Tag Archives: Kingdom

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.

4th of July Working Poor

4th of July 2015

On this 4th of July holiday, I am deep in thought about being American. The holiday celebrates the “greatness” of the United States, the land of the free and home of the brave.

But I am troubled about what I teach my son. Is there a place for him, for us? Will our mixed-race family be accepted among the sea of white families wearing red, white, and blue, waving the stars and stripes, driving nice cars to nice picnics and nice fireworks shows? Is this nice? Is this the picture of greatness?

The Working Poor on the 4th of July

My husband just started a new job. He desperately needs this work after a long period of unemployment. But his boss called and unexpectedly required him to work a shift from 8:00 pm to 3:00 am for the 4th of July. The job was over the river and Oregon state line in Vancouver, Washington. It is very difficult to take the bus there during peak times, and there are simply no buses that run there in the middle of the night. When he told his boss this fact, she accused him of lying. She has never taken a bus, but she says she “knows” that they run all the time.

So now we must choose between paying for an $80 taxi ride, jeopardizing our rent this month, or refusing the assignment and jeopardizing his new job. (He will also be basically working for free because he won’t make much more than $80 on the shift).

Of course we choose to pay for his job, because we do not want to struggle again with unemployment, and the job is good in the long run. But it is so sad that in the land of the free, we, and so many others, must worry constantly about rent.

Oh, the irony. This scenario must be happening to millions of low wage workers around the country on this holiday celebrating the independence of this “great” nation. My husband will be working an event that costs hundreds of dollars to attend. He must give up his few dollars and his own holiday to make sure the rich people have a nice time on their holiday.

I guess in the land of the brave, the low wage workers are the bravest people, sacrificing their own holiday, and their own money, so that others can have a nice holiday.

Teaching my son about the 4th of July and bombs bursting in air

While my husband is at work, I need to decide how, or if, I will celebrate with my son. He is five and beginning to understand social studies, fairness, and a world far beyond his family and friends. Right now he is interested in the civil rights movement. At the library he checked out kids books about sit-ins and Martin Luther King, as well as books about peace.

What do I teach him about celebrating a nation that still judges people on the color of their skin and the content of their bank account? How do I explain to him the meaning of peace in a holiday glorifying “bombs bursting in air,” in a country that has been in almost continuous war since its founding?

WWJD?

What would Jesus do?

Jesus never celebrated Roman holidays although he lived in a Roman land. Jesus celebrated God’s miracles on the Jewish holidays. Jesus never talked about celebrating countries and earthly independence. Jesus preached often about God’s heavenly kingdom and the importance of  human interdependence.

Jesus celebrated Peace. Love. Caring for one another. The poorest on earth are the richest in heaven.

The brave path of Jesus means sacrificing greed and power to welcome God’s kingdom on earth. If the United States will embrace peace and compassion, rather than bombs and power, we will truly be a great nation.

A 4th of July Prayer

On this 4th of July, I bless the least of these. I pray for all the low wage workers forced to choose between their families and their jobs.

I pray for a nation that engages in peace and love, rather than racial and class warfare. I pray for a nation that practices greatness by leading in compassion and world peace. I pray for a nation where someday everyone will be free of fear of homelessness and hunger.

I pray for a nation that will someday follow the brave path of Jesus, sacrificing greed and power to welcome God’s kingdom on earth.

Father, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen

Be blessed, American friends, on this 4th of July.

 

shabbat and lent, statue of Jesus

Shabbat and Lent: Religious Intersection

Shabbat shalom, friends.

As we approach sundown on Friday evening, Shabbat, of the first week of Lent, I am struck by the intersection of two great religions. Judaism and Catholicism. Shabbat and Lent.

Jesus lived in the intersection. He walked the holiness and healing of the ancient paths of Judaism. He showed us the sorrows and joy of the way of the cross and kingdom living. His followers of the cross were later called Christians.

My Personal Journey Into Lent

This is the first year I have ever celebrated Lent. Growing up evangelical, my church and family never taught the ways of Lent. They told me that Lent was a tradition of “evil” Catholics who are trying to earn their way to heaven. My heart breaks as I think back on the hateful words of people at my church saying that Catholics “work their way into hell.”

This is wrong. Evangelicals sometimes pride themselves of moving beyond tradition, but there is beauty, and holiness, in religious tradition.

