The Kingdom Comes with Power

 

     Jesus seems to have talked in circles. He said something in Mark 9:1 that has confounded people for a long time. It doesn’t seem to make sense.  The way it’s usually translated is like this: And [Jesus] said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

     Most people, including myself until now, believe the kingdom of God isn’t going to come until after they die. How could Jesus say some of his disciples would see the kingdom BEFORE they died? And it will have come with power!

     There’s an easy answer. I won’t say it’s a mistranslation, however, it could have been translated another way for us to understand.

     First of all, you have to understand that the kingdom of God is not about “life-after-you-die.” The kingdom of God is a today thing. It took me 181 pages to explain it in this book. I’ll give you the last page cliff note here. When Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand, he meant, The creative, driving force toward harmony and the working together of all things is at hand.” Once you understand this, a lot of things change in interpretation.

     What about “coming with power?” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis. The official definition from a Greek concordance is this—

natural capability, inherent power; capability of anything, ability to perform anything; then, absolutely, not merely power capable of action, but, power in action.

     Not power as in “strength” or “great force.” Power in action.

     There would be some disciples that would not taste death until they had seen the creative driving force toward harmony and unity come in, with, and through the actions of people laying down their lives for the benefit of others.

Now that I’ve become a hospice volunteer, I’m meeting other volunteers who’ve been giving up a few hours of their lives each week (and doing it for years!) to serve patients and families in a time of need. The volunteers keep saying, “I get more out of this than the people I’m trying to help.”

     If you look at the verses that preceded and set up his statement, Jesus had been telling them that they would gain their lives if they deny themselves and take up their crosses to follow him (his example). “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

     You give up your life by serving others rather than serving yourself. God’s power put into action in/with/through your hands. And it brings the kingdom of God to others. Peace, hope, love, harmony to their body, mind, and spirit.

     Ultimately, you’ll reap what you sow. When you bring the kingdom to others, you will reap it yourself, bringing a greater quality of life to you than any amount of money or fame could ever do.

     The Kingdom of God comes in/with/through your actions.

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The Gospel According to Jesus

 

     The word “gospel” in Christian circles has developed a meaning of its own that goes beyond the original definition. This impacts the way people understand it.

     Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel… (I’m basing this post on the words of Mark 1:14-15)

     In this century, many Christians have been conditioned to believe that the “gospel” has something to do with Jesus dying on a cross as a sacrifice for sin. It might mean that elsewhere in Paul’s letters, but probably not here.

     I just like to keep things simple by applying a layperson’s definition that isn’t packed full of 4th through 21st century theology so I can try to understand what people in the first century might have heard.

     Translators converted the Greek word euangelion (Strong’s 2098) into “gospel.” The definition for it is “good tidings.” Jesus came preaching good tidings.

     Good tidings of what? There’s some debate about this.

     It depends upon which ancient Greek text you use.  You see, not all ancient texts agree with each other. Does it make a difference? No, not really. Because every translation from Greek is an interpretation of what Jesus said in Aramaic anyway…and that makes it very gray.

     So gray in fact that I so wanted to title this post – The Gospel of God in 50 Shades of Grey. But I resisted.

     As black and white as we want to think the words in the Bible are – without any areas of gray – the truth is that it’s all gray. It’s all gray because we don’t have the original texts from Greek (they are all copies of copies) and we don’t have it in the words of the original language in which much of it was spoken. I’ve come to find out that we don’t even understand the mindset of the Hebrew/Aramaic speaking people of that age.

     We simply have to do our best to interpret what we’ve been given in the light of what we trust about Jesus and God.

     Good tidings to me are things that bring delight. When I’m hungry, it’s good tidings to hear that dinner is ready. When I’m tired, it’s good tidings to hear that I have a warm, sheltered bed to sleep in. When I’m cold, it’s good tidings to hear someone say, “Wrap this blanket around you.”

     It’s good tidings to me to hear that God is good, all the time. I don’t have to worry about anything I do today because the Creator might stop allowing the rain and sunshine to fall on me. I simply have to be smart enough to worry about the natural consequences that come with disrupting harmony in the world.

     The translations that use the NU ancient Greek text tell us that Jesus preached “the good tidings of God.” Those translations who chose to use a different popular ancient text tell us that Jesus preached the good tidings of “the kingdom of” God. Does that make a difference? Not to me. Both are good tidings.

