Tag Archives: Jesus

2016 trump clinton election banner

Trump Politics of Hate Vs the Table of Love

This election cycle has been filled with hatred. Donald Trump plays on people’s fears about the still-struggling economy in so many parts of the country. He blames people’s struggles to find work, any work, on immigrants and Muslims. He makes light of comments like rounding up all the Muslims to register them, and killing all the family members of terrorists. Us versus them. And he found an audience eating up all this hate speech.

I understand fear and joblessness. I have walked that terrible path. But I never blamed my Muslim and immigrant neighbors and friends. People’s struggles to find work and housing have so much more to do with bad decisions and wars under the Bush administration. Also, advancing technology independent of any administration is simply taking over jobs. We are united in our struggles, not divided.

Trump says the invisible enemy is our neighbor and friend of a different color, different culture, different religion. Plenty of people believe him. Tragically.

We have heard this same rhetoric before. Taken to its end, the hate speech leads to death. The Holocaust. The Rwandan genocide. The Bosnian genocide. Blaming the “other” for a bad economy or a country’s racial and nationalist/political divides. It’s terrifying.

Amazingly, Trump calls himself a Christian. Even more amazingly, many American Christians follow him. Endorse him. Cheer for him. Call Trump, “God’s man.” Excuse his horrible comments toward women as “boys will be boys” or “locker room talk.” As if every man treats women as objects. Evangelicals cheer, while satan laughs.

Have these people ever opened their Bible? Do they know Jesus at all? Do they even know about Jesus? When did Jesus ever scapegoat and hate entire groups of people? When did Jesus disrespect women? Instead, Jesus lifted up the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritan was born of hated foreigner group in Israel, she was a “sinner” according to Jewish culture because of her multiple marriages, and she was a woman. But Jesus lifted her up and shared with her the mystical secret of living water, something he never shared with the big important male religious leaders.

Trump wants to build a wall to exclude everyone who is the “other.” Jesus turns that wall into a table. He invites everyone, the rejects of the world, the poor, the homeless, the broken, the sick, the immigrant, the follower-of-another-religion who seeks the truth. Jesus feasts with everyone who seeks the truth of love, healing, and understanding. The table of the feast is the table of love.

There is no room at this table for people who hate others. The popular people of the world, the ego-driven people, the hateful people, are stuck behind a wall. They create their own walls of self-righteousness, and they reject the invitation to the feast of heaven.

Here’s news for you, Trump and all your followers, everyone who excuses and condones all your hatred. The people you reject and hate are the people who populate heaven. I’ve always wondered about those Christians who want to carpet-bomb Muslim nations, brutally maim and destroy innocent children and families and violently tear families apart through deportations, and detention centers. What would think if they found one of these precious Muslim or immigrant children in heaven, crying in the arms of Jesus?

The invitation to heaven’s wedding feast is going forward around the earth. Jesus has built his table, and he sends his sons and daughters to find the guests. These Jesus followers are often poor and hungry, thirsty, in prison, in war refugee camps, in the world’s lowliest places, looking for human love and kindness. The guests at the table are invited after they show their love by housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, visiting the prison, working in the legal system to set the innocent captives free.

After the results of the election last night, I cry over this nation and its values. They are certainly not the values of the table of Jesus, the gospel of love.

Matthew 22

Matthew 25:31-46

grace, works, mercy, picture of hand on the Bible

Grace Works and the Journey of Mercy

God’s grace. A wonderful Christian teaching. If you are trying to serve, if you have mercy for the hurting but you make mistakes, God has abundant grace.

The journey to the kingdom of heaven is paved by works of the Spirit. We all fall down in the journey of loving others. We stumble as we learn to embrace humbleness over power and selflessness over greed. Grace covers our fall and gently helps us back on the path.

But the American evangelical church has twisted the definition of grace into a selfish, Me-first mentality.

Grace, grace, God’s grace…

Grace. As a young child in church, I was taught to sing about grace. I learned from American evangelical pastors to claim grace over every part of my life. Every time I was greedy or selfish, I learned that I could excuse my behavior with some platitude about grace. But I was not taught about works or about mercy. On my spiritual path beyond the church, Jesus has taught me that grace covers mistakes, but grace does not cover willful disobedience to the promptings and the works of the Holy Spirit.

