Category Archives: Prayer

If God is All Good and All Powerful, Why is there Evil and Suffering in the World? Revelation chapters 7 through 9

The One Thing That is More Important than All other Things: Luke 10:38-11:13

The Wrath of the Lamb: Revelation chapter 6

Dangerous Unselfishness Luke 10:17-37

Radical Renovation

Ever since a feeling of light and warmth flooded my room and a gentle voice from beyond called me “little one,” Jesus has been the center, the core, of my life. For me, there is no other source of life, truth, love, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, guidance, light, grace, mercy, peace, wellbeing, wholeness, energy, happiness, joy, connectedness, or wisdom. In Jesus, I live and move and have my being. Losing Jesus, if that is even possible, would mean annihilation, extinction, obliteration. It would be hell.

Awhile back, we bought a house that was fairly new, only to learn later that, generally speaking, modern day housing developments consist of tract-homes that have built in planned obsolescence. All the major appliances have an expected life of about 5 years; the heating and cooling systems, the roof, the siding, have life expectancies of around 10 years. So, if you own a home for any length of time, there is a process of deconstructing and reconstructing that seems never ending.

Around Jesus, without even being aware of it most of the time, I constructed a theological house. It was not entirely well planned.

Now, my theological house is under construction (again).

Not sure when or where this latest major remodel started.

At some point, it hit me that the Jesus I was preaching in Revelation was the exact opposite of the Jesus in the Gospels.

All the hyper-nationalistic patriotism dressed in Christian terminology was diametrically opposed to the Sermon on the Mount.

I heard racism, misogyny, and homophobia in sermons that reeked with pride and self-satisfaction.

The lack of concern for the environment, social justice, the marginalized and the poor struck me as unbiblical and antichrist.

White evangelical leaders were supporting politicians whose personal lives and policies conflicted sharply with godliness.

I began to question.

Where’s the Jesus of the Jesus Movement?

Where’s the Jesus of the New Testament?

Where’s the Jesus of the radical Anabaptists?

What would it look like if I radically followed the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, actually doing what He said to do?

Thanks to people like Greg Boyd (Woodland Hills Church, Minneapolis-St. Paul), Brian Zahnd (Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri),Bruxy Cavey (The Meeting House, a multisite Anabaptist congregation in Ontario), Donald Kraybill (author of The Upside Down Kingdom), and many others, I am leaning that I need not panic when it becomes obvious that my theological house needs some deconstruction and reconstruction.

It’s ok to question.

Everything.

It’s ok to rethink.

Everything.

It’s ok to undergo major reconstruction of your theology.

You won’t lose Jesus.

You need not, as some tragically do, throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

Just change the water. Just let God reconstruct the house.

Some of the areas the Holy Spirit is working on in my life include:

  • Learning that I don’t have a flat Bible. All scriptures do not carry equal weight. The words of Jesus transcend everything else.
  • Seeing that God is exactly like Jesus and that there is nothing unchristlike in God.
  • Learning to examine every scripture text through a cruciform lens.
  • Learning that God is not vengeful or angry.
  • Coming to realize that salvation is not about getting a ticket to heaven, but instead about following the radical teachings of Jesus.
  • Realizing that most American Christianity is civil religion that uses Christian terminology while worshipping Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite.
  • Coming to see that the eschatology I was taught is escapist, nationalistic, and unbiblical.
  • Starting to realize that what Revelation is really about is following the Lamb of God in empire-resisting, self-sacrificial, nonviolent, radical, subversive love, even unto death if need be, because doing so leads to the new creation.
  • Being committed to caring for the environment, helping the poor and homeless, and standing against racism, hatred, war, and intolerance.
  • Determining to pledge allegiance to King Jesus and no other.
  • Learning to, on a daily basis, be with Jesus learning from Jesus how to be like Jesus.

At times, it feels like my entire theological house is being razed. At times, it is scary and confusing. At times, I wonder if I will have any foundation left.

But, as all the beams are torn down and the brick work demolished, one thing remains unshakable – Jesus. In fact, with some of the junk cleared away, I see and know Him more clearly than ever before.

Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.

(Jeremiah 1:10 NLT)

 

Why “Left Behind” Should Be Left Behind 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Take and Give God’s Shalom: Luke 10:1-24

The Lion is a Little Lamb: Power Subverted. Revelation chapter 5

Learning from Jesus to Love Like Jesus: Luke 9:51-62

Apprenticeship: Living With Jesus To Learn From Jesus How To Be Like Jesus

In some evangelism class somewhere, I was taught that the most important thing was to convince another person that she is a sinner and that by praying a short prayer (“after me”) the threat of eternal torment would be eliminated. In the same setting, I was taught that after a person accepted Christ, I was to tell him to do three things:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Pray
  3. Go to church

Many of us were taught some version of the above, and the result is that we in America have a huge swath of professing Christians who are indistinguishable from non-Christians.

In a few ways we are worse. White evangelicals support torture, military intervention, programs that reduce services to the poor, and capital punishment at higher rates than the general public. “Bible believing” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than the general public.