     The first words out of Jesus’s mouth in the first canonical Gospel written might be equated to “God is good — all the time.” Jesus preached the good tidings of God. That was quite a radical thing to declare. Jesus’s message was different from centuries of tradition that portrayed God as someone that needed to be feared for what might be done to you.

     The Aramaic speaking people of Jesus’s day did not fear that God would burn them forever if they were bad. That’s wasn’t part of their theology or mindset. The concept of “hell” developed when Christianity spread and started getting mixed with the ideas of Greeks and Roman mythology.

     Yet many Jews did fear a God who got angry and killed people when they were disobedient. It wasn’t perpetual torture after death they feared. But they did fear a God who could quickly snuff you out if you got out of line.

     Jesus came and preached good tidings of God.

     Then he said, “The opportunity has come. The kingdom of God is at hand.” (You know I can’t let this opportunity slide by  – you can read about it here.)

     The Aramaic word for God (alaha) means unity. The kingdom of unity (or the creative development of unity) is within your grasp.”

     “Repent, and believe in the good tidings.”

     I’ve said it lots of times, and it bears repeating because you’ve heard it so many more times as meaning “be sorry.” Repent (not the English word, but the Greek word – metanoia) means “change your mind” or “turn away” or “change the way you think.”

     Stop thinking God is ready, poised, and waiting to hurt you. (A spiritual law is already in place that covers this – you’ll reap what you sow.)

     Trust the good tidings about God. This is the gospel Jesus came and proclaimed.

 

 

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50 Shades of Hunger

 

The big news is that 50 Shades of Grey is packing the movie theaters of America today. Maybe that’s okay. I don’t know. It certainly titillates the sexual impulses of American culture. Our local theaters are charging $9.15 a pop for entry. It’s the talk of the town and nation.

Colminy School in Haiti     For a tad bit more money, $3.85 more to be exact, (a grand total of $13.00), you could feed fifty children who may not have received a meal in 24 hours a healthy, nourishing bowl of beans and rice.

If as many people who bought tickets to feed their physical desires by attending this movie on this Valentine’s Day weekend (some estimate $60 million from movie goers), decided to spend another $3.85 on top of a movie ticket, to help 50 children fill their aching stomachs, they could provide 230 million meals for children in Haitian schools.

I took these pictures of children in Colminy School in Haiti when I went there in 2011. My church sponsors this school and has fed the children there every school year since 2004. At the rate of 26 cents per meal, it’s a ministry that touches our hearts.0 - 50 shades 4

One of Haiti’s big problems is illiteracy. Children who are hungry cannot mentally absorb what they are being taught. When they are given at least one meal every day, they are able to learn and grow in their physical, mental, and spiritual capacities.

The population of Haiti is 10.3 million. 34% are under the age of 14. That makes 3.5 million children. 230 million meals would feed every child in Haiti a nutritious meal at school for 13 weeks.

That’s from the single opening weekend revenues of 50 Shades of Grey.

I don’t care if you go to see the movie. It may make for a pleasurable afternoon or evening for you.

But why not, in addition, consider helping fifty shades of hunger in children in Haiti by donating $13 (or more) through Trinity/HOPE Inc, a non-profit organization based in Lebanon, TN?

Ninety-eight percent of your money will go toward feeding children and helping an impoverished neighbor country to pull itself out of illiteracy and poverty.

It doesn’t have much sex appeal, but it might make your heart happy.

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The Word “God”

 

     How would you like to start a little controversy? Mention in passing in your Christian community that the name or word “God” (Theos) was taken from the heathen. I personally use the word “heathen” loosely because it merely refers to anyone who is trying to figure out the design of life in a way different from Christians, Jews, or Muslims, who each think the conclusions of their forefathers can be the only truth. Many believe it deeply enough that they’re still trying to eradicate each other.

     Theos comes from the Sanskrit root, DIU-S which means (1) fire, the sun (when masculine), (2) a ray of light, day (when feminine), or (3) the sky, heaven (when neuter). This definition comes from the Greek concordance (theos – Strong’s #2316) at the website, Great Treasures, where I research various words and phrases from the New Testament.