How can grace exist without works? Many American evangelicals have recited the salvation prayer. They ask for God’s grace, and the blood of Jesus, to cover their sins. Then they turn around and stomp on that blood through their harshness to the poor and hurting. They show no grace to their brothers and sisters.

Zaccheus the tax collector understood grace. He climbed the tree to meet Jesus. He was ecstatic when Jesus asked to visit his house. Jesus gave him holy grace to cover all his sins. Zaccheus immediately vowed to do works and return all the taxes he had harshly demanded from the poor.

Today’s bill collectors and bankers pray for grace on Sunday, then turn around and destroy the poor on Monday. Today’s police officers and judges ask for grace on Sunday, then extend harsh judgments to petty criminals or innocent victims of the justice system on Monday. Today’s employers receive grace on Sunday, then fire their minimum wage employees on Monday because of a broken car or a sick child. How can society’s powerful people expect to receive grace when they do not extend grace to the society’s weak and vulnerable people?

Zaccheus had incredible wealth and power as a Jewish tax collector. He embraced grace for his own sins, mistakes, and failures, and then immediately extended grace to those underneath him. The powerful in today’s society claim Jesus’ grace for their own sins, mistakes, and failures, and then destroy the lives of those underneath them. They do not understand grace at all.

Zaccheus did works by returning money he had wrongfully collected. He gave back to the poor eight times what he had taken from them. Could you imagine a prosecutor, police officer, or manager today giving back eight times the money and life they steal from the wrongfully convicted, wrongfully arrested, wrongfully fired? God’s heavenly system of grace and works is so far removed from this earthly system of little mercy and great selfishness.

If you want to receive grace, you must give grace. To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

If you want to understand grace, you must understand works. There is no grace without works. If you want to understand works, you must understand mercy. Mercy is compassion, walking a mile in another person’s shoes, and doing everything in your power to help them on the journey. Mercy and works is the kingdom of Jesus.

I have heard some Protestants go so far as saying “doing works is evil.” I am boggled by the mental and theological gymnastics required to reach that statement. In the Bible, God tells us over and over to help the poor, take care of the least of these, and visit the prisoners and the sick. How are these things evil? These are selfless works of the faith.

I have also heard many people, most grievously some American Christians, who declare that the poor are lazy, and the prisoners are sinful. Who are you to judge? Many poor people work multiple jobs. Many prisoners are innocent victims of poverty, place, or the broken justice system. Only God knows the heart. God has immense grace for the poor, the humble, the broken, the repentant. There is no grace for the proud and judgmental.

The Pharisees acted the same way, judging everyone around them and stealing the poor widow’s very last mite. They did not see a need for grace or mercy. Jesus rebuked them many times for their sinful attitude.

Protestant Christians often say that the cross of Jesus, accessed by a “salvation prayer” and dependence on “God’s grace,” is the only way to heaven. All other religions, they say, are damned to hell because they do good works and try to “work” their way to God. But this argument makes no sense.

How could grace exist without works? If a simple prayer is all that’s needed for salvation, then how is grace needed at all? Doesn’t grace mean a covering for mistakes, permission to try and try again as we perfect our heavenly walk?

Saying the name of Jesus is not some magic spell that equals for some “Christian” social club. If you are not trying to do works, you are not covered by grace. Just as faith without works is dead grace without works is dead.

James 2: 14-16

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The cross is a bridge to heaven. God’s grace covers us as we follow Jesus and take up our own cross, our works, to grasp heaven. Grace, and salvation, is not a one time event. The Protestant church has last its understanding of grace. We desperately need grace in this fallen world. If you are actively trying to help others, as you have the power to do, and you sometimes slip up, God has abundant grace for you.

