Baptized with the Holy Goose

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

      Pentecost has always been a bit of a mystery for me. I think it’s one of the hardest events following the resurrection of Jesus to understand: the giving – or baptism – of the Holy Spirit.

 Domestic goose    I did find an interesting bit of trivia this week. The Celtic Christians didn’t choose the dove as their symbol for the Holy Spirit. They chose the wild goose. It sounds strange to us, but it has a long tradition in Ireland. The image of the dove has become so familiar to us, and in fact, we’ve made it sound like doves float in as light as a feather and land with hardly moving a blade of grass. Have you ever seen a dove land? Some of them aren’t so graceful. Sometimes when the Holy Spirit comes, it isn’t so graceful either. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is more like a wild goose descending on you and landing on your head.

     A wild goose can be one noisy, bothersome bird. But it’s not an improper image of the Holy Spirit who often has to jar us out of our complacency. Maybe it’s an image we need to shake us out of an overly safe and overly sweet image of the Spirit when it comes upon a person.

     When the Spirit came to people in the Bible, it never seemed to make dogmatic people happy. The results of the Spirit shocked and upset them. The Spirit inspired prophets to speak to Israel in words that were bold, in-your-face, and sometimes dangerous. Prophets were often noisy and bothersome to the religious establishment who made God all about rituals, sacrifice, and rules.

     John the Baptist was no dovelike image, and he said, “I baptize you with water but he who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  

     Maybe it was this Wild Goose of the Holy Spirit that entered Jesus when he preached his first sermon, quoting Isaiah and saying, “For the Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners/captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the time of God’s grace” (Luke 4:18).[1]

     That statement must have been shocking to the religious authorities. The poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed:  these were all the outcasts of society. The dogmatic leaders said God was punishing these people for their sins. It was a shock to hear a new rabbi say the Lord had sent him to help outcasts and sinners, not to berate them.

     The children of Israel had been celebrating Pentecost for 1500 years before Jesus’s birth. They celebrated Pentecost to commemorate the day Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. The Law was a good thing. It helped establish order for a large group of people. It set some boundaries that defined how people should treat each other.

     As good as laws might be in helping control the external behavior of some people, it cannot change anyone’s heart. And in reality, the celebration was only lip service because the righteous authorities were constantly  ignoring the poor and the sick. That’s what Ezekiel said was the sin of Sodom – “arrogance, overfed, and unconcerned about helping the poor and needy” (Ezek. 16:49-51). Several prophets told the people, “You honor God with your lips but not with your hearts.” This is the continuing mantra of prophets today.

     So why didn’t God, in the manner of the Old Testament, destroy Jerusalem for killing His Son? Because the truth is — God is good, all the time. The Son who came to reveal the image of the Father said, “I am the truth.”

     On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were shaken by a Spirit that filled them with the fire of passion for this message. They spoke boldly about the wonderful works of God. They proclaimed the things they had witnessed in and through Jesus.

     I wonder if that is what being baptized by the Holy Spirit is all about? When you become so convinced about the truth – that God is good and has been good since the beginning of time – that it puts a smile on your face and a dance in your step.

     People don’t become godly because the Holy Spirit inspires them to follow laws. A change has to take place internally that causes them to fall on their knees in awe – and the only thing that can do that is recognizing the complete goodness of God. The apostle Paul wrote to one of the churches, “Don’t you know that it’s the goodness of God that leads you to repentance?” It’s the goodness of God, not the fear of God, that has the power to change you on the inside.

     The Holy Spirit’s work is to create such certainty of faith in us, an unshakable trust that Jesus Christ has shown us the fullness of the Father and we are convinced we have no reason to fear anything in death. You might be surprised at Martin Luther’s explanation of the role of the Holy Spirit that I found in the Church Postils.

     When the Holy Spirit suggests that you let go of some of the laws in the Bible, that’s when the Holy Spirit feels like a not-so-holy Goose coming in for a landing. It shakes you up and frightens you a little until you get your bearings again.

     Yet, there are times when the Holy Spirit may be more like a softly crashing dove, or like the soft flame of a candle, or even the flip of a light switch when a light bulb goes on in your head and you realize the truth and you say, “I get it! Jesus has shown us the heavenly Father.”