In the last few years, I have been on a spiritual pilgrimage to find truth. God has led me on a fast from earthly success while I discovered depth of spirituality. I found beauty in Jewish holidays and traditions. I found new understanding of Jesus in Catholic mysticism and charity.

The Catholic church dates directly back to Jesus’ disciples, the early church out of which all reformed and evangelical Protestant churches later came. There was holiness in the early church. There is holiness in Catholic religious tradition. There is holiness in Lent. I want to learn more about this.

Holiness of Lent

I knew that my Catholic friends gave up various things for Lent. But Lent is more than self-denial. I am learning about Lent, fasting, and the repentance of excess, especially in a wealthy culture like ours.

Before beginning his ministry, Jesus went through 40 days of fasting. His self-denial of basic needs allowed him to focus on his spiritual needs, and to gain his Father’s heavenly wisdom for the earthly journey. By fasting something for Lent, we too can identify with Jesus and open our hearts in a new way to the provision of the Father.

Jesus talked often about provision. To the crowds, Jesus preached that the Father knows all of our needs and will provide us our daily bread, just as He provides for the lowly sparrows. To his disciples, Jesus told them only to take the clothes on their back for the journey, don’t worry about money, let the Father provide as He led them from town to town.

Many Christians in America today live in a home of plenty with no need to worry about daily bread. They forget their homeless brothers and hungry sisters, hidden away from the eyes of privilege. Lent is a perfect time to focus inwardly on the great riches we take for granted and to renew our hearts to work for a more just society.

During Lent, I want to meditate on how I can be Jesus’ hands and feet to the hurting and downtrodden of my neighborhood, my influence. Can I fast privilege to understand oppression? Do I need to repent from any attitudes or assumptions I hold against those different from me?

Jesus gave up all the privileges and riches of heaven to come to our dirty, poor, fallen human world. What have I ever given up that comes close to this?

Jesus inhabited a land under brutal Roman oppression. He was a great teacher, learned in Torah, and divine in understanding. I am sure he was offered a high Rabbi position in the temple. But he chose to live among the people, to befriend the least of these.

And of course Jesus celebrated Shabbat.

Jesus, Shabbat, and Lent

In my childhood church, I was also taught that all Jews must be converted. Nobody ever talked about the Jewishness of Jesus and his disciples. By studying the Bible, I have learned that we gentiles are only grafted into that great Tree of Life. The Jews are the root. Shabbat is holy.

Yahweh gave us Shabbat as a time of rest, a pausing of work to renew our spirits. The Jewish greeting of Shabbat shalom means peace to you on Shabbat. This peace also has a nuance of reconciliation, making peace with any person with whom you hold a grudge.

Shalom. What a beautiful picture of Lent. Jesus came and made peace with a world full of darkness and hatred. Jesus fasted and gave up heaven to die on a cross, to show us the way to the Father’s kingdom.

Shabbat shalom, friends. The peace of the Jewish Sabbath be on you and your house. May the awe of Jesus’ love for us on the cross fill your heart, and repentance and spiritual renewal fill your mind this season of Lent.

american individualism, american capital

American Individualism: Sunday Message

America prides itself on being a “Christian” nation, a nation “under God” with “liberty and justice for all.”

But is it really liberty and justice for all, or is it just liberty and justice for the individual, the “successful” individual, the individual with the right skin color, the right family and neighborhood, the right access to wealth and opportunities?

We worship at the altar of American individualism.

Our nation “under God” is the nation of the individual. We cherish a national belief that if “one” only works hard enough to pull oneself by his (or, more rarely in the metaphor, her) bootstraps, one will find success.

In this nation “under God,” we also cherish the idea that the grace of God covers all. How can we be under a God who created  every human being  with love and grace, while worshiping the accomplishments of the individual?

See the irony?

Is American Individualism a Godly Trait?

American individualism and the idea of American exceptionalism go hand-in-hand. American individualism says:

I worked my way up the ladder at this job.

I earned this car and this McMansion.

I built this empire.

I am an exceptional individual in an exceptional nation.

American individualism ignores the plight of the collective. American individualism has no time, or desire, to love one’s neighbor. In America, so many people are treated as mere dust under the feet of the “successful.” Those people trapped in poverty by family, skin color, or a bad economy, do not have any bootstraps to pull themselves up. They are left in the dirt in a primal struggle to survive. People locked out of the job market with disabilities, or a history, or family responsibilities are disdained as “nonproductive individuals.”