Thank God for his grace as we practice the works of the Holy Spirit and the kingdom of Jesus.

fruits of the spirit

God Wants Religious Fruits, Not Religious Nuts

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

On my Facebook feed recently, I saw a church sign that proclaimed, “God wants religious fruits, not religious nuts.” This is so true. The fruits of the Spirit are things such as love, peace, and gentleness. But there are many religious nuts who lead lives of selfishness at best, and lives of dark, deadly hatred at worst.

Fruits of the Spirit

There are people of faith, following many different religious paths, who live and grow in the fruits of the spirit. They find seeking God and the heavenly kingdom. They practice forbearance by giving up the rat race of earthly power and possessions. They follow a simple life of love for others and love for God’s beautiful creation.

These people of faith practice kindness, goodness, and gentleness toward others. They show special concern for the poor, bruised, and broken. They fight oppression in the world and in their neighborhood. By following Jesus’ path of holy justice, they gain the fruits of the spirit. The fruits ripen and grow during the seasons of a lifelong journey with the Holy Spirit.

Take another look at the Apostle Paul’s writing on the fruits of the Spirit, this time translated in the Message Bible:

Galatians 5:22-23 MSG

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

A simple life of holiness. A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. A life pursuing the fruits of the spirit.

Fruitcake of the Spirit

I have been publicly called a “fruitcake” for my writings on this website. I am proud of that. I want to pursue the fruits of the Spirit until they are so full and alive in my life that they make a cake.

The ingredients in my cake are a heaping cup of love, another cup of peace through justice for the oppressed, sprinkles of gentleness and kindness, and fruits of every kind. Let it bake through the spiritual journey of a life. But I won’t add any nuts. There are already too many religious nuts in the world.

So Many Religious Nuts

There are people who call themselves faithful, but who do not follow the fruits of the spirit. These people are religious nuts who use their faith as an excuse to bring harm to the world.

So many religious nuts want war and destruction. So many religious nuts crow out, “my way is the only way.” They battle against each other in words and weapons. Denomination against denomination. Religion against religion.

So many religious nuts battle against the poor. They call for cutting off medical and food support, harsh austerity they term “responsibility.” They love to preach, “God helps those who help themselves,” a saying found nowhere in the Bible.

When people think of religions nuts, often the first image to come to mind is a jihadist Muslim, like the shooting in a Sydney cafe, or the violence against Charlie Hebdo. Or they think of religious wars, the Catholic crusades of old, or the Muslims and Christians still killing each other in Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps they picture a Christian bombing an abortion clinic. These acts of terror are the most tragic fruits of a “my way is the only way” attitude.

These killings and violence are so horrible. So are less deadly acts of violence, like Christians who hold up signs saying “God hates gays.” The Holy Spirit is the mother of love, compassion, and understanding, the religious fruits of a wise spiritual path. God is so far from human hatred.

But these international news-making acts of religious violence are not the only forms of religious nuttery. There are Christians who build their kingdoms on earth at the expense of the poor. They are religious nuts. Jesus said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Yet some Christians say,”Don’t build those low-income apartments in my neighborhood, it will lower my property values.” They are religious nuts.

Jesus freely healed people and fed the crowd of 5000 people, even when he was exhausted from teaching all day (Matthew 14:13-21). Conservative political religious people say, “Cut back food stamps. He who shall not work shall not eat!” They are religious nuts.

I even knew someone who was proud to proclaim that she was an “extremist for Jesus.” When I told her that her words could be hurtful to people who have experienced the terror of religious extremism, she defriended me on Facebook. Where is the love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? God weeps over all this destruction in his name.

God Wants Religious Fruits, Not Religious Nuts

As people of faith, we should strive for fruits of peace and gentleness. Christians should join Jesus in following the way of the good Samaritan. We should tell our Muslim neighbors, “I’ll ride with you.” The fruits bloom and mature in holding hands with our neighbors of other religions. We must fight for justice for the poor and oppressed, the wrongfully incarcerated and the hungry. The fight for social justice creates peace and kindness.

Shabbat Shalom this beautiful Friday. Peace on your journey. Make a decision today to follow the journey of the fruits of the Spirit.

dangerous love, two peace doves on Valentine's Day

A Dangerous Love: Valentine’s Day Message

On this Valentine’s Day 2015, I am meditating on the love of Jesus. The love of Jesus is a holy love, a love of astounding grace, a love that intimately knows all our sins, all our failures, all our darkness.