     Instead of fearing Laws that threaten you, you become inspired to be good for Goodness’ sake. You become inspired to love your neighbor because you realize the Divine Breath of the Spirit entered your neighbor when he or she took their first gasp of air, too. All have received the Holy Breath of Life. You can start to treat your neighbor like you would treat God’s own Son, because all of us are God’s sons and daughters who have received the Breath of Life.

     When the Holy Spirit hits you with this truth, you are set free to live with boldness and joy and confidence because you know that all is well with your soul. When the Holy Spirit comes, you will look at Jesus and say what Thomas said when he saw Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, “My Lord, and my God!  I get it! I finally get it! This is the good news! I’ve got to tell someone – God is good…all the time!”


[1] Mickey Anders, The Wild Goose, Acts 2:1-13, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc. ChristianGlobe Illustrations


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The Name of God

 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.”      John 17:6 (NRSV)

     What is the name of God that Jesus made known to his disciples? Was it Yahweh? Or Jehovah? Or El-Shaddai? None of these terms are found in the Gospels. Maybe God’s name is Father? That’s the only name Jesus calls the One to whom he prays in this Gospel.

     Jesus did more than tell us how God should be addressed (which, when you think about it, would be in violation of the Jewish law to speak God’s name).

     What is the name of God that Jesus is referring to? I spent a little more time explaining it in the second chapter of my book, The Lord’s Prayer: Finding New Meanings Within the Language Jesus Spoke. Briefly, in the Old Testament, a person’s name revealed something about their character or their nature. It wasn’t merely what you called him or her when dinner was ready.

     One Greek concordance in explaining “name” says

“By a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is roused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i. e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds, etc.).

     A name is a reflection of your character, more like your reputation or the way people feel about you when your name is mentioned. Jesus revealed God’s true character.

     The NKJV of verse 6 gives a clearer interpretation of the Greek verb translated above as “made known.” It reads: “I have manifested your name to the men you have given me out of the world.”

     To manifest is to demonstrate or reveal. “I have demonstrated your name…”

     “I have demonstrated your character, your nature, to the men…”

     So what is God’s nature? What is God’s character?


     God’s name is not “just” or “righteous.” The justice/righteousness (they come from the same Greek word) Jesus showed was in treating everyone with compassion rather than punishing them for their errors like the earlier notions of God.

     God’s name, as demonstrated by Jesus, was not vengeful. Avenging was a Jewish view of God before they met the image of God face to face.


     In fact, God’s name is the underlying theme of two of my books, How to Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart and 30 Days to Loving God with All Your Heart.

      God’s name is healing…guiding…caring…self-denying…self-sacrificing…willing to lay down his own life for sinners.

     God’s name is Love. And Jesus demonstrated it to us.

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You Are Not Powerless


     Have you ever gone into a department store to return a product that was damaged, or that didn’t work properly the first time you used it? You go up to the return counter, a bit upset because you had to make a special trip into town to get this resolved. Needless to say you’re defenses are up. It doesn’t matter that you are past the return date allowance. It’s just not right.  And so, you go up to the poor little high school girl at the counter, and start explaining your frustration. Wide-eyed, she looks at you, and when you are finished, she says, “I’m sorry, sir, store policy says we can’t take it after 30 days.” And you say, “But I didn’t need to use it until now. It’s a lemon! It doesn’t work!”

     Heartlessly, she replies, “I’m sorry, sir, store rules say we can’t take it after 30 days. I didn’t make the rules. I just work here. I’m the hired hand. I’m powerless to change anything. But if you like, I’ll get the store manager.” And she runs out of there, never to be seen again. 

store clerk     The store manager comes out, listens attentively to you repeat the same story, and then says, “No problem. I’ll be glad to take care of that for you.” And your defensiveness evaporates like your breath evaporates in sub-freezing air.

     The hard part about being a hired hand is that you can’t bypass the rules. You don’t have the power or authority. And then you have to watch as the store manager steps over the rules to help the customer. There’s some frustration in not having the power to do the right thing.