     The formal definition adds this: Wherever the Sun shines in the world he has been or is, worshipped as God, because he gives light to Heaven and life to earth; and heaven was in turn worshipped as the abode of the Sun, but the object of adoration was Light and Life, or heaven either as the abode of the Sun, or as personified. Then DIAUS was the procreating or generative power dwelling in heaven. The Father of light and life. Out of that came the Latin, DEUS.

photo by Stephanie Lynn

     “The object of adoration was Light and Life.”

     “The Father of light and life.”

     I was taught that heathen literally worship the ball of fire in the sky we call the sun. But that’s merely an image or personification like the word “Father” is an image to Christians. I don’t doubt that some primitive pagans think of the sun literally as the object they are worshipping. But that’s no different than many Christians who think they are worshipping a literal “father” that is male and subject to human emotion.

     People don’t need a book to tell them that something Much Greater and Wiser has designed this incredible creation. And that should give people a reason to take the time to think about it. Think about it – that’s what the brain is for – not just read and blindly accept what someone two thousand years ago thought about it.

     Unfortunately, there have been many throughout the centuries who found it convenient to destroy entire nations simply because a nation searched for the answers to Light and Life in ways different from the invaders’ forefathers—the closest to home being the American Indian.

     What people do in the name of God is, and has been, god-awful. “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”

     Yet it’s rarely for Light and Life that people kill others. Usually it’s a righteous excuse to take their land and possessions. Darkness rules their hearts rather than Light.

     The Greek word for “father” (pater) means “the originator of life.” It was applied to the male parent because the people of antiquity believed only the male was responsible for life. The female was simply the incubator for the seed. Jesus prayed to the Originator of Life.

     Jesus also said he is the light of the world. He is like a ray of light, and if you follow his example and teaching, it will help generate new life for you in this world…today…not just when you’re dead.

     You know, if we started substituting the word “Light” or “Life” into the Bible in place of the word “God,” I think people might begin to develop a broader, more spiritually mature notion of God. Why don’t you give it a try? It might even help you form some conclusions that deviate from what your forefathers (I mean fore-originators-of-life) have taught you.

 

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Healing Illness or Casting Out Demons?

 

     Jesus was a great healer. He was capable of casting out demons. The wise men, through methods traditionally condemned by institutional religion, knew of his birth. They brought him expensive healings oils. Somehow they were convinced this would be part of his calling in life.

demon portrait     Jesus taught his disciples to cast out demons, too. He said they would do greater things than he had done. Few people today think they could even do the things Jesus did, much less greater things. Who could have more power than the Son of God?

     There are other possibilities that should be considered when hearing biblical stories about demons and devils so that they don’t prey on the emotions of readers and preachers.

     Demons are emotion generators. If you can stir the people’s emotions, you can control them. I sometimes wonder if some leaders in all the religious traditions think this is their calling—to control the sheep rather than to assist and develop them in their return to the image  in which they were first made.

     I dealt in greater detail about demons in my blog post about how to cast out demons and unclean spirits. Demons are the stuff of mythology and fear. We teach it to our children.

     The story of the serpent in the garden has a lot to do with that. Neil Douglas-Klotz says in Genesis, the Hebrew word is not the word for snake. Klotz interprets the word Nahash as having a deeper meaning. He says the word stands for and can be translated as “the aspect of a person’s mind that winds around itself, that becomes self-involved, that’s greedy or selfish.” (The Genesis Meditations, p. 202). That sounds a lot like human nature.

     But the garden is a visual story that teaches a deeper meaning—like an Aesop’s Fable uses animals to get its point across. Try to tell that to a Bible literalist. It’s more memorable to keep perpetuating an emotional image that offers a false impression of what the story in the garden represents if you want to gain power over people whose emotions are on alert.

   Unfortunately, many stories in the Bible perpetuate the fears and ignorance of the past. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing. It’s the absence of knowledge. Ignorance becomes a bad thing when you don’t correct the misunderstanding. Learning should drive out ignorance.

     In Mark 1:29-39, there are several passages that mention “devils.” The story concludes with, he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

     To stop the text there leaves out the example Mark provides to show one of the “devils” he cast out. That’s a very common literary tactic of the gospels writers. One story leads into the next. In the next story, Jesus casts out the devil of leprosy (a skin disease).