Two days ago, I read an article about Christians and Valentine’s Day. “No, Jesus isn’t my boy friend,” Juliet Vedral blogs in the Sojourner. She is speaking of the boyfriend Jesus, a popular saying in many of today’s “seeker sensitive” and Charismatic churches. I agree with her.

The love of Jesus is not a boyfriend love. The love of Jesus is a perfect and dangerous love.

A Perfect Love

Jesus gave up everything in his love for us. We must give up everything in our own pursuit of holiness. We must learn to love God and others. Jesus told religious leaders that Love is the greatest law. Loving God is primary, but loving your neighbor as yourself is also required to fulfill God’s whole law.

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus preached to the crowds that anyone can love their friend, but God calls us to love our enemies. We must learn reckless love. Indiscriminate love. We must learn to love those who don’t deserve love. Love them into the kingdom. Perfect love.

Matthew 5:43-48
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A Dangerous Love

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who practiced radical love. He bound up the wounds of the Jew who was bloody, beaten, and left to die on the roadside. This was a dangerous love on a dangerous road filled with violent thieves and hateful religious disputes. The Samaritans and Jews warred over doctrine and ideas of God, much like Muslims and Christians today.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of Jesus’ love for us. While we lay bleeding on the road, beat up by the world’s systems, not looking for God’s kingdom, dying in pride and foolishness as we built our little kingdom of wealth on earth, Jesus found us. He cleaned up our wounds, paid for our care, and took a chance on us.

He knew the danger that once we healed from our sins, once that precious seed was planted in our soil, the cares and pleasures of this world could lure us away once again.

A Dangerous Cross

In his love for us, Jesus faced the ultimate danger. In his love for us, Jesus died on a cross. He died an excruciating death as a criminal to a world who could not understand his love.

Jesus loved the poor, the orphan, the widow, the misunderstood, the prostitute, the sinner. While I was still His enemy, Jesus loved me. Jesus died for me. Jesus showed me the radical, holy, dangerous love of God.

What is my response to this love? What is your response? We must follow Jesus in the dangerous love of the cross.

Picking up my cross to follow Jesus has been a dangerous love and a wild road. I have given all my possessions to the poor whom Jesus brought my way. I have experienced homelessness and hunger. I have been rejected by the church but accepted by my gay brothers in Christ, by my poor single mom sisters in Christ. I have seen hatred by pastors, men and women who started a good road, but whose lamps have gone dark as they disparage the poor and hurting. I have seen love by prisoners, the light and acceptance of Jesus shining in their hurt eyes.

Holy love is a dangerous love. What kind of love will you embrace today on Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love? Find Jesus, find love, find life.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014: The Government of Jesus

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

As I celebrate Christmas 2014, I reflect on Jesus and his wonderful kingdom. Look once again at this famous passage from Isaiah: “the government will be on his shoulders.” That is heavy. The government of Jesus is so unlike any earthly government we have now.

Jesus Experienced Humanness

Jesus came to earth as a baby. Just like all of us, he pooped his diapers and made messes. He cried a lot. The song Away in a Manger says “no crying he made” but Jesus was human, just like us. He cried as a baby, he wept as an adult.

As Jesus grew up, he experienced the same learning process we all go through. He made mistakes, he probably experienced bullying and abuse. I wrote what I saw prophetically about his early experiences of rejection that led to his compassion with the miraculous feeding of the fish and loaves to the crowds. Jesus also grew in wisdom. He was divine, but he learned things on earth.

Luke 2:52
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

God, through Jesus, experienced human life on earth. This is a great mystery of compassion and love.

Jesus Showed Us the Heavenly Kingdom

As a young adult carrying out his ministry to the crowds, Jesus spoke often of the Father’s kingdom. He compared it to a treasure of greatest price hidden in a field, and a great wedding feast to which many are invited but few come.

