Thursday, December 15, 2016

Part 2 of Crackers and Juice, or the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

Of all the many outrageous words of Jesus recorded in the four Gospels, no words match the sheer mind blowing capacity of John's quote (6:56); "...eat My flesh...drink My blood..."; imagine how those six words landed in the ears of many present who also knew all too well the words of Leviticus 17:14, "...you are not to eat the blood of any flesh...whoever eats it shall be cut off." 

The Leviticus passage is what many Bible thumpers of our day would call, "chapter and verse"  underscoring the sole authority of the Bible in a believer's life. Well... Jesus veritably trampled on that particular "chapter and verse" replete with reviewing His statement several times and then defending it to His core leadership team after the crowd present for His, "say what?!"  teaching ran for the exits! 

Of course we know, with the luxury of 2000 years of sorting this out, that Jesus isn't introducing cannibalism. But who among these original hearers was even remotely prepared for such audacity? NO ONE! And yet, when Jesus asked His closest disciples, "Are you headed for the parking lot too?", their answer was, "We've come too far to run now...besides, when you speak, we come alive...and even THIS sparked something in our spirits."

Jesus Christ fulfilled Leviticus' commands, became the "flesh and blood" that we now know is the Bread of Heaven. To break the Leviticus' command was to risk being "cut off"; but now, on this side of the Cross, we are now bonded to the very essence of The Body of Christ. Touching the leper in the Old meant becoming a leper...now under the NEW, touching...indeed EATING the Body of Christ means becoming The Body of Christ. 

So, it was vital for Jesus to crash into that train of thought with His audacious Words. It was significant for them and us to be introduced to a mystery meal on the New Testament value of the reverse efficacy of Old Testament thinking. The Old said, "BEWARE!" but now the New says, "BECOME!"

We are what we eat! Come to the Table...."This is The Body of Christ"... 

Join me again in a day or 2, for Part 3 of "Crackers and Juice, or the Body and Blood of Christ" ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Crackers and Juice or The Body and Blood of Christ (Part 1)

Either Communion is what Jesus said it was, "this is my Body....this is my Blood", or it is crackers and juice. Either we serve everyone the Body and Blood of Christ, or we are serving everyone only crackers and juice and no one the reality of salvation through Jesus. Christ is present at HIS Table or we are offering the cheapest of all snacks and the worst of all symbols. 

Hopefully I have your full attention for, what is to me, one of the most beautiful prophetic statements offered by the Church for a hungry and thirsty world: Communion, Eucharist, The Last Supper, The Table of the Lord...however you are familiar with the title, it is this glorious mystery originally offered by Jesus Himself to His treasured friends and disciples on that fateful night in which He was betrayed. 

I've stated hundreds of times, "Let's dare to say what Jesus said, not what doctrinal statements say. HE said, '...this is My Body....this is My Blood..." Let's not add to that or take away from that. Let's simply say it the way HE said it. Don't put multiple syllable words to it or add a church policy statements before, after and during it. Let's just say what He said. 

Then let's follow that with serving everyone in the room. Every doubting Thomas and puckered up betrayal kissing Judas. Everyone. Without threats of death or sickness, without caveats about worthiness or suitable holiness, and certainly, without denying anyone for lack of meeting a church policy statement. 

Of course, we can default to crackers and juice but we risk sending most folks home profoundly hungry and their appetites spiritually ruined. The supernatural and transcendent is possible at The Body and the Blood of Christ. But crackers and juice won't feed the hungry, much less, ignite spiritual energy.

My experience with Communion actually began with the simplicity of "crackers and juice" (physically speaking) but served in an atmosphere of genuine hunger. The very first time I took Communion, I had NO clue what was happening. I only knew this to be a practice of church services (once a month where I was) but I knew nothing of any deeper notion than the pretty trays, the cracker like wafers and the shot glasses of cheap grape juice. 

And I wept. At 17, in the middle of my friends, and feeling VERY conspicuously odd...I wept. The smell of the juice wafted into my nose and the tiny wafer felt so soft. Something from heaven entered my sensory perceptions, made its way to my emotional center, and I trembled with gratitude for a mystery I have spent the past 46 years exploring. Christ showed up in that broken bread and my heart burned inside my chest....