     Is that how you feel? In the Old Testament, there are lots of rules (613 store policies). Here you are, the little clerk behind the counter, feeling like you have to promote and enforce all those rules. It’s frustrating when an irate person comes in and says, “This isn’t working for me. I need you to change the rule for me.”

     You know that if anyone sees you being lenient to this person, then everybody will take advantage and want the rules changed for them, too. And you can’t have that kind of disorder.  Everything would be mayhem without the rules to give us order and structure.

     But then we turn to the New Testament and we see Jesus sidestepping some of the Old Testament rules for people.

     Sorry, the argument but he’s the Son of God doesn’t give him anymore power to do the right thing than it gives you.

     Everyone was made in the image of God (hence a son or daughter of God), and everyone has the authority to do the right thing.

     Jesus let his disciples harvest some grain on the Sabbath so they could eat and nourish their bodies. That’s officially against store policy. The disciples weren’t starving. They were simply hungry.

     Jesus stepped over the Sabbath rule and healed a man’s withered hand. The man’s condition wasn’t life-threatening. The healing could have waited until the Sabbath was over.

    Jesus assumed the power to step over the rule that said a woman caught in adultery should be stoned. Jesus didn’t even reprimand her. He said, “I don’t condemn you. Just don’t do it anymore” – as in “you’re hurting yourself more than anyone else, God included.” 

     Jesus reminded the Pharisees, who were hired hands, that they didn’t follow all the rules. In Mark 7, Jesus said to them, “God’s will is that you honor your parents, and that children who curse their parents be put to death.”  He quoted store policy to them. Then he said, “Yet, you law-abiders find ways to get around the rules you don’t want to follow.” They were finding ways of not supporting their parents in their old age. And why weren’t they putting children to death who cursed their parents?

     Those who put their trust in the Law, who make their God a God of rules, make the rules more important than the people for whom the rules were given to serve. Jesus said, “The hired hands don’t care about the people.” They care more about the rules.

     If you care about people you don’t need rules to guide you to know how to love.

     Martin Luther, in one of his sermons, reminded us that the law was given to serve love, not to be served. He said, “Love is the only law for Christians.”

     The point of being in this business of religion is not to enforce the rules. The point of being in this business is to love God, your neighbor, your enemy, and each other as you love yourself.

     You are not powerless. You are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament says love is the fulfillment of the law. You have the power to love, and in doing so, you will fulfill the law.

     Our new store policy is simplified in 1 John: “And this is His commandment, that we should trust in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”

     You are not a hired hand. You are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the right thing. With Jesus guiding you, the Spirit gives you the authority to step over the rules when they do not serve love. So when the original rules do not serve the welfare of people, then you, as His followers, have the authority, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus’ example of love instead of the policy manual.

John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-23


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Christ’s Hands and Feet


hands5     One summer between college terms, I took a job working for the City of Indianapolis Dept. of Transportation. The first day I reported for work, I walked in to meet my new boss, a crusty war-horse in a wooden chair with those squeaky rolling casters on the legs. He said, “Come here, boy, and let me see your hands.”

    Then he grabbed my hands and started rubbing the inside of my fingers and palms. I knew what he was looking for. He wanted to see if there was any sign or evidence that this greenhorn, college educated student was accustomed to hard work. Were there calluses on my hands? Did my hands show the marks of wear and tear? My hands would provide the evidence of who I was and if I would be of any real value in the work that needed to be done.

     I was reminded of this when I thought about what happened on the evening of that first Easter day. The disciples were assembled together in a closed room—shocked at what had happened to their Teacher two days earlier, angry but also fearful of what might happen to them, and at the same time, very confused about the reports they were hearing.

     Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter, and then to two disciples as they were walking to Emmaus. What was going on?  As they were discussing these things, Jesus himself stood among them.   They were startled and terrified. They thought that they were seeing a ghost.

     Jesus understood they needed proof that he was real. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do you doubt what you are seeing? Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And then he asked for some food, a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it in their presence. Ghosts don’t eat real food. He proved who He was through his physical being.

