Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lilacs by Wendy Giles



My husband has once again encouraged me to write something down.  I put it off for a while, as I am not a writer by nature. Besides, how many posts about flowers does anyone really want to read?  I am very cyclical, so if you've heard me talk abut flowers in the summer before, you probably have a pretty good idea where I am headed, anyway.

Somewhere in the heat of summer I tend to get a little dry and discouraged.  Most things out here tend to scorch and die in August- especially during a drought when we have been called to conserve water.  Add to that conserving gas, conserving electricity, and not having air conditioning, and it begins to feel like my body and soul are a little parched, too.

Let me say up front that I know I am blessed.  I have a wonderful husband, two precious sons, a house to live in, food to eat, and every single one of us is healthy.  So, really, I have nothing to complain about.  God is so good, and so faithful, and I deeply know His love for me, on top of the love of family and friends.

I do at times, though, feel a bit discontented.  I look at a lot of the "stuff" around me that has seen better days more than ten years ago now, and I kind of want something pretty.  I know life has so little to do with stuff, and I don't need anything big, yet I have to admit that I am a "goober" for pretty flowers.  I love to see them bloom and move through their seasons, and digging in the dirt does wonders for me emotionally.

I had a burst of energy that coincided with a couple of days that weren't terribly hot, so I went outside and got to work.  I weeded, deadheaded a few bushes, pruned back a tree that needed some attention, removed the dead plants from my baskets and pots, added more dirt to some things, and then cleaned everything up.  It was a lot of work.

I looked around when I was finished and was sadly disappointed, though.  My work didn't translate into a big, beautiful difference. Brown was still the predominant color.  Each basket only had a little sprig of a plant inside and looked fairly ridiculous.  I knew there was the potential for  new growing things in just a few weeks, but I needed (WANTED) some color right away.  I actually drove to the nursery thinking a would spend a couple of dollars on a six-pack of annuals to brighten things up a bit.  When I got there I was saddened to see that the plants they had also looked like they had been through a pretty difficult summer, so I drove home with nothing.

Now, in the scheme of life, I know that having flowers in my yard is really not that important.  If I didn't even have a yard, and couldn't have another flower my life would still be filled with beauty.  My focus really is, and should be, more on people. However, God knows me.  He gives me so much more than I need. A lot of times He chooses to bless my heart with His quiet "I love yous" in a language that reassures me that He sees me, knows where I'm at, and cares what I am feeling- even when it is about something as insignificant as flowers.  

So guess what?  A couple of days later I happened to glance out of my back window and got a surprise.  There, in the heat of August, was a large spike of lilac blossoms.  It was completely out of season, making it that much sweeter of a gift.  If anyone knows me, they know that I love lilacs.  They have been my favorite ever since a was a little girl, fascinated by them at my grandparents' home.  I was so blessed that God cared so much about my heart that He sent me His own encouraging "I love you."

Almost three weeks late, my lilac blossom is mostly faded.  It held on for a very long time.  And, not surprisingly, little green things are growing in my planters and baskets.  In due season, they will grace me with their flowers.  Even though it is still way too hot for me, I am reassured that fall is coming.  We even have the possibility of a wet winter.  We'll see what the Lord has in store for us in the upcoming seasons, but I will also keep my eyes open for those "out of season" blessings.

Wendy Giles

*Photo: Wendy and her miracle lilac on the day it blossomed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

I DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE [AND NEITHER DO YOU]



Before you hit “unfollow” or reach for the pitchforks, let me clarify what I mean by this statement.

There are dozens of scriptures and ideas in the Bible that even the most devout Biblicist flat out rejects and ignores. For example:

Most Christians do not greet one another with a holy kiss, although Paul commands Christians to do this four times in the New Testament.

Most Christians do not forbid women to cut their hair, nor do they consider long hair on men to be sinful; something Paul appears to command churches to enforce in his letter to the Corinthians.

Most Christians would not approve of slave-labor, even though Paul affirms the practice of slavery and tells slaves to remain with their masters and masters to be nice to their slaves.