     Jesus used what he had at his disposal. Sometimes he used healing oils like olive oil, Frankincense, myrrh, and golden balsam. Sometimes he may have used the healing properties of other kinds of plants, you know, like Echinacea or stinging nettle. Sometimes he calmed their upset spirits. He laid hands on people and used the unquantifiable energy of healing touch that many are using today.

     In another blog post I gave instructions on 4 easy ways to cast out demons based on some of this same information talking about many different kinds of powers that can overwhelm you. And I gave the Greek definitions for the word translated too often as demons and devils.

     To the people of the first century who had no explanations for this behavior, why wouldn’t they think someone was under the influence of a demon or evil spirit?

     To the people of the 21st century, who have discovered many of the causes for disease, perpetuating a first century (and maybe more like a fourth through tenth century), fear-based understanding of physical and mental illness is clinging to the ignorance of the past.

     Jesus demonstrated that healing is a significant part of the kingdom of heaven that I explained in chapter ten of my book, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real and It’s Open to Everyone!

     I think it’s time to de-mythologize the Bible in this subject matter of demons so we can remove the emotion and fear from it. Jesus will still get the credit and honor for the exceptional work of healing he performed. And you might begin to believe he knew you too are capable of the same kinds of healing actions that restore people to health.

     What do you think?

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A New Path

 

   Okay, I’m going to head down a new path and do something new. I’ve gotten bored with trying to give insight into the weekly lectionary as an assist to any clergy that might be reading this blog. At this point, I don’t know if any are reading it since I don’t get any feedback.

     Therefore, I’m going to do some shorter messages based on what fascinates me — substituting new words into Gospel and NT texts that are viable alternatives to the traditionally sanctioned words. When I do this, it often broadens, deepens, and even changes the meaning of the text for me.

     I believe there is a possibility that the earliest translators of the Bible into English (God bless their efforts) were products of their tradition. They worked hard at repeating 4th century theologies in English. Merely converting Latin to English cost a couple of people their lives. To change the way the church interpreted the text would have been less acceptable.

     Every one of us was given a foundational theology that formed our initial beliefs. Those beliefs were not chosen by us, they were given to us to believe. How can a six year old argue with what he or she was told about God?

     “Don’t steal that cookie, God’s watching you!” (and will punish you if you do).

     God drowned all the bad people in the flood because they were disobedient.

     God figured out a way to satisfy God’s need for justice, so he sent the Son of God to be murdered.

     Every translator of the Bible who’s consumed these “truths” by the tradition will find a way to repeat that theology with words that fit his or her theological foundation…even though there are other options available.

      It’s good for children to start out with some foundation of teaching that prevents them from hurting themselves and others. But one day, after reaching the age of maturity, they are going to be expected to sort out the good information from the bad information as I explained here.

     As Martin Luther said in his sermon on John 10:1-11, the sheep must judge for themselves about that which is laid before them.  He reminded us that Jesus said the sheep know which is the right voice to follow. The sheep not only have the right to choose what beliefs they follow, but that makes them responsible for their own eternal life…so they’d better take it personally and seriously.

     Do people really think that the Judge is going to accept this excuse: “But Lord, that’s what the church told me I was supposed to believe…” Will the Judge listen to grown adults pleading with childish excuses for why they followed the wrong voice?

     The difficult part is trying to figure out what’s influenced more by mythology and tradition than by what the gospel writers intended. That’s all I’m trying to figure out.

     That’s why I’m going to pick out words in the gospels texts and offer supplementary options – then it will be your responsibility to sort through the net of information and choose what helps you live the quality of life God wants for you today.

     I suppose that’s what my next post on this new path will have to be about – “demons” which shows up in the Mark 1:29-39 text. I hope you’ll join me.

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Your Authority to Choose

 

Mark 1:21-28

     At one point in history, Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time. For almost two thousand years, people believed Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object was, the faster it would fall to earth. That was the truth for two thousand years, determined by the world’s greater thinker. Anyone, of course, could have taken a heavy object and a light one, and dropped them from a tall place to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did that until nearly two thousand years after Aristotle’s death.

     Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo gathered all the learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top with a ten pound weight and a one pound weight and dropped them at the same time. Both landed at the same moment. Yet even though they saw it with their own eyes, the professors denied the evidence and continued to say Aristotle was right.[1]

     Why? Because they gave more authority to what the legendary Aristotle said than they were ready to give the new guy on the block, Galileo. “Who does this upstart think he is to contradict the greatest thinker in the world?”

     This only shows that it’s human nature we’re dealing with. It’s hard to shift away from what you’ve given authority to all your life – having accepted the belief of others for thousands of years – even if it’s proven to be in error. It just shows that visual evidence that clearly reveals the truth is not enough to change some people’s minds.

     Jesus came along and taught something new. He taught, not as the scribes taught, but as one having authority. The fact that the scriptures were being interpreted differently was nothing new for the children of Israel. They were used to it. They had their conservative side of interpretation and their liberal side and all the flavors in-between.

     A rabbi with a new teaching would say things like, “You have heard it said that ‘the scriptures should be understood this way,’ but I tell you, ‘this is what God really wants.’” That’s what Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I tell you ‘do not resist an evil person”… and he also said, “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matt. 5:38-39; 43-44)

     A Jewish rabbi taught one of my classes at Vanderbilt. He said it’s been determined that there were a least twenty-three different Jewish sects or what we might classify as denominations of the Jewish faith at the time of Jesus. Nobody has ever been able to agree about what God wants based on the Scriptures, not even the Jews.

   homeschooling-diploma-template-sample1   Still, the Jewish scribes were the authorized teachers of the Scriptures. They wore a belt and on that belt hung some keys. These keys were symbolic of the knowledge, experience, and authority of that scribe. In the business and religious worlds, diplomas seem to indicate the level of authority some will be given. These keys were recognizable symbols that gave you honor and authority because you had achieved a certain level of proficiency in the tradition.

     Rabbis who had a new teaching would then attract followers who became their students, or disciples. Once a rabbi taught his disciples the details of his interpretations, he then gave them authority to teach the Scriptures in the way he had taught. He would say something similar to what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16, “I give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13-20)

     At one point, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “By what authority do you do and teach what you do?” The Greek word for authority means “the power to choose.” If you remember the story, Jesus didn’t tell them. He said, “You answer this question for me first and then I’ll tell you by what authority I say what I say.” They wouldn’t answer the question, so he didn’t tell them where his power to choose came from.

     I read a book (Phyllis Tickle, The Emergent Church) that pointed out that in the two thousand year history of Christianity, there’s been a major shift about every five hundred years in where the body of Christ has placed its authority.

     In the fourth and fifth centuries, the institutional church was formed in Rome and it was given the power to choose what was right and wrong. Then in the ninth and tenth centuries, the pope became the infallible authority for interpreting the truth. Then in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during the Reformation, a group of people decided the Scriptures should be the ultimate authority for deciding the truth. Obviously, everyone wasn’t on board with every shift in who could decide what God’s will was.

     And now, in the 21st century, we’re seeing another shift. People are questioning whether every word in every part of the written Scriptures is actually the truth about what God wants. Just like many question whether the pope is infallible, and the institutional church continues to show it isn’t perfect in its choices. The Scriptures are now in question – is every part of it true?

      It’s upsetting when you begin to wonder if the place you have put your authority is somehow shown to be imperfect – whether it’s Aristotle or the church, the pope or the Bible. If we can’t trust something to tell us the absolute truth in every way, what are we going to stand on? I hope and pray we are finally shifting our authority to the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ, and let him be our final authority.

     How do you as a follower of Jesus decide how to bind and loose? Martin Luther gave clear direction on how to decide which Scriptures are to be followed in a sermon on Luke 14. He said, “If you are a Christian you have power to dispense with all commandments as far as they hinder you in the practice of love. (volume V: 165:20)

     That was his way of saying, “I give you the authority to bind and to loose if it leads to love.” If it helps and guides you to love, then follow it. If it hinders you and prevents you from showing love, then get rid of it. Love is to be the interpreter of the law. Luther also said, “Love and necessity control all law; and there should be no law that cannot be enforced and applied in love. If it cannot, then let it be done away with, even though an angel from heaven had [broadcast] it. (volume V:165:28)

     Luther said since it’s your life/soul that depends upon it, you must chose who you will follow. Don’t turn your soul over to truths others mandate for you. Be accountable to yourself for what you believe. Don’t trust an institution, a figurehead, or even a compiled book that’s never been interpreted the same way by any generation of human beings from the day it was put on paper.