     Jesus’s hands and his feet provided the evidence that He was who He said He was. His palms and His feet showed the marks of the nails He had to bear given to him from a world that was opposed to the Prince of Peace.  His hands and feet showed the evidence of the work they had done–bearing pain for the sake of the world.

     So do you have any marks on you that prove that you follow Christ? Show me your hands and feet. Bringing peace into the lives of others often will leave scars and callouses on one’s hands, and feet, and body – signs of physical wear to the body – these are the proof of a person who is following the way of the Prince of Peace.

     Scars and signs of abuse are also the evidence that Christ is alive today. Nonresistance to violence will put holes in your flesh, literally. Yet it is the way of Christ.

     Most Christians are not accustomed to thinking of themselves as Christ in the flesh. But Martin Luther said we are little Christs. In the New Testament, St. Paul told the church in Corinth, “Don’t you know that Christ is within you?” He is risen in and through you.

     To be a Christian is to know that Christ dwells in you and lives through you again. He continues His work of healing and peace through your hands and your feet. If He lives in you, that makes you the risen Christ who stands rooms around your community, trying to show the world that He is truly alive today.

     Wearing a gold cross or putting a fish emblem on your car or quoting the Bible prove hands1your claim to be a Christian but they don’t always prove that Christ is within you and that you follow the teachings and ways of the Prince of Peace. There are lots of people who have those symbols on them but who have no marks on their hands or feet that show they have fed the hungry, or cared for the homeless, or visited the sick or prisoners, or that they’ve laid down their time and life to help and show love to their neighbor. 

     So what shows up when you turn over your hands and take off your shoes? Do your hands and feet show the marks of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and bearing the pain of others? Is Christ alive in you? Is He continuing His work through you?

*  *  *

Luke 24:36b-48


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Do Not Resist an Evildoer


       Do not resist an evildoer. That’s a hard thing to do. It goes against human nature. And that’s why following Jesus is so difficult. This is how he said it:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Matt. 5:38–42

     I wrote a blog about a specific text, John 20:19-23, in which Jesus was teaching his disciples how they should respond to his crucifixion – retaliation is never the right answer in dealing with evil.

     Jesus wasn’t the first person to teach that wisdom is applied when you respond to evil with good. Many faith traditions have taught variations of this same concept.

     Yet just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s okay to ignore it. Here are some wisdom sayings agree with Jesus’s philosophy.

One can only overcome anger with kindness. One can only conquer evil with good… One can only win the miser by generosity… One can only convince the liar with truth…Dhammapada 223—Buddhism

Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal. Dhammapada 5Buddhism

Return love for hate. Tao Te Ching 63Taoism

It is the determination of the spotless not to do evil, even in return, to those who have cherished enmity and done them evil. Tirukkural 312—Hinduism

Of what gain is perfect goodness if it does not do good to all, even to those who have done painful things to others. Tirukkural 987Hinduism

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink. Proverbs 25:21—Judaism

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27–28—Jesus, Christianity

Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel evil with what is better (or best). Then see: the one between whom and you there was enmity has become a bosom friend. Qur’an 41.34Islam

If there is cause to hate someone, the cause to love has just begun. Wolof proverb (Senegal) African Traditional Religions

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 1 Thess. 5:15—Paul, Christianity

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21­—Paul, Christianity

      The world would be a better place if those who profess belief in a religion would follow the wisdom that leads to unity instead of retaliating for evil that has been done.


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How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings


     It seems appropriate for me to post a prayer for Good Friday that arose from a sermon of Martin Luther’s in the Church Postils as we come to the end of Holy Week.

     I developed the prayers in my book, Praying the Gospels with Martin Luther: Finding Freedom in Love, by sorting through the major themes in Luther’s explanations of the gospel texts. Sometimes there were three or four sermons for a single text, so I sometimes condensed 30,000 words into 300. It was tedious work, but I benefited the most from the effort. Martin Luther gave me the freedom to depart from the entrenched institution when love is being denied or displaced by law.