If you are interested in more, I'll continue this blog tomorrow. If you are hungry for more, I promise to serve more than crackers and juice...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

HAIL MARY!

Those who know me well know that I adore the story of Mother Mary. To me she embodies every quality which ought to typify all of Christianity. While some in Catholicism verge on worshipping her as a deity but Protestants run the other way; both extremes are sadly in error. For the Catholic to make this beautiful lady a god is to miss the raw power of her humanity. But, for the Protestant to lightly pay her “honorable mention” pitifully misses the dare of God’s call to us to become as she was; a bondslave of the Lord and His impossible offer.  

If we Protestants believed about humanity what most of Catholicism believes about Mary, Christianity would flourish with radiance and power.

Luke 1:37-38 records the summary of Mary and the angel Gabriel’s conversation, “(Gabriel) For nothing will be impossible with God. And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.’” ... majestic simplicity.

Mary is, at most, 16. There is absolutely no precedent for what she is hearing. The closest thing that might have crossed her mind was that of much older, married women of the Old Testament who were given children of promise….along with their husbands! 

Mary is on an island in this category. There is no other way to describe this encounter other than astonishing in its reach and stunning in its ramifications. Yet, something in the transcendence of the moment pushes Mary to the conclusion that she must become a bondslave to this impossibility! Hear that again; she happily surrendered herself as a SLAVE of the Lord and His offer of doing the impossible. 

Bill Johnson says it this way, “Our debt to the world is an encounter with God”. To that end, we must become bondslaves of doing the impossible. A people of a covenant to live beyond our brown paper bag means. To do works transcending my limited skills to show the world a God of unlimited abilities. If all the church is offering is clean living born out of good doctrine then we have certainly become what Paul warned us about, “…holding a form of godliness although they have denied its power…avoid such men as these.” 

We owe our culture a living, visible demonstration of the Kingdom of another world. Jesus told His disciples to heal the sick and define that moment of healing as the Kingdom’s appearance on earth. I’m not batting a thousand on that command, but I'm swinging hard for the fences of impossibility.

Along with Mary I’m a happy slave of conquering the impossible. I’ve discovered the true nature of Christianity is the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. I’ve heard it said that when we get to heaven “some day” that we’re in for a lot of surprises. While I’m sure that’s true, I’ve decided to take a different path of life that minimizes my surprises tomorrow through discovery TODAY. 

Just prior to World War II amphibious landings were deemed impossible due to notable failures in World War I. MacArthur, Eisenhower and other heroes of that day never got their boots wet in basic training for an amphibious assault. A lesser known military officer nicknamed, “Mad (as in mad-man) Smith advised the strategists of his day that the war could not be won without large scale amphibious assaults. “Mad” was told that such an idea was impossible. His answer? “Well, then we are going to do the impossible and we are going to do the impossible WELL.” Needless to say, we all know about the history of D-Day and the massive amphibious landing ultimately insuring the end of Hitler's hideous ambitions. 

In the brutal shadow of Rome's raging arrogance, not to mention Religion Inc.'s stalled ignorance, a teenaged peasant girl said, "Yes sir. I'll do the impossible." Today, in the shadows of similar foolishness, the world is waiting for more of us to rise to the raw power of OUR humanity with the promises of God igniting our dreams for "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

We are going to do the impossible and we are going to do the impossible WELL.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Jesus Politics

Having "been there, done that", I refuse to be labeled as conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, right, left, moderate, progressive, independent, and all that jazz. I find in Jesus a genius rising up from His passion for the Kingdom of God so compelling and enthralling, that my dreams for a better world have been forever resurrected. No human schemes are adequate to match His government, resting magnificently upon His shoulders.

If we reduce the gospel to fit the politics of the USA, we risk the dangerous mind set of that which may have pushed Judas to his 30 pieces of silver solution for the naive notions of Jesus' Dream. All too often, we have been seduced to believe that the Gospel of Christ "needs" the assist of government amiability. The problem with that seduction is that what Caesar gives, Caesar will readily take away.

The recent eager reach of evangelical leaders to embrace political powers that would otherwise, in our better moments of clarity of soul, turn us away will ultimately teach us that we have a much higher calling. Jesus largely refused to speak to either Pilate or King Herod because His profound sense of discernment drew Him beyond their political expediency. Neither of these "powers" had any healthy or reasonable understanding of the transcendency standing in their oval offices. 