Jesus’ disciples tried to grasp this heavenly kingdom and bring it to earth. They wanted Jesus to rise up and fight the Roman empire oppressing the Jews. But Jesus rebuked his disciples for trying to bring rule through fire. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He carried the government of heaven on his shoulders, and he taught his followers how to find the kingdom inside. The way of the kingdom meant the great suffering of the cross, not the riches of earthly power.

Sadly, many churches today forget this principle. They try to take the power and glories of  government for themselves. They proclaim that the United States should become a theocracy, and all morality must be legislated. They create violence as they have law enforcement jail women for miscarriages. They are so far from the compassion of Jesus, who stopped the bleeding of a woman whom her society deemed unclean.

As I celebrate Christmas 2014, I deny the riches and power of this earth, I take up my cross, and I celebrate the heavenly kingdom which Jesus showed us.

Jesus Will Reign on the Earthly Kingdom

Jesus came the first time to earth and died on the cross to bridge the divide between our sin and God’s grace. He taught us about the joys of the heavenly kingdom.

But Jesus will return again someday to reign over the earth. He will hold the government on his shoulders in a wonderful millenial kingdom. The poor and the oppressed will find their day of deliverance and justice in this kingdom.

As I celebrate Christmas 2014, I celebrate Jesus’ return someday to rule over an earthly kingdom of peace and righteousness. A kingdom where everybody loves each other and practices sacrifice for their neighbor. A kingdom ruled by the Prince of Peace.

On Christmas 2014, I look forward to a kingdom ruled by Jesus’ social justice. A kingdom of holy justice.

Have a blessed Christmas 2014, friends.

Sydney siege

Sydney Siege: Jesus Answers Religious Terror

My Twitter feed this morning lit up with comments about the Sydney siege. I read the news with sadness:

CNN: With two hostages and gunman dead, grim investigation starts in Sydney

A Muslim man (I will not give him the honor of saying his name) held a cafe hostage for many hours, terrorizing innocent Australians who were just enjoying a morning cup of coffee. The terrorist ended up killing two people, young people in their 30s who should have had a long earthly life ahead of them. The man proclaimed himself to be a sheik, a Muslim religious leader. During the siege of the café, he flew a black flag in the window, declaring Allah and Islam as the only true religion.

He is no religious leader. He dishonors Muslims everywhere. Terroristic people of any religion dishonor the vast number of peaceful followers of all faith paths.

The Sydney Siege and Hateful Religion

There are too many extreme Muslims like this man. They wage war and terror against Christians and Jews, while proclaiming their way is the only way.

Likewise, there are too many extreme Christians, including a large number of American Christians, who are hateful toward Muslims, while proclaiming their way is the only way.

My own fundamental Christian parents rejected me for “not following the only way of salvation,” and they called me a child of the devil when I said that all true seekers find God, no matter which religious path they start with. In religious hatred, my parents sent their daughter and toddler grandson to live homeless and hungry in the street, while in religious fervor, they sent money to a missions agency to support the “poor hungry Indian children struggling in Muslim regions.”

Here in Minneapolis, a group of Christians prevented a Muslim congregation from holding services in a community center. These Christians went on local television, loudly proclaiming that all Muslims are terrorists who wouldn’t be allowed near their community center.

I cannot understand the blatant hypocrisy. These “Christians” are not far from jihad themselves. Their angry words show the hatefulness in their hearts.

Religious terrorism comes in many forms. Religious hatefulness leads to jihad and bloodshed, bombings of towers and bombings of abortion clinics. Religious hatefulness led to the Sydney siege.

Jesus and the Sydney Siege

Religious animosity existed during the time of Jesus, too. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, an ancient religious rivalry not unlike the Christian/Muslim rivalry today.

In religious extremism, Jesus’s own disciples tried to call fire on a Samaritan city. How did Jesus respond?

Luke 9:51-56 (NIV)

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

In this story, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and his own betrayal and death. The Samaritans rejected him. The Jews and Samaritans had long hated each other for differences in theology and religious practices. Jesus as a Jew could have rebuked the Samaritans for disbelief. But Jesus rebuked his disciples! Jesus does not stand for acts of religious terror.