Imagine. We as a nation have the disrespect to call children of God nonproductive individuals.

Whatever happened to community? Who is their brother’s keeper in this system of individual achievement? Is this God’s plan for a “godly nation”? Did He change His mind since the Old Testament when he continually told Israel to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow? Is God’s plan different for America?

No, American individualism is not God’s plan. Over and over in the Bible, God told us to love and take care of each other. The mighty prophets of old spoke God’s voice to Israel to take care of the poor and to practice hospitality. Jesus said that to love one’s neighbor as oneself fulfilled all the Law and all the prophets. We now have the Holy Spirit to whisper God’s word in our heart. She teaches us the wisdom of Love.

Neither God, nor Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit teaches us to be selfish, greedy individuals. We are all children made in God’s image. No one is greater. I cannot find exceptionalism, American individualism, or even a pair of bootstraps anywhere in Scripture.

American individualism is a national, and personal, sin.

American Individualism and God’s Grace

The American Protestant church, for the most part, follows the Calvinist doctrine of grace alone. John Calvin proclaimed that God chooses people individually for salvation, and that Jesus’ blood only covers these individuals.

Calvin’s doctrine teaches that we are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any of our works of faith or charity. Taken to the extreme, people turn this doctrine into a magic salvation prayer. They believe that if they say one prayer to Jesus asking for God’s grace and forgiveness of their sins, they are saved for eternity. They have no responsibility to change their life or do works of charity.

The Calvinist salvation prayer is their ticket to heaven, get out of hell free card. They treat the blood of Jesus like a game of monopoly.

I have even heard American Calvinists actually speak against works of helping one’s neighbor, saying that works are vain boastfulness (Calvin himself believed in works of charity as evidence of faith). These lazy, greedy Christians disobey all of Scripture that commands us to care for the poor and least of these. They pursue the reckless rat race of American individualism, covered themselves with the “grace of God.” What blasphemy.

Now, I do believe that salvation starts by the grace of God. He calls us out of a human life of sin, selfishness, and greed. We would not pursue selfless kingdom living in our own dark human hearts. His work of grace transforms us into people with the capacity to love and live selflessly.

What I don’t understand is why those Christians who believe in grace alone do not extend that same grace to their poor neighbor, their struggling employee, their sick brother.

No Place for American Individualism in God’s Kingdom

God’s kingdom is a wedding feast to which all are invited, but few come. Jesus’ kingdom is a narrow road of picking up your cross, giving your riches to the poor, and being a good Samaritan on the road of the hurting and the oppressed.

God’s kingdom is not a place of the exceptional individual, but a place of a servant who is a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Reject prideful, greedy American individualism today. Embrace the humble collectivism of loving your brothers and sisters in need. Follow Jesus in the way of the cross and the holy kingdom. Then we will truly have a nation under God, with justice and liberty for all.

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.

day by day

Day by Day: Sunday Message

The prophetic life is lived day by day. The mercy and healing of the kingdom is new with each morning’s light, painted by angels on a brilliant pastel canvas for our enjoyment. Drink in the healing colors and delight in the sun that shines on the just and the unjust. All will eventually be put right. Salute the sun which brings us life in the infinite wisdom of the Father.

Day by day.

Step by step.

The earthly journey of our spirit is a wild road, full of twists and turns, foe and friend, downhill joys and uphill battles. The Holy Spirit takes our hand on the path as she heals us and builds us in wisdom.

Day by Day: The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus taught his disciples about living day by day. Take a fresh look at the famous “Lord’s Prayer.”

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
9 This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Give us today our daily bread.

There is a lifetime of wisdom in this small statement. Especially here in America we tend to fret and build, we always worry about tomorrow while not living today, we building our personal savings account while our neighbor is cold and hungry. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Daily Struggle

Right now I am meditating on another facet of daily bread. In my own earthly journey, I struggle so much with joint pain. Day by day. Some days better, some days worse. I don’t know if I will ever find full healing on earth, or if my healing will be complete when I finish this race, step by painful step, running with swift shoes or crawling forward on crutches, to see the glories of the kingdom. Day by day my hope grows for the things unseen.

Sometimes the fear washes over me. Will I be able to work full time through the pain? Will people think I’m weak and hire someone stronger? Will my education and experience go to waste? Will I lose my hours, my job, and become homeless?