If we are to be carriers of the leaf of a tree for the healing of the nations, we must, of necessity, sustain our roots in something far more nutritional than partisan posturing for Babylonian power. If our endorsement of a political side is useful for that side to "win", it will also become the wall preventing us from speaking with love or efficacy to all other sides. Worse yet, our embrace of a political view can also become the gag against our effective ability to carry a prophetic imagination for the side who celebrates our approval. 

Simply put, we are not of this world. We were born from above with the possibility of the Health and Life that comes ONLY from above. Our position must never be sold, never be promised, and never given for the possibility of government favor or protection. We CAN honor all kings and authorities in a manner that grants us a welcome to their courts! Daniel blessed Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Darius without selling his endorsement to gain their favor. These Kings NEEDED Daniel, and not the other way around. Why? Because Daniel maintained his integrity consistent beyond their inconsistencies and above their short term political agendas.

The politics of the USA has crossed over to a time when ALL sides will need an anchor of love beyond the hate of divisiveness. Once we decide to find our higher power, all other powers will know we are not for sale AND we will learn to appreciate the greater opportunity of loving the whole world, left or right, black or white, blue or red. 

Peace.






Thursday, December 01, 2016

For God So Loved the World, He Didn't Send a Book...

"Hi.. I'm Randy and I'm a book-a-holic. I love the sound of a page turned, the smell of fresh ink, the feel of a cover (soft or hard), fiction, non-fiction, self-help, history, biographical, coffee-table pictures, religious, non-religious....never mind. I'm addicted to books and I don't want out."

As a pastor and Christian I'm supposed to say that of all my books, I love the Bible the most. Well, (wait for it)... I do. I've worn out more than a few. My current Bible buddy is 13 years old, weighs 5 pounds, and doubles as a portable file cabinet. I dread the day when I'll need to replace it...the margins are loaded with my scribbles, arrows, and page numbers (so I can cheat when I tell people to turn to some obscure passage and I'm there first.. yes, I am that vain). 

With that said, let's be clear about a few things too many Church folks rarely talk about, much less, admit: the Bible is not the Truth that will make you free, it is not The Word, and Bibles will not speak to your innermost secret self. Those distinctions are reserved for Jesus Christ alone. 

Just to make it clearer where I am coming from, I know that Jesus will use the Bible as a bridge for those intimacies. And, I know I have heard Him whisper from the Psalms (as He did today from Psalm 38) and shout from Revelation. But God gave Jesus to be The Word (John 1) so we could hold Him, listen to Him, fuss with Him when we disagree (good luck with that), and dance with Him when His Truth makes us free. 

"Only Jesus is perfect theology" (Bill Johnson). Jesus Hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) means that I'll need Him as my tour guide through every Levitical rule and all the gory weirdness of stories you shouldn't read to your children before bedtime. As a matter of fact, Jesus told His disciples that when the Holy Spirit came, He would make Truth an internal epiphany for our thirsty souls. How? By revealing more of Jesus.

The Bible has created some monsters. Unfortunately some of these beasts have the wherewith-all to purchase TV air time for the purpose scaring the pants off unsuspecting viewers. Often their scare tactics are followed with purchase options for curing the terror they've caused; with everything from survival gear and food to more books to insure we understand how much of the population will be destroyed when Jesus shows up again not looking AT ALL like the Jesus who came the first time, healing and restoring the needy. 

But the Bible as revealed in The Word, Jesus Christ, has created some magnificent beauties as well. St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, Bill Johnson, Heidi Baker, just to name a few. The  old hymn "Break Thou the Bread of Life" says, "Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord". So keep reading books. PLEASE! Read the Bible, 7 chapters a day, and in a year you'll have completed it. Just go beyond, transcend, and elevate toward a renewal of spirit with a reading partner Who loves to look back at you from the page. There is no better translation than Jesus, and no finer vista than what He will reveal. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Condemn or Connect?

Dear Church Inc.,

Are we here to condemn or connect?