     Luther said this is how you decide the matter for yourself: “God must speak to your heart: “This is God’s Word” (second sermon on Matt. 7:15-22, volume IV: 239:8).

     The Scriptures tell us that God is love. Do you accept this as truth? If you have love (Love) in your heart, then make your decisions on the authority of your heart for there is no greater authority than love. When love is your authority and Jesus is the example you are trying to follow, your choices will always lead to the fruits of the Spirit, bringing peace, joy, kindness, generosity, healing, and comfort into the lives of people who are hurting, like Jesus did. And the kingdom of heaven will be near.

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[1] Brett Blair and Staff, “Astonishing!” sermon on Mark 1:21-28, Sermons.com

 

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Bring the Kingdom of God to Someone

 

Mark 1:14-20                                              

     The kingdom of God (which is the same thing as the kingdom of heaven) is one of my favorite topics. I think it was one of Jesus’s favorite topics. John the Baptist considered it a favorite topic, too. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also thought it was important enough to tell us that the first teaching of John and Jesus when they began their ministries was the same – “the kingdom of God is at hand.”

     Unfortunately, most modern day Christians fail to understand what that means. I know because for most of my life I didn’t realize that I didn’t understand it. I was taught that the kingdom of God/heaven was the place where I was going after I was dead, assuming that I believed the right doctrines.

     But that’s incorrect information.

     According to both John the Baptist and Jesus, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” At hand means anything from “within your reach” to “now.”

     If the kingdom of God is not a place to go to after you’re dead, then what is it?

     It’s a state of living today that is an image of the Garden of Eden. All things are working together in peace, harmony, and unity. It’s that simple.

     Let me explain it in Aramaic terms. The Aramaic name for God is Alaha. It means “oneness” or “unity.” That means the kingdom of Alaha is a kingdom of Unity. The Kingdom is a state where all things are working together for the good of everyone and everything else.

     This is the kingdom Jesus was hoping to usher in—a place where all people are working together and living in peace.

     I explained most of it in my ebook, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real and It’s Open to Everyone! (or at the iBookstore here), so I’ll go on with the rest of the text.

     After Jesus proclaimed his message about the kingdom, he went looking for ordinary people to help him bring a state of peace and harmony to Israel. He didn’t need professionally trained clergy to do the job. He needed ordinary people.

     Today’s clergy seem to be more focused on bringing peace and harmony to people after they are dead than to bring peace and harmony to them today. Whenever you see that happening, you know they still believe the kingdom of God will only be seen when people are dead, even though Jesus and John said something different.

     Anyway, you and I are called, as followers of Jesus, to bring peace and unity into the lives of people today. Whenever we can do that, many will be grateful. Some will be curious. And some may even want to hang around with us and try to keep the peace and harmony going.

     Following Jesus is about making the kingdom of God a reality today. You have been given the power to bring the peace, hope, and harmony into someone’s life today. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an ordained clergyperson to do that. It just takes someone with compassion and love.

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     Thanks so much to all of you who pre-ordered my new ebook about the power to forgive that was released Monday!

 

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New ebook on Forgiveness Available Now!

 

7 Prayers for the Power to Forgive and Move Forward with Your Life

     My newest ebook, 7 Prayers for the Power to Forgive and Move Forward with Your Life, is now available online at these links: here for your Kindle, here for your Nook, here for your Apple device. It’s forty-three pages long and will set you back 99 cents.

     The word “forgive” has practical meanings beyond the religious undertones that tend to invoke guilt when you’re finding it difficult to let go of an offense.    

     Emphasis is placed on the intentional effort invested in the process so you can move forward with your life. Yet it takes a special Power within you to initiate and fulfill the process of forgiveness. This information, with its comments and prayers, will teach you how to overcome wrongdoings and resentments so you can claim peace and joy in your life.

     Topics covered: What other ways are there to forgive? What are the benefits of forgiving? What about justice? How do you forgive 70 x 7 times? How do you forgive yourself? How do you forgive those closest to you? The Power from on High. Is there life after forgiveness?