We have (regrettably) separated justification from sanctification. Salvation involves both.

Justification is being set right with God.

Sanctification is following God, doing what God says to do.

What does it mean to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus?

How will I look when I am an apprentice to the Master?

From 9:51 through 19:48, Luke’s Gospel is unique from the others. (Not entirely – there are similarities and common themes in this passage that scholars call “the Journey to Jerusalem.”)

The primary theme of this section of Luke is discipleship, spiritual formation, how to be an apprentice of Christ, living with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus.

It is filled with passages we have tried hard to explain away. After all, these teachings are entirely impracticable, contrary to common sense street wisdom, and counterintuitive. And, they are what God demands.

  • Following Jesus means non-violence, non-retaliation, non-participation in war. (9:51-56)
  • Following Jesus may mean being homeless. (9:58)
  • Following Jesus may mean leaving family, cutting all ties with the past. (9:59-62)
  • Following Jesus means traveling light, owning next to nothing, trusting God for everything. (10:1-8)
  • Following Jesus means healing, blessing, encouraging and caring for the sick, the imprisoned, the despised, the rejected, the lowly, the marginalized the disenfranchised. (10:9-12)
  • Following Jesus includes the ability to celebrate. (10:17-20)
  • Following Jesus means you approach each day with open ears, open eyes, and open heart. 10:23-24)
  • Following Jesus means loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and loving your neighbor (whom Jesus redefined to include everyone, including enemies) as yourself. (10:27-37)
  • Following Jesus means giving up busyness and anxiety and fuss and worry and replacing those things with sitting at His feet. (10:38-42)
  • Following Jesus means forgiving. (11:1-4)
  • Following Jesus means being persistent in prayer. (11:5-13)
  • Following Jesus means assaulting the kingdom of evil, tearing down its walls and setting its captives free. (11:14-26)
  • Following Jesus means actually doing what Jesus said to do, living by the sermons on the mount and the plain, obeying the red letters. (11:27-28)
  • Following Jesus means lamentation and repentance for personal, national and universal sins. (11:29-32)
  • Following Jesus means being faithful to resist evil and embrace good, even unto death. (11:33-36)
  • Following Jesus means people and their needs are more important than religion and being right. (11:37-54)
  • Following Jesus means living in trust without fear. (12:1-7)
  • Following Jesus means pledging allegiance to Him and Him alone. (12:8-12)
  • Following Jesus means seeing the danger of wealth, which strangles maturity (8:14), produces anxiety (12:22-34), blinds us the needs of others (16:19-23), leads us away from God (12:13-21), and is more often than not a curse (6:20,24).
  • Following Jesus means living the Jubilee in which all debts are cancelled, and all things are shared equally. (12:13-34)
  • Following Jesus means being spiritually awake and diligent. (12:35-48)
  • Following Jesus means loss, suffering, sacrifice, rejection – embrace it with joy! (12:49-53)
  • Following Jesus means embracing the subversive Kingdom in which evil is conquered by good, death is overcome by dying, violence is met with love, and hatred is met with forgiveness (Chapter 13)
  • Following Jesus means taking the homeless and despised into your house (if you have a house). (14:7-24)
  • Following Jesus means loving God so much that other loves are almost like hatred, they are so inferior. (14:25-26)
  • Following Jesus means being willing to die. (14:27)
  • Following Jesus means living a cruciform life – nonviolent, non-militaristic, non-national, rejecting racism, misogyny, homophobia, pride, and nationalism; caring for the environment, the immigrant, the poor, the addicted, the incarcerated. (14:27)
  • Following Jesus means renouncing everything but Jesus. (14:33)
  • Following Jesus means seeking the lonely, the lost, the hurting, then finding, loving and helping them. (Chapter 15)
  • Following Jesus means not loving money or stuff. (16:14-17)
  • Following Jesus means being faithful to your spouse (16:18)
  • Following Jesus means treating all others as equals (“Jesus in distressing disguise,” Mother Theresa said), refusing self-centeredness, rejecting greed. (16:19-31)
  • Following Jesus means resisting temptation, trusting God in all things, and staying humble. (17:1-10)
  • Following Jesus means being thankful. (17:11-19)
  • Following Jesus means living in His Kingdom right now, under His authority now, an alien, a visitor, a pilgrim in the world; being an ambassador for Christ. (17:20-37)
  • Following Jesus means stewardship, living simply as part of a community, embracing the most vulnerable, welcoming the child, selling all and following Him. (Chapter 18)
  • Following Jesus means having a changed heart and a changed life. (19:1-10)
  • Following Jesus means allegiance to a humble King. (19:28-40)
  • Following Jesus means lament. (19:41-48)

That’s a far cry from “say this prayer, read your Bible, pray and go to church.”

With all my heart, I desperately want to follow Jesus.

I want to be a sold-out, on-fire, totally committed, radical Jesus freak.

But I can’t.

I am too weak, too afraid, too selfish.

Of course, I need the indwelling, constant power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

I also need you. I need community. I need sisters and brothers with whom I can do life.

 

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