Most Christians today would not endorse polygamy, even though the Bible nowhere speaks out against the practice.

Most Christians don’t gather with signs at the County Court House to protest divorce, even though Jesus specifically speaks against it and equates it with adultery.

So, obviously, these same Christians who make bold claims about "believing everything in the Bible", outright dismiss many things that this same Bible tells them to do, or not to do.

That means, Christians really don’t believe everything in the Bible, even if they claim to believe that the Bible is the “Word of God” and infallible.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to argue that Christians today should take a “God said it, I believe it and that settles it” approach. Not at all. I think it’s a wonderful thing that we’ve continued to think about what the Bible teaches in the light of who Christ is, rather than holding blindly to the letter of the Law.

The driving factor here is the indwelling presence of Jesus. We’re not left with a book to guide us. We have the living Spirit of Christ – the actual “Word of God” – living within us.

In other words, over time the Church has slowly begun to see more truth as it is continuously revealed through the eyes, character and heart, of Jesus.

Our Lord commands us to love God and to love others as we love ourselves, even to love our enemies and do good to them. So, in light of this radical way of re-thinking everything, we find ourselves realizing that loving people means not owning them as property, and loving one another means not condemning people for their brokenness, and faithfulness to our spouse means not bringing anyone else into the relationship, etc. 

There was a time when society owned other people and treated them as property. Christians in the South could even quote New Testament scriptures to justify owning slaves. But, as the church began to draw nearer to the spirit of Jesus, they realized that everyone is created in God’s image and no one should be bought or sold. The spirit of Christ transformed the letter of the Law to reveal the heart of the Father.

There was a time when polygamy was the norm. No one thought it was weird or wrong. Even the Bible had nothing bad to say about it. But over time, as we began to see things through the eyes of Jesus, we realized that marriage was meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church, and we abandoned those old practices and embraced monogamy.

[SIDEBAR: I'm not even talking here about everything in the Old Covenant scriptures that have all been fulfilled in Christ and have no authority for those under the New Covenant; like offering animal sacrifices, observing the Sabbath, shunning women in their period, stoning homosexuals, etc.]

 So, does this mean that Christians can start ignoring parts of the written Word they don't like? No, that's not what I'm saying. The pattern I'm pointing to involves drawing nearer and nearer to Jesus and allowing Him to guide us into all Truth by His Spirit. As we experience an increase of light from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, we find ourselves being led away from rules and laws ["don't handle, don't taste, don't touch"] and closer to the heart of who Jesus is - and who He is calling us to be. 

 My point is that Jesus is the Truth. He is the Way. He is the living "Word of God" which was made flesh and has come to dwell among - and within - us. 

Finding Truth involves more than just pointing to a verse in a book and proclaiming, “The Bible says…”. 
If we have the living Word of God inside of us, we can discern whether or not slavery, or polygamy, or short hair on women, etc. is "an abomination" or not. We are not bound by words on a page, we are set free by The Word in our heart.

Everything we believe must be processed through the person of Jesus. If it does not align with who He is, then it is in direct opposition to the "Word of God" and must be conformed to His image.

-kg

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Parable Of The Unmerciful Nation



By James Douglass

Transposing Jesus' Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:23-35) into our time, produces the following reading:

Compare the Kingdom of God to a financial lord who wished to settle accounts with his debtor nations. When he began reckoning, they brought to him one who was the President of a Nation that owed him three trillion dollars - the United States. And as the nation could not pay, the lord ordered that austerity measures be adopted by its government. Henceforth, all government services were to be cancelled, millions of employees were to be dismissed, and all health, welfare, and social security payments were to be suspended until the United States could pay their debt. Every available resource was to go toward mounting debt-service payments.

So the President of the United States fell on his knees before the financial lord, imploring him, "Lord, have patience with us, and we will pay you everything." And out of pity for him and his people, the lord of that president released him and forgave him the debt.