     Here’s a quote from his sermon on how to contemplate Christ’s sufferings, and the subsequent prayer:

  1. There you will find the divine, good father heart, and, as Christ says, be thus drawn to the Father through Christ. Then will you understand the saying of Christ in John 3, 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” etc. That means to know God aright, if we apprehend him not by his power and wisdom, which terrify us, but by his goodness and love; there our faith and confidence can then stand immovable and man is truly thus born anew in God. (Vol. 2:190)

*  *  *

A Prayer for Good Friday

How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings

Suffering Lord,

On this day of judgment, O Christ, You took my place. It does me no good to blame others for what was done to You. And I can’t just go through the motions of meditating on Your sacrifice, thinking I benefit by doing so. Free my spirit to weep for myself and what I personally have done to inflict this pain on You. Why would the eternal wisdom of God established in You, the Son, ask You to suffer such agony for me? Give me courage to consider the depths of this question.

I have shown disdain for You by the way I have lived the life You breathed into me. The works of my hands drove the nails into Your hands. My wicked thoughts pressed the thorny crown into Your holy brow. Forgive me for the contempt I have shown. I have been living in false security and ignorance. I deserve to go through what You went through a thousand times.

In Your mercy and compassion, soften my heart so that I can understand what You did. Lead me to greater comprehension of why You did this, that I might glimpse an inkling of Your grace. On my own, I haven’t been able to discover the depth of Your love for me.

Only You know the way into my heart and what is required to turn to You. Rather than trust that I am able to cover the stain of my sin with good deeds and religious rituals, guide me to pour the reservoir of my sin into Your wounds. Bring me the peace of knowing You loved me enough to willingly bear my punishment.

Now that sin’s price is paid and the pain has been borne, I will watch in awe as the resurrection swallows and destroys my sin, along with the rest of the world’s sin. O happy day! Grant me trust beyond doubt that all debt is satisfied and no sin remains. Faith like this can only come as a gift from You.

I declare sin and all wrongdoing to be my enemies. I want to live to please You and bring glory to God. The love and goodness I see in Your sacrifice for the world far exceeds all the power or wisdom I have attributed to Your Being. May the sufferings You experienced be the model for my life.

When trials cause me pain, let me remember the nails and thorns that pierced Your skin. When I, as Your follower, am pressured to do what I don’t want to do, let me remember how You were led where You didn’t want to go. When pride attacks me and calls me foolish for sacrificing myself for others, let me recall how You were mocked and disgraced. Take away any fear that makes me think following You will bring greater suffering than blessing. Teach me to incorporate Your life into my life, for You showed the way of eternal life. Amen.

[Each prayer is followed by one or two verses of a hymn written by Martin Luther.]

  1. Strange and dreadful was the fray,

When Death and Life contended;

But ’twas Life that won the day,

And Death’s dark sway was ended.

Holy Scripture plainly saith,

Death is swallowed up of Death,

Put to scorn and led in triumph. 


  1. This, the Paschal Lamb, the Christ,

Whom God so freely gave us,

On the cross is sacrificed

In flames of love to save us.

On our door the blood-mark:—Faith

Holds it in the face of Death.

The Destroyer can not harm us.


(Luther 1884b)


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Luther Decade Newsletter

I haven’t said anything in a long time about the Luther Decade celebration that is going to culminate in October, 2017, even though I have a dedicated page on this webpage. Since I just received a newsletter from the headquarters for this 500 year anniversary, I thought I’d copy it here. Please be aware that this is an English translation generated by computer from German.

Luther Decade newsletter

Luther Decade newsletter 2

Dear Readers,

Two years before the Jubilee 2017 assume the plans to the festivities shape and make the Luther Decade and Reformation for all alive. With this newsletter we inform you about plans and projects in the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” – and many other more!

We hope you will enjoy reading.

Nationwide school campaign: “Reformation – language – Media”

Together promoted the reading ambassador and Let’s Dance juror Motsi Mabuse and the head of the State office “Luther 2017″, Stefan Zowislo, at the education fair didacta in Hanover for a school campaign very special: it stands under the motto “Reformation – language – Media “ and of the “brought Reading Foundation” and the State office “Luther 2017″ nationwide on the way. It particularly asked the creativity of students. Because reading is to come the Contribute: Based on the Luther Rose competition invites “My day “(the digital age Greetings!) a to design an own distinctive sign.