In another story, Jesus was walking through a Samaritan town, and he stopped to rest at a well. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, he spoke with her. I am sure that the very act of speaking to her and drinking from her well shocked his Jewish disciples. Here is what he told her:

John 4:21-24

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The biggest argument between Jews and Samaritans was whether God was to be worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim. Jesus told her that where a person worships makes no difference; worship comes from inside a person’s heart, led by the Spirit in truth. Jesus did not tell her to convert to Judaism, or find the only true religion. Everyone who seeks God with all their heart will find God.

Jesus Admires the Love of the Faithful

In the Sydney siege and other acts of religious terror, we see the face of evil, the face of religion used as an excuse for hatred. It is so easy to create divides between “us” and “them,” but the true transformation of faith is seen in acts of love.

Look at the most famous Samaritan in the Bible:

Luke 10:30-35 (MSG)

30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

The Jewish religious people left the man to die on the road. But the Samaritan, the person most hated by the Jewish religious leaders, had compassion on the man and did Jesus’s work of love. Right before he told this story, Jesus said that to show love to your neighbor is to fulfill God’s whole law.

Imagine that parable today. Imagine the good Samaritan as a Muslim in the middle of an American Christian community, or the good Samaritan as Coptic Christian in a Muslim Egyptian community. This is the kind of love Jesus was explaining. This is Jesus’s answer to the problem of religious hatred, division, and terrorism.

Jesus Says #IllRideWithYou

Many Australians are responding in love toward the Muslim community who fears a backlash from the hateful actions of the terrorist’s Sydney siege. They are tweeting #IllRideWithYou, standing in solidarity and protection with the Muslims riding the public transit system. This is a group of good Samaritans.

Love will defeat hatred. Love will overcome terror. Follow Jesus and embrace your brothers and sisters of all different religions and colors. We are all children of the Father. Together we can redeem the pain of the Sydney siege.

Where Your Treasure Is There Your Heart Is

Matthew 6:19 (NIV)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Privilege and Where Your Treasure Is

During a recent evening commute on a local bus, I was chatting with an acquaintance. He is an upper middle class white man, Baby Boomer age, solid in his job and finances. He will sometimes talk about very basic issues of power and privilege, but it is only an intellectual exercise for him. He has never known one day of need or injustice from oppression.

Mostly he talks about his house: all the improvements he is making, how the house is rising in value, how much he might get for it when he retires. No doubt he is a hard worker. He has pulled fifty hour shifts for years, but he has privileges he does not begin to understand, starting with the easy offer of good-paying work. Sadly, all that privilege dulls his eyes to the Spirit.

During our chat that day, he told me, “I want to have one million dollars in my bank account.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he replied. “A nice retirement. Power. Choices.”

Power? I thought. I can’t believe he actually said power. Why do people want power?

During the discussion, Jesus kept whispering in my ear, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Earthly treasure goes with earthly power. I battled this in my time on earth, too.”

Earthly Treasure Brings Earthly Power

The Oxford Dictionary defines power as:

The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.

Power is the ability to control another, to set oneself on a pedestal, to take up an earthly throne. Power is part of the fallen human nature, the mirrors, the lies of deception. A throne and a mirror alike can break.

“I don’t really want a big savings account,” I told my friend. “Actually, my goal is to never have a million dollars saved. I want to spend all my money on the poor and needy, helping people out. Give them housing, food, medical care.”

“Well, I’m not surprised,” he said. “You are a kind-hearted person.”

Kind-hearted is not the right word, I thought. We should all be kind-hearted and compassionate toward each other. My business on this earthly journey is to spend all my earthly money on kingdom living, where my treasure is.

I smiled and looked out the window as the bus kept rolling down the road.

Who Seeks Kingdom Treasure?

On his earthly journey, Jesus constantly lifted up the poor and the oppressed. He distanced himself from the powerful Pharisees. He said that their public displays of giving and prayer brought them the earthly reward (treasure) they sought. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:5 (NIV)

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

During part of my morning commute, I ride an express bus from a wealthy suburb to downtown. This bus is full of corporate skyscraper workers, well-paid upper middle class people. People with the power of big savings accounts, big houses, earthly treasure.

