguise?”

The details of life ...

My husband and I have been having conversation lately about the power of distraction and getting bogged down in the details and minutiae of life.

I think it was Thoreau who said that life often is frittered away by details.

For instance, we have been frittering our lives away with the details of getting a new post light out near our driveway ever since a huge branch fell off a tree and crushed our old one.

Oh, the details!! Picking a new one. Buying it. Returning it because it is broken. Buying a new one. Putting it on. Looking at it. Deciding it is too small and looks stupid. Taking it off. Packing it up. Returning it.

And, now we need to find another new one.

I came across this quote from Epictetus, a Greek Philosopher, who lived a long, long time ago.

He describes our thoughts perfectly:

There is a time and place for diversion and amusements, but you should never allow them to override your true purposes. If you were on a voyage and the ship anchored in a harbor, you might go ashore for water. Along the way, you might happen to pick up a shellfish or a plant. But be careful; listen for the call of the captain. Keep your attention directed at the ship. Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world.

What are your trifles?

What details cause you to fritter your life away?

How can you better stay attuned to the call of the captain?

A bit of travel ...

After a two full weeks of not feeling well, and a full weekend of serving, I am so happy to be taking off for a 5-day trip to see my kids.

That makes my soul happy.

I won’t be posting to my blog while I am gone.

I am just going to focus on the joy of travel, time with my husband, great food in great cities and the joy of being with my favorite people!

In the meantime, I hope you will spend some time exploring one of my favorite websites …

www.becomingminimalist.com

Some of the best writing I know on slowing down, paring down, simplifying, pursuing generosity and contentment and really living, rather than just running.

Enjoy …

What pours out ...

“If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts.

It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us.

Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.”

(Oswald Chambers)

What if this was the way we assessed our lives?

Or, better yet ... What if we just stayed so close to Jesus that He couldn't help but pour his love and grace into us, and then right out through us into our broken world?

And then perhaps we wouldn't even be bothered to think about assessing ourselves or trying to measure success.

We would know that our only job was to stay real, real close to Jesus. As if that were enough. Because it is.

God's Mission ...

I remember sitting in a class listening to people answer the question, “What is God’s mission in the world?”

To be honest, I was really disappointed by the answers.

They were almost all kind of individualistic in nature.

Many of them were violent and kind of “end-times” oriented … the idea that all God cared about was getting a bunch of individuals into heaven before he blew the rest of the world to bits.

There were no answers that seemed big enough to be God’s, you know?

My heart and soul were uninspired.

And so I went searching, both in the Bible and from great thinkers: Where could I find a richer, deeper, truer understanding about what God’s mission is in this messed up world?

I went back to one of the modern day classics, NT Wright’s book, Simply Christian, which many compare to CS Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity.

Here’s how Wright spells out God’s mission:

“Christianity is about the belief that the Living God, in fulfillment of his promises and as the climax of the story of Israel, has accomplished all this – the finding, saving, the giving of new life – in Jesus. He has done it.

With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once and for all. A great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we’ve been keep chained up.

We are offered freedom: freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access.

In particular, we are all invited – summoned, actually – to discover, through following Jesus, that this new world is indeed a place of justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty, and that we are not only to enjoy it as such but to work at bringing it to birth on earth as in heaven.

In listening to Jesus, we discover whose voice it is that has echoed around the hearts and minds of the human race all along.”

Now that … that motivates me!

Why Judge?

I have often wondered how the church, which was founded on amazing grace, became a place of judgment for people struggling with sin.

Which is really all of us, if you think about it.

 Here is a thought:

I think the church moves toward judgment of those outside our walls because it is much easier to judge others than it is to love, and to submit our own darkness to the transforming ways of God.

And so we judge. Despite what the Scriptures tell us is our main job.

Paul says that love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)

He says that the only thing that really counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

The writer of 1 John says:

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)

Jesus said:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

(Not to mention his summary of the greatest commandment … love God, love neighbor.)

We, by the nature of who we are as followers of Christ, are first of all called to love.

Here is a little section of 1 Corinthians that I am not sure many of us have even heard before:

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Far easier to judge than to love…

I think Paul knew that.

I often ponder what might happen if the church became known again as a place of great love and grace, rather than a place that makes hurting, broken people feel worse than ever about themselves.

There is no one but us ...

In the Old Testament, a trio of people are often cited as deserving special protections from God and God’s people … The fatherless, the widow, the orphan. Often, the foreigner is added to this list.

God knew these people were at risk in the society of the Old Testament … at risk to be marginalized, neglected, oppressed, victimized, even killed.

And so God commanded his people to take special care of these particular people in their midst. He gave special commandments, even made special rules that protected them, gave them chances to enter mainstream society again, helped them escape the noose of generational poverty, protected them from oppression and violence.

And these rules spoke to God’s people and said, “I care for this group of people in a special way, and if you follow me, you must care for them, too!”

Who are the marginalized among us today?

Might they not fit into this same descriptive trio (or quartet)? The fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner.

It matters not your political persuasion, if you are a follower of God, you are to live in such a way that you protect the marginalized, speak up for them, watch out for them, care for them, serve them, give to them, pray for them.

Often, when confronted with the marginalized in our midst, we hope for someone else to help them.

Annie Dillard addresses this common deferral of responsibility:

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth --- only us … unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.”

There is no one but us.