Dedicated countries – for example, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate

The Bavarian Minister of Education Dr. Ludwig Spaenle is located at the signing of the cooperation agreement Bavarian State Exhibition 2017 Coburg safe: Bavaria is perceived “as a central place of the history of the Reformation and the Catholic renewal”. Malu Dreyer – of course … – their view of things: “Rhineland-Palatinate than any other country in Western Germany boast central places of memory of the early Reformation” – the Prime Minister at the opening event for the exhibition series “The upheaval of the times” in Mainz.

So you walk about everywhere, warm for the great jubilee year. And for visitors from near and far, the table is laid for you and they can – whether now in the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” or even in 2017 – following in the footsteps of Martin Luther across Germany!

The theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” goes around …

After the nationwide opening on Reformation Day 2014 in Hamburg it was in January 2015 in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia so far: representatives of the provincial and the local churches opened the theme year “Reformation – Image and Bible” While in. Zwickau (Saxony) significant for the   First National Special Exhibition in Torgau was advertised (from May 2015), was in Lutherstadt Wittenberg (Saxony-Anhalt) and Neustadt an der Orla (Thüringen) the work of the “two Cranach” in focus.

“Luther 2017″ at the ITB

From 4 to 8 March, “Luther 2017″ at this year’s International Tourism Exchange (ITB) to be represented “under the roof” of the German National Tourist Office in Berlin. Please have a look in Hall 12 at stand number 102 over. We look forward to you! – And also the common “Country Hall” of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (Hall 11.2) is worth a visit in terms of Luther.

News Ticker “Before and behind the scenes”

+++ At the Leipzig Book Fair is the subject Reformation addressed in several ways: with the motto “The Value of Values: Reformation – Image and Bible” discussed the podium on 12 March, the importance of the Reformation as a media event (reading religion Island, Hall 3, Booth 200, 12-13 clock) +++ The Evangelical Press Association has the creative Competition “World Religions” +++ started After extensive renovation work the end of April Miihlberger Museum opens its doors in Brandenburg +++ Since March 1, the branch of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Wittenberg is a dual leadership led +++ The website is currently undergoing a Frischkur. End of April to see more +++

And also …

… There are now also available as Martin Luther Playmobil figure. Not even ten inches tall, he wears in the hands of spring and the Bible. Who wants to buy a figure (probably end of April) has yet to wait for the second edition: Because within 72 hours, all characters were already sold out.


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The Death of Individualism


     I’m getting ready to plant another garden this year. I’ve started turning over the soil so all the leaves and compost can breakdown to add nutrients and texture to the soil. I bought some seeds—snap peas, green beans, okra, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and more. It’s a great time of year. When there’s no danger of frost, I’ll lay them to rest them in the earth.

 MustardSeed    Today, the seeds have a hard outer surface. It’s dry. It prevents the living seed that dwells within from bursting forth. That hard, outer covering separates the potential life within from the potential for producing fruits in the world.

     A hard outer covering is what makes a seed an individual seed. As an individual, it is unable to experience growth and produce good fruits. Only when the seed is buried, humbled, covered, and surrounded with the earth, will the verdant life within it stand a chance to be released.

     The hard covering must be softened and discarded before any life within it is going to germinate and grow.

     What is that hard covering that surrounds you and me that makes us think we are individuals, separate and different from everyone else? Pride? Ignorance? False information? Whatever it is, it prevents/blinds us from seeing ourselves as part of one body.

     If the Aramaic name for God (alaha) is true to its meaning, then God’s name is Unity or Oneness. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, the kingdom of Unity (God). God’s intent and desire for creation is for it to exist in Unity, in God.

     Clinging to individualism must die for all things to work together in unity. The barriers that prevent unity must be softened and discarded.

     No growth or life happens while the seeds sit in the paper packages on my shelf. Even if I place the seeds on top of the ground where all can see them for their individual natures, no growth will happen. There are too many external factors like sun, wind, and birds that will prevent them from germinating.