     Order here for your Kindle, here for your Nook, here for your Apple device.

 

 

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Under the Fig Tree of Scriptures

 

John 1:43-51                                                

     An average fig tree is about fifteen feet tall and its branches spread out about twenty-five feet wide. It acts a little bit like an umbrella, creating a cozy space underneath that is almost like a private room. If someone wanted to get away from the chaos of a one-room house or the heat of the sun, he would sit under the fig tree.

Fig_Tree     In biblical days, students would sit there to read scripture or to reflect or to pray. Sitting under a fig tree was a sign of seeking and praying for God’s living presence.

     Churches act a little bit like umbrellas and fig trees, too. We gather together under the umbrella of the Word with a desire to know the presence of the living God. We gather to “retreat” from the chaos of the world so we can read scripture, reflect, and pray. In that way, we have much in common with Nathaniel.

     Nathanael was a student of the scriptures. It explains why his response to Philip claiming Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah was: “How can anything this good come out of Nazareth?”

     There’s a good reason why Nathanael asks this question. The writings of Moses and the prophets said something different. The messiah wasn’t supposed to come out of Nazareth. The book of Micah said the messiah was going to come out of Bethlehem in Judah.

     “How can this be, Philip? The Scriptures say something different from what you’re saying is true. So why should I believe anything you say?”

     It sounds a little fundamental, doesn’t it? Whatever Scripture says has to be right. As it turns out, both were right. Jesus came from both places. Most fundies think there is only one “truth.”

     All Philip said was, “Come and see for yourself.”

     There’s no need to convince anyone about the truth. The truth is convincing enough in itself.

     So Nathanael came, experienced Christ for himself, and believed. Nathanael’s advantage was that he was prepared to recognize the messiah. He was a student who spent enough time under the fig tree, praying and meditating, to recognize the Truth for himself.

     Maybe one of the many truths in this story is that we are expected to recognize the truth for ourselves rather than accept something because someone else said it’s true. That’s not possible when we are youth and our brains were not fully developed. Many of us believed what we were told. We had no capacity to be able to disagree.

      But there comes a time after your brain is fully developed and capable of abstract thinking (late teens and into the twenties), where it behooves you to sort through all the things you learned as a child. Why? Because not everything you learned was true.

       Some people grew up learning to look down on other races and nationalities. Some people grew up learning that men were more important than women. Some grew up learning that if someone wasn’t heterosexual, (s)he was purposefully opposing the will of God. Some grew up learning that rules in the Bible that hurt people are more important than compassion for the people the scriptures were written to serve.

      Without a doubt, the Bible holds wisdom from the days of old. It’s a tool the Holy Spirit uses to speak to us. But you have to know it well enough to understand which truths are from God and which don’t sound like our God of love. That’s when you have to pull on your big girl and big boy pants.

     The Bible encourages us to spend time under the fig tree. The psalmist encourages us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” This was my motivation for writing the book, 30 Days to Loving God with All Your Heart.

     Ignatius of Loyola’s ancient practice of meditation on scriptures changed my whole understanding of God. In the midst of the stories I’d read about a God of Israel who killed his own children when they were bad, the Spirit showed me the truth about God. God is love, not a killer.

     To be a disciple is first to be a student or an apprentice. An apprentice can’t go to work until he or she has been trained. That’s why you spend time sitting under the fig tree in a church sanctuary—to read and meditate on the writings in the Holy Scriptures.

     A church sanctuary isn’t the only place that can be called a fig tree. Anyplace where you meditate on the things of God is a sanctuary. It’s a place where you sit under an umbrella, protected and taught by the Holy Spirit.

     The places where we meditate also produce many fruits that are sweet. Peace of mind, a feeling of wholeness, knowledge of the Oneness of the universe in God. When you have tasted the sweetness of the fruits of sitting under the fig tree, you will understand that whatever God appoints you to do is not something to be feared but it is something He’s prepared you for. It will give you joy and peace and a sense of purpose in this life.

     Maybe then you will be one whose enthusiasm for Christ in your life will make people want to know the reason for your joyful outlook on life – and you can say, “I found Jesus and he has revealed the Father to me. Come and see.”

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Check out some devotional options for the season of Lent, 2015.

 

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