But that same president, as he went out, came upon the president of a small African country that owed the United States 100 million dollars. Seizing him by the lapel, he said, "Pay what you owe." So, his fellow president fell to his knees and besought him, "Have patience with us and we will pay you everything." But he refused and his economic advisors forced austerity measures on the African country, whose people died of malnutrition while their own resources were used to service the debt.

When the presidents of the other debtor nations saw what had taken place, because of their great distress they were moved to solidarity. And they went and reported to their financial lord all that had happened and their resolve to stand together: "We shall not pay our foreign debt with the hunger of our people."

Then the lord summoned the president of the United States and said to him, "You stupid man. I forgave you and your people all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow president, as I had mercy on you? Look what you have done now! Those nations are in solidarity, and all of us who have held them in debit will be ruined!"

And in anger the lord delivered him and his nation to austerity measures and a great depression, and both the president and the lord then fell from wealth and power.

The world's largest debtor nation is not Brazil, or Africa. Nor is it any of the other third world countries whose people are being starved by the austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

The greatest debtor in history is the militarily most powerful nation in history - the United States of America.

These two characteristics: military might and trillion-dollar debt, go hand-in-hand. It is not accident that during its two trillion dollar military buildup of the 1980's, the US added a corresponding two trillion dollars to its federal debt.

[From the book, "The Nonviolent Coming of God" by James Douglass; page 104-106]

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Guns and Jesus




Guest Post by William Guice

This gun issue is very simple for me it's pretty cut and dried:

1) Jesus wouldn't carry a gun. He for sure wouldn't carry or keep it with the intent of harming another human being. That wasn't his thing, and so it shouldn't be ours. The harming of another human being is antithetical to what it means to be a Christian.
The earliest Christians got this. We don't have a single document that supports the taking of life for the first 300 years of the church. Three hundred years! Where did we go so far astray?
(I could stop here, but...)

2) Every explanation I see of why we should have and carry guns is rooted in some type of fear - literally every one. When (if) you said yes to Jesus your worldview was to change. You are not promised a country or safety or that bad or even horrible moments wouldn't come. You WERE promised that he would never leave you or forsake you. You were promised peace that passes all understanding. You were promised that what is in Christ is greater than what's in the world. You were promised a cross, but you were also exhorted over and over again to "fear not."
Fear is killing us folks.
Real freedom is the release of fear.

3) The 2nd amendment when used to defend present day ideas of gun ownership is taken completely out of context and doesn't even really make sense. If we used the same logic and methodology with the Bible, we would have some crazy beliefs.

4) Common sense dictates that if there are fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths.

5) Global statistics prove #4 and that we are in the wrong or that we are behind on this issue in so many ways. Other developed countries simply don't have this problem.

6) I highly recommend the writing of David Gushee. His work along with the work of Greg Boyd and Glen Stassen are clear, compelling, and concise on these topics.

P.S. > The master said, "Fear Not!"

Peace!

William Guice

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“THE SKY IS [NOT] FALLING”



You’ve no doubt heard all about the looming threat of Obama's third term, the Jade Helm conspiracy, Secret FEMA prison camps being built in the southwest and other outrageous claims being made by certain groups of people who want you to remain in a constant state of fear.

I see these articles and links being shared on social media on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. It’s a non-stop barrage of “Lions and tigers and bears!” [Oh, my] And it’s driving me a little crazy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been around a while longer than most of you, I don’t know. But I remember hearing these exact same claims when I was in my Twenties, only the claims were made about Clinton and the Liberal Agenda. Now they’ve just recycled the narrative and dropped in Obama’s name, because fear works.

 All of those articles about constant conspiracies are simply about employing fear to motivate people to support their agenda, give to their cause, or polarize a voting block. I have a standing offer to pay $100 to anyone who shares these alarmist posts with the challenge that if they actually come to pass I will pay them, but if it never comes to pass, they pay me. It’s both a practical way to force the issue of credibility on those who propagate these claims, and honestly, a potential way for me to earn a little extra spending money. 

But, of course, none of these people have taken me up on the offer. So, the date of the ominous event comes and goes without any incident – as we’ve seen with the Jade Helm nonsense, and all the ludicrous claims about Obama’s first – and second term – and instead of learning from all of this, people will just jump over to the next big conspiracy and scream “The sky is falling” once again.