     It’s only when the seed is covered over with soil, earth, dirt—united with the dirt and moisture and warmth of the earth—that the hard covering can be softened, the individualism lost, and the life that waits within can be freed.

     When Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life, lose (destroy, perish) it, and those who hate (indifferent) their life in this world will keep (guard, preserve) it unto (through/by/in) eternal life”( John 12:24-26).

     In biblical days, eternal life was the quality of life God intended for you and I to experience. Eternal life happens in this life. It’s a life lived in unity, in shared communion, with the people and environment around us. For it’s only when we recognize our oneness that we will begin in compassion to blend our lives and possessions with each other.

     Until a person dies to those things that encapsulate her or him as an individual seed, separate instead of one with his or her neighbor, he or she will sit in a package on the shelf or on the top of the ground waiting to be pecked at by life. And the potential for eternal life will remain dormant or be destroyed.

     The death of individualism brings unity and life.


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11 Ways to Receive Eternal Life


     Eternal life is one of my favorite topics. And it’s one of the most difficult to get across. I preached and taught about it for eleven years. And still, if you ask people in my congregation “what is eternal life?” many would probably tell you it’s heaven after you die.

     If you’ve been taught eternal life is “heaven” for sixty or seventy years, you won’t depart from that thinking. It’s the bedrock of your faith. And that’s okay if you don’t mind waiting until you die for eternal life.

     Many people have been taught the only way to get to heaven is to believe in Jesus. And this faith is a gift rather than something you do.

     On the other hand, there are many ways to receive eternal life…at least, according to the New Testament. Here’s a partial list I found for things you can do to receive eternal life.

(1) Those who believe in Jesus. This is the number one reason given by the Christian tradition. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing is often taught as the ONLY thing necessary to receive eternal life. But that may not be completely accurate.

(2) Those who obey the commandments.  A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him… You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:18-20). Contrary to those who don’t say you can’t do anything to receive eternal life, yes, it’s important to do something – or at least, “do no harm.” But don’t be foolish and claim that you’ve actually followed all the commandments, because it’s not possible to do it perfectly. You’ll see this in answer 3(b.)

(3) Those who leave everything and follow Jesus. We know St. Francis and St. Ignatius and Martin Luther literally left everything to follow him. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30).

     And another proof: He [a certain ruler from #2] replied, “I have kept all these [commandments] since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Luke 18:18-22). See my brand new ebook about treasures in heaven – it’s 99 cents until Saturday.

(4) Those who love God and their neighbor. Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28). But you have to love them a lot!

(5) Those to whom the Son wants to give it. “You have given [the Son] authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (John 17:2). We can assume Jesus will give eternal life to those who follow him, but he has the option to give it to anyone he chooses.

(6) Those who know the only true God, and Jesus. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To “know” God is to understand or even to experience God. Can anyone understand an inconceivable God? It’s a good thing this isn’t the only option. But it sounds like if you know God now, you don’t have to die to possess eternal life.

(7) Those who can hear/distinguish Jesus’s voice. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27). There are many voices in the world. And many voices not saying the same things from church pulpits. Which one is the voice of Jesus?

(8) Those who follow Jesus’s teachings (i.e., words). “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus’s words included things like “love your enemies,” “do not repay evil with evil,” and “don’t be angry with anyone.”

(9) Those who are destined or ordained to believe (the elect) will receive eternal life.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). We can’t leave out the Presbyterians, some are chosen.

(10) Those who participate in Holy Communion. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (John 6:54). The sacramental denominations benefit by this option. Except that this is a metaphor for doing the things Jesus did with compassion and love rather than a religious ritual.

(11) Those who do good works. This one is swept under the rug by those who think works aren’t what help you receive eternal life. “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19). You play a big role in securing eternal life for yourself.

     Well, there are more, but that’s enough for one blog. I didn’t even include the verses I found that referred to everlasting life—which is the same thing as eternal life.

     There are many ways to receive eternal life. And even with grace, you have a big part to play in receiving it.

     I’ve explained about eternal life several other times. The short version is that for the first century writers, the term eternal life meant “the quality of life God wants for you to have in this life.”