But for today I have a roof over my family, food in my belly, a boss who is letting me work through my physical restrictions. My Abba Father, is good to provide my daily bread, my daily healing, my daily needs. I can make it through today.

God will also provide all that I need every day of my future. I can make it through this race.

Day by day.

Are you struggling with fear or pain, my friend? God is faithful. The Holy Spirit is wise and caring. Jesus leads you on the journey of the cross to the kingdom. The completeness of Divine love holds you in open hands. Complete. Whole.

You are a child of the Universe and you are loved. You can hope in the kingdom to come while you appreciate the bread of today.

Day by day.

all saints day

All Saints Day: The Veil is Thin

Today is All Saints Day in the Catholic tradition and Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. It is a holy day, the day after Halloween, the hallowed eve. On this day, the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest of the whole year. Today, the spirits whisper into the physical realm. Today heaven opens and touches earth. On All Saints Day, we are most awake to the other side.

The saints and mystics of old reach out from the spirit realm to all who are seeking wisdom and understanding here on earth. The cloud of witnesses cheer on the seekers to finish the race of faith. Sainthood is the crown at the finish line.

Many start the race, but few finish. Faith is a marathon, an endurance race of exhilarating sprints and excruciating sprained ankles, mountains of marvel and deserts of drudgery, times of strength and times of weakness. Each part of the journey molds and changes us as we ascend to sainthood, and gain that crown, the place at the divine table.

It Is Good to Honor the Dead

Many Catholic and Orthodox churches will light candles and hold services today to honor the saints on All Saints Day. I love the peaceful, illuminating glow of the soft candle, the mystery of the light that quenches the darkness. Meditative. Communing with the saints is a healing place, a place of wholeness, a place of goodness.

In Mexico with Dia de los Muertos, and other places that celebrate holidays honoring the dead, altars will be erected and cemeteries visited. The spirits of our ancestors, our friends and family who have crossed the veil, want to communicate with us. It is healing for them and for us. It is good. Today the lines of communication are clear as they ever will be.

Some churches preach that it is evil to speak with the dead. Some Catholics embrace All Saints Day but reject communicating with ancestors or the dead who have not been declared saints by the church. Protestants reject all communication with the dead.

Certainly, communicating with the other side muddies the Protestant understanding of a black-and-white heaven and hell. But Catholics understand the middle place of purgatory, and Jesus spoke of outer darkness. Spirits roam the earth in this place of decision, longing for healing and reconciliation with their loved ones. They also learn about the divine kingdom, and they work through the agony of purifying their hearts of greed, anger, bitterness, and hatred. To ascend to higher realms, they must make amends for any wrongs and injustice they committed on earth. Altars, candles, and incense help in this communication. It is good. It is healing. It is love.

Take a look at this interesting passage:

1 Peter 4:6 (KJV)

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

The gospel, the good news of the kingdom, can be preached to the dead. All Saints Day, when the veil is thin, is an ideal time.

Thin Veil

There is only a thin veil, a sheer curtain, a mist, that separates the living and the dead, the seen and the unseen. All Saints Day is the easiest day to peek through the veil.

What would you like to learn today? Sit at the feet of a wise saint and ask questions. The easiest way to do this is with a private journal, pen and paper. Don’t censor what you hear, just listen. You can do this at a church, a coffee shop, or at home. Use a candle, an altar, or just your imagination. Use your intuition. The Holy Spirit will not lead you wrong if you seek her wisdom.

Honor the memory of your deceased family and friends on this Dia de los Muertos. Visit them at a cemetery or in your imagination. Talk with them.

Have a happy and illuminating All Saints Day, friends!

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.

International Day of Peace

International Day of Peace

Today is September 21, the International Day of Peace. Every country is encouraged to put down their arms and observe a cease-fire. Every person is encouraged to reflect on their place in the human connection, their story of the human experience, their role in the international day of peace.

World Conflict: The way of ego

Sadly, our world is full of conflict created through greed and ego. Bullies destroy lives and pillage dreams as they lust after land on the global playground. Fundamentalists declare that their way of life, their culture, their religion, is the only true way, and they take up weapons, emotional and physical, to defend this way. The rich destroy the poor. The strong destroy the weak. War is a game that destroys the sanctity of life and mocks the international day of peace.