I overhear their conversations, peppered with nice Christian lingo.

“I went to this great Bible retreat. The pastor was inspirational, and good-looking!”

“The realtor says I can get 350 for the house. I need to find time with the Lord about this house sale.”

l sigh and keep my eyes on my newspaper. Do the looks of a pastor increase the value of his sermon? Does that woman really care about what the Lord would want for her to do with her house, or her riches?

Their treasure is clear. I never hear conversations on the bus about heavenly treasure or taking up their cross. Are the poor, those closest to God’s heart, worth “350”? Don’t these wealthy homeowners understand that thieves and tornadoes, a hurricane or a heart attack, can destroy all their treasure on earth?

Where your treasure is…

Does anyone bother asking God what He treasures? He cares far more for the oppressed than He cares for your housing value, your inspirational Bible study, your powerful savings account.

The Holy Spirit is crying out for people to follow her in wisdom on the earth. Put your treasure in her storehouses, the kingdom which Jesus showed us.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Tebow football

Tebow- Gains, Guts, and Glory- For Himself?

Nike lawsuit against Reebok stops Tim Tebow apparel sales

-Los Angeles Times

Nike and Reebok, two of the largest players in the sports gear industry, are embroiled in an unholy spat over who gets to make and sell products featuring the name of newly minted New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow…Through it all, we can’t help but ask: What would Jesus do?

This quote says it all. The Christians worship Tim Tebow, and he soaks it all up. Now Nike and Reebok have joined his mass of adoring fans. And they can’t play nice.

Jesus said,

Matthew 6:5
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full

Jesus practiced what he preached, going off to the lonely places to pray and commune with the Father.

Tim Tebow Does Not Follow the Kingdom

Apparently Tebow has never met Jesus or understood his words. Tebow loves the crowds. Any Pharisee would be jealous of the crowded stadium awarded to Tebow. His reward comes from men and not from God.

Tim Tebow has not found the hidden kingdom. His is on the wide road of destruction, crowded with his legions of followers. Truly he has received his reward of the earthly kingdom, and he has forsaken the heavenly kingdom.

Some would argue that Tebow is “letting his light shine before men,” but apparently they forget the second part of the verse – “so that they may glorify your father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Tebow is only bringing glory to himself. If this were not true, he would intervene in the Nike lawsuit and tell the sports companies to stop endorsing him. He would refuse the earthly riches provided by the nice Nike and Reebok contracts. He would forsake the world, take up his cross, and follow Jesus.

The Narrow Road

The narrow road is a road that is too hard for Tebow and his followers. If he really lovedJesus, Tebow would sell all that he owns and give it to the poor, as Jesus told the rich young ruler. In the US, athletes are all rich young rulers of the culture.

Tebow would do well to heed Jesus’ words. He would find the treasure hidden in the field and sell all that he has to buy that field. Yet he spends his money merrily on himself. Truly he has received his earthly reward.

Worse, his selfish actions cause the media to slander Jesus and make fun of holiness, as the beginning quote shows. The church laughs right along at the joke, and Jesus weeps.

The time of judgment is swiftly approaching. God will allow Jesus to unsheathe his sword. Those who follow Tebow and not Jesus will head straight to destruction. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

the life of a prophet, person holding globe

The Life of a Prophet

The Life of a Prophet is Hard

The life of a prophet is a hard life. You will speak the truth, but the world will hate you for it. You will be spit on, cursed at, trampled under foot. Still, you hold the world in your hands and your prayers. Your compassion is great because you move under the heart of God. You will constantly pray for your nation and the world. You will live a life of prayer.

You will be poor and homeless as your home and wealth are in heaven, not on this earth. You are truly a stranger on this planet.

You will have many friends and many more enemies, but few true confidantes. You will proclaim judgment over a nation in sin, but blessing over the least of these, the people you meet who are poor in spirit. You will cry many tears, just as the prophet Jeremiah. You will learn to find your joy in God alone.  Your worldly vision will dim as your heavenly vision sharpens.