I have a copy of the book “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Occur In 1988” in my garage. It’s full of very convincing reasons [88 of them] but it’s also dead wrong. And we could say the same about Harold Camping, and Hal Lindsey, and Hagee's "Blood Moon" hype. 

What concerns me most of all is that Christians are the ones most often waving this flag around. It makes us look stupid. It makes us appear irrational. Most of all, it demonstrates to the World that we are driven by – and motivated most – by fear.

Jesus commands us not to fear. The New Testament clarifies that fear is not what motivates us; it’s love. And it’s also very clear that you can’t be filled with the love of Christ and be fearful at the same time:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” [1 Jn 4:18]

Please, for the love of God [literally], stop being driven by fear. Instead, turn your eyes on Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Trust Him with everything. Let go of your fear and embrace the Lord who is in control.

The sky is not falling. The sky is the limit and love is what lifts us higher.

Let's fly.

-kg


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~Jesus (John 14:27)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SWEET FORGIVENESS



During one of our “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” meetups, someone asked if Christians were expected to forgive those who don’t repent.

It’s a common question, and a good one. Especially when you consider that Jesus tells us to forgive those who sin against us “if they repent…seventy times seven”.

So, if repentance is a pre-requisite for us to receive God’s forgiveness, then isn’t it only fair that other people should repent before we’re expected to forgive them?

Here’s what I think: Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should “forgive our debtors” and even tied our own forgiveness of sins from the Father with our willingness to forgive other people.

However, if you forgive a debt, that means the person doesn’t pay what they owe you. And if someone owes you an apology, or an “I’m sorry”, you are expected to forgive that person without waiting to receive what they owe you.

I think we can also look at a few other places where Jesus forgave people who did not repent. He forgave the sins of the man dropped down from the roof right before he healed him and told him to take up his mat and walk. He also forgave the thief on the cross and promised that the man would be with him in paradise that very day. No mention of repentance there. And, of course, Jesus also forgave the soldiers who nailed him to the cross without waiting for repentance or contrition saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So, I think that as followers of Jesus we are expected to forgive people without expecting an apology first.

“For if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive those who sin against you, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Jesus [Matt. 6:14-15]


-kg

Thursday, August 13, 2015

IGNORING JESUS?



One thing that puzzles me – and depresses me – more than anything else is simply that so many Christians today refuse to actually follow Jesus and put His words into practice.

I know, it’s nothing new. Even Jesus himself marveled that people wanted to call him “Lord” without actually allowing him to be their Lord. [See Luke 6:46]

It’s a little like someone saying that they are a Buddhist without following Buddha, or claim to be a Muslim while ignoring everything that Mohammed taught.

Being a Christian is about following Jesus and putting His words into practice in your daily life. (At least, it used to be).

Here are some of the more popular teachings of Jesus that Christians today love to ignore completely:

"Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you." (Matt. 5:44)

“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:38-42)

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt. 6:19-21; 24)

“In the same way, anyone who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.” (Matt. 20:25-26)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12)

In short, many – if not most – Christians in America today are very comfortable calling themselves Christians while totally ignoring what Jesus commanded them to do.

The sad truth is that more Christians follow fashion, politics and the Kardashians than Jesus Christ.

These same Christians would be highly offended if someone were to flip Jesus the bird, but in essence, that’s exactly what they’re doing when they call Jesus “Lord” and then deny it with every breath in their body.

What’s especially troubling is that these Christians will quote Romans 10:9 which says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…you will be saved” without realizing that this confession needs to be a statement of an actual reality in their lives, not just repeating “Jesus is Lord” like magic words and clicking their heels together to be saved.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” – (Matt. 15:8-9)

We can’t say we love Jesus and then ignore what he says.

What do you call a Christian who does not love Jesus or put his words into practice?

I'm not sure exactly, but I wonder if that person can truly call themselves a “Christian” at all?

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching..” (John 14:23-24)

-kg