International Day of Peace: The way of the kingdom

Blessedly, our world also has corners of peace, hidden places where tears are dried and hope restored, pockets of heaven on earth. Heroes on the world playground rebuild lives and restore pillaged land. Healers bandage the wounded. Visionaries stand against violence and embrace all the colors and cultures of the human race on the international day of peace and every other day.

We celebrate these people on International Day of Peace. Their lights shine bright and cannot be extinguished by the darkness of evil.

We celebrate every person of every creed, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, talent. Every life is valuable, every person is a child of the Creator, loved by God. Peace is our spiritual right and inheritance.

Peace is holy.

Peace is justice.

Peace is how Jesus showed us the way of the kingdom. Peace is the lion laying down with the lamb. Peace is every nation and person laying down their differences and embracing love. Peace is the heart of God.

Happy International Day of Peace, my friends.

trust god, sunlight streaming through trees

Trust God: He Cares for You

The Trees Trust God

The trees take in the rain,
the mist, the snow, the sun,
each season of its own.
Reaching to the heavens,
looking to the creator for provision.

The trees do not worry.
They do not gather, store, plan.
The trees just be.
Always looking to the sky,
and the great I Am.
The trees trust God.


Learn From Nature How to Trust God

When I look at the trees outside, I marvel at their ability to trust God. They are storehouses of wisdom, growing and existing longer than mortal human life. They spend hundreds of years on the earth. Yet, they don’t spend time in fret and worry, they don’t gather and store, they don’t trample on each other trying to gather the best thing for themselves, the best status. They just trust that the Creator will take care of them.

Jesus said that the Father cares for even the lowly sparrow, therefore, we should not worry because he cares so much more for us. In Matthew 20:29-31, Jesus drove home the point to his disciples. He said that two sparrows sell for only a penny, yet the Father makes sure they are fed and housed. We are worth so much more than a penny to God. Jesus says that the Father even has the very hairs counted on our heads.

We Gather Possessions and We Don’t Trust God

We run around so much, gathering more and more for ourselves. We worry that the Father will not feed us, so we fill our refrigerators, cupboards, freezers, and even cellars with an abundance of food. Meanwhile, the child down the street looks on hungrily, her own cupboards bare. Trust God for food and share with those in need.

We worry that the Father will not clothe us, so we fill our drawers, dressers, walk-in closets, even entire spare rooms, with an abundance of clothes. We make sure that they are of the latest fashion, so others will think well of us. We have so many clothes, that sometimes we even leave some unworn at the back of the closet. Meanwhile, the homeless family packs into the warming shelter, their hole-ridden garments unable to protect them from the wet and the cold. Trust God for clothes and give to those in need.

We worry that the Father will not house us, so we build our own houses, and we add a few thousand extra square feet to hold all of our hordes of stuff. We like to impress our friends with our auspicious dwellings. Meanwhile, billions of people around the world will go to sleep tonight with a dirt floor, at best. Trust God for shelter and work to house the homeless.

Jesus Teaches Us How To Trust God

trust God, Jesus carries cross
Image credit: [Pixabay]Nemo Licensed under CC0 Public Domain
Oh, how far we have strayed from Jesus’ message. If you look further at this passage, you will find Jesus’ mandate to his disciples. Jesus said to trust God.

Not only did Jesus tell the disciples that the Father would provide, he also told them to live a radical lifestyle by not carrying any money with them on the journey. He told them that they would be persecuted by government and friends. He told them that their own families would turn against them. He told them that the way would be excruciatingly hard, but this is the price of the cross. The reward, though, is everything. The Message Bible paints this passage in the most descriptive light.

Matthew 10 (The Message)

The Twelve Harvest Hands

1-4 The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. This is the list of the twelve he sent: Simon (they called him Peter, or “Rock”), Andrew, his brother, James, Zebedee’s son, John, his brother, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, the tax man, James, son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon, the Canaanite, Judas Iscariot (who later turned on him).

5-8 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

9-10 “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

11 “When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

12-15 “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.

16 “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.

17-20 “Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

21-23 “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.

24-25 “A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?

26-27 “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.

28 “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

Forget About Yourself

29-31 “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.

32-33 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.

38-39 “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.

40-42 “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

I challenge you to ponder this passage and see how much your life resembles this. Do you trust God? Are you growing in this trust?

I am learning this on my own journey, too. Trust is a life-long process. Ask Jesus for courage to bear your own cross and live the radical lifestyle as His disciple. The journey is hard, but the reward is pure joy.

Trust God.