     Type “eternal life” in the search box at the top right corner of this blog and you’ll find the blogs I’ve already explained it. They’ll explain more what the New Testament means by “eternal life.”

     Go through the list again and insert the new meaning in place of eternal life and see if the passages open up and mean something more.


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Treasures in Heaven – New Ebook



     For the next ten days (until March 14) I’ll be pricing my new ebook, How To Store Up Treasures in Heaven and Enjoy Them in Your Life Today, on Amazon for 99ȼ. After that, I’ll be raising the price in order to jump through some Amazon hoops to get into one of their promotion venues. But let me tell you a little about this new book.

     For fifty years of my life, I was given the impression that working hard, following the rules faithfully, sacrificing some good times and self-indulgences (is that a bad word to use during Lent?) – this is what would make me feel more worthy or justified (and yes, I am steeped in the Lutheran and Augustinian theology of guilt and inborn shame) of spending eternity in a good place.

     Then I became a preacher. This gave me the ability to study the Bible (and meditate) and learn more than I was ever taught prior to that. In fact, my education and study didn’t stop when I finished four years of seminary. Seminary was in-depth variations of the same things I’d been taught for fifty years.

     But none of that satisfied some of the questions about things that didn’t have answers that made sense. Faith—was about trusting the church’s explanations (as determined by 4th century with a few [like 30,000 denominational] alterations)—when you don’t understand.

     So, is it true that God has a wonderful place waiting for everyone who believes what their current spiritual guru, i.e., preacher, says will get them there? Is there a city with streets of gold and mansions of precious gemstones – which are earthly treasures – are they in heaven waiting for all of us who are washed in the blood of Jesus?

     How the heck do I know? Fortunately, that’s not in most churches’ requirements (although in the Bible belt it might be) for getting through the pearly gates. I believe there’s a good place for us to go when we die but I don’t trust the materialistic images that appeal to human desires.

     Instead, what I’ve learned from my extracurricular studies and meditations is that we’re not supposed to be so focused on the afterlife. Jesus said “don’t worry about tomorrow” much less about your death which is probably years away. Jesus said [in fact they were his first words that began his preaching ministry in the Gospels of Matthew (4:17) and Mark (1:15)], “Repent (change your thinking), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

     This message was so important that in Matthew and in Luke, Jesus was always leaving the unending job of healing the sick in order to teach about the kingdom of God/heaven…the kingdom that is at hand, not the one that is in the after-life.

     I think this is part of the problem of the church today. It’s always trying to help people to enter a good life once they’re dead rather than showing them how to participate in the life God has blessed them with today.

     One of the questions I always had that the church never answered was, “Okay, I understand that I shouldn’t be focused on storing up earthly treasures that can temporarily satisfy some earthly cravings, but how do I store up treasures in heaven?”

     What I’ve discovered is that God wants you and me to enjoy all the heavenly treasures today, in this life—without guilt (after all, Jesus took our guilt upon himself). We don’t have to wait until we die to enjoy heavenly treasures.

     In my book, as short as it is, you read about seventeen actions that will keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God. It’s true. They’re listed in the Bible. I don’t know how theologians and preachers can dance around them and say, “But, if you confess……then you don’t have to worry about these anymore.”

      I’m telling you, these seventeen actions will keep you out of the kingdom of God no matter what you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart on Sunday morning.

     Then I reveal nine heavenly treasures that are all around you. They are so abundant – the fields are ripe for the harvest, but there are so few workers. I explain how you can claim them and enjoy them as you’re working your way through this life. And there’s a thousand year old technique that will help you begin storing these treasures so you can be blessed by them immediately.

 Vikiana-Fivrr    So there’s a lot packed into the forty-two pages of this ebook. I hope you’ll take advantage of this new release in the next ten days so you can get How To Store Up Treasures in Heaven and Enjoy Them in Your Life Today on Amazon at the introductory price of 99ȼ.

     And if you do happen to like what you read, it would really be a blessing to me if you would write an honest review (NOT mentioning that you’re my best friend, of course – that never helps sell a book!) that suggests it might be a good read for others. Thanks!


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