As a prophet, all of your worldly possessions will fit in one bag. God will tell you to leave a place at a moment’s notice. You will travel from city to city. If a city rejects your message, you will leave and kick the dust off your feet, just as Jesus told his disciples.

The Life of a Prophet is a Spectacle

The life of a prophet is a spectacle to the world. God commanded Ezekiel to lay on his side for 390 days. God told Hosea to marry a known prostitute. God gave Elijah a showdown with the prophets of Baal.

The  life of a prophet today is also a spectacle. You will have many showdowns with the prophets of Baal, the great god of money, and you must not allow yourself to be defiled by money. God will tell you to do crazy things. People will call you a fool. You must be brave. You must not look for human approval, but do all for the approval of Jesus, the love of the Father.

Like Ezekiel and like Jesus, you will carry the sins of the people upon yourself. You will cry and groan under the pain of the sin and the pain of being a spectacle, but you will persevere in love. You must warn the people of their sinful ways, lest their blood be upon your head.

Ezekiel 4
1 “Now, son of man, take a block of clay, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. 2 Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. 3 Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the people of Israel.

4 “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the people of Israel upon yourself.[a] You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. 5 I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.

6 “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7 Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 8 I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.

The Life of a Prophet is a Watchman

The life of a prophet is a watchman over the nation and the world.

Jeremiah 6
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
17 I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
18 Therefore hear, you nations;
you who are witnesses,
observe what will happen to them.
19 Hear, you earth:
I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
and have rejected my law.

The prophet is appointed by God to proclaim reward for a nation living in obedience to the ancient paths of holiness, and to proclaim the downfall of the nation who does not heed the call of the watchman for their sins. The people will hate your message. They will demand other prophets who proclaim peace, peace. Yet a true prophet will never proclaim peace when the nation is under judgement for its actions.

A Nation of False Prophets

The church is full of false prophets today. They are prophets defiled by money and fame. They do not live the life of a prophet, they live the life of a celebrity.

God does not call these people prophets. They call themselves prophets. They pander to the crowds by preaching peace and prosperity. They please Baal to fill their own pockets.

Watch out for these false prophets, these ear ticklers. They refuse to honor God and the name of Jesus. The true prophets are unliked and unwanted. They do not tickle the ears, but they have the hard word of God.

Listen to the watchmen of this generation! Repent, die to your own sin, take up your cross, and you will be saved.

christmas eve 2011, candles

Christmas Eve 2011: Jesus’ Message

Jesus is speaking to the church as we celebrate his birth this Christmas eve 2011.

A Message of Love

Jesus says,

My Father is not Santa Claus. He keeps no list of naughty and nice, no list of rights and wrongs. He loves the changed heart of a sinner, but he resists the proud. How is your heart toward the Father? Are you pursuing His kingdom of righteousness, or are you pursuing the fleeting gifts of the world?

I give you far more than cheap goods from the retail store. I came to the world to give everything for you. I long to heal you, but you must come to me with a repentant heart. A bruised weed I will not break, and a smoldering wick I will not stuff out. I love you. Are you following me with your own cross?

The Father has shown you His requirements? Do justly, have mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Talk to me every day. Repent and ask forgiveness for every wrong that you do. I do not demand perfection, only humbleness. Love your neighbor as yourself. Show love every day in every way.

A Message of Warning

Jesus says,

Woe to you who test my grace. If you claim to know me, but do nothing to help your neighbor in oppression, then there is no more grace for you. The path of holiness goes way beyond calling out my name. That is only the first step of the cross.

If you continue to act unjustly toward your neighbor in need, you stomp on my blood. If you continue to amass wealth for yourself at the expense of the sweat shop worker, the minimum wage family, the slave, you make a mockery of my cross. Claiming ignorance is not good enough. Learn and know the atrocities around you. Work for equality and holy justice. You are my hands and feet on the earth.

This is my message for Christmas eve 2011. Come to me with clean hands, and a repentant heart. Open your ears and your heart. I will lead you in holy justice, the path of the cross and the kingdom.