Maybe a few more connections will end our condemnations. Maybe a few more conversations will suppress our condemnations. Maybe our definition of "evangelism" (a word never used in the Bible) has become the very blockade to our goal of "evangelization" (another word never used in the Bible). If I am to do the work of an "evangelist" (a word used once in the Bible and then directed to a pastor) shouldn't my goal be less condemnation and much more connection?

Condemnation works splendidly when the Judge of a criminal court has heard the final verdict of a jury. After days, weeks, and maybe months, a jury comes back with a final decision, the Judge has no option but to "condemn" the accused to a sentence that fits the crime. Yet even then, a court of appeals might pursue a more fitting conclusion. Even in earthly terms, a fair justice system longs for REconnection to productive society and less condemnations to a hopeless box.

The machinations of evangelism have blurred the lines of authentic love and honest human connections. Somewhere along the way Church Inc. created a theology of self-loathing and disgust for humans as a means for giving glory to God through effective evangelism. We have been stuck in the need to convince humans how bad they are in order to see how good their Creator is...And we, who are called to lead humanity to FIND their way, have LOST our way. The only sin Jesus urged anyone to accept as their own was the sin of self-righteous, self serving bigotry. All others, He forgave with instant connection.

It wasn't disgust for the human condition that drew God to become a Human. He became one of us, and disguised Himself in a human costume in order to powerfully CONNECT! So powerful is this connection, that one of US is now at the right hand of God, making intercession for our continuing connection.

This is far from complete but not far from a truth we had better discover. Connections will almost always prevent condemnations.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Repent! God is Better Than You Think, So Change the Way You Think.

 Religion Inc. has made a living with shame and guilt. It’s often chronicled by comedians of Jewish or Catholic heritage and an inside joke with some pastors and ministers of other backgrounds; “If it weren’t for shame and guilt I don’t how we could muster a crowd on Sundays” is a missive I’ve actually heard.

 One of the driving factors for this phenomenon is that absent the real presence of Christ, there’s truly little other means of stirring religious interest. Think about it; if I’m desperate for statistical success as an amateur preacher or, for that matter, a veteran professional church promoter, I know instinctively that every human has a fairly easily reached threshold for feeling guilt and shame. When that’s used for some kind of “witnessing” venue or an agenda driven evangelism conversation, it becomes a tool in my tool box to achieve a result. Problem is, what I achieve by guilt and shame will likely have to be sustained by the same.

 Thus, religious practices can drift into the lowest of human experiences and seek to hold the interest of followers with a misery that Jesus Christ actually came to vaporize. He announced His Kingdom as “the gospel” or, GOOD NEWS. He read Isaiah 61 to a stunned gathering and proclaimed healing for broken hearts, liberty for captives, freedom for prisoners, delight and pleasure and comfort for mourners. An utterly contrary notion for the Religion Inc. of His day who relied on shame and guilt to keep the masses showing up for the offering plates.

 As a result the word, “repent” has inherited the sole ideal of “feeling bad for our sins”. And since (in my own opinion) most people have good hearts, it is easy to talk folks into the corner of “feeling bad for sins”, they admit it and presto, an evangelism statistic is born. “We went door to door witnessing and 22 people repented and received Jesus”. Here’s a possible interpretation: “We told 100 people they were born into sin, have no good in them at all and they live as totally depraved without any excuse unless they say this prayer and accept Jesus. 22 people were so honestly in touch with their own shortcomings they were willing to do whatever it takes to feel better. They repented!”

 I know, I know. We have done whatever it takes to “plant seeds”... God gets the glory, etc. etc. etc. But at what greater expense? I’ll tell you what expense ~ the magnificent character of God the Father and full beautiful manifestation of the Goodness of God in the Face of Jesus Christ.

 The Greek word for repent is “metenoeo”. It means to have a reformation, to think differently, to change one’s mind. It also certainly carries the notion of compunction, which is to be pricked of conscience. I am contending that we should stir these ingredients thoroughly until they come up like this; the epiphany of an honest inventory of my life where I have come to see that my actions at best have been a waste of time and, at worst, my actions have been destructive and painful for others and myself. I will change my vision to one of high values and purposes. I'm having a revolution of thought and destiny. I can finally SEE what I was created to be!

 Repentance isn’t only about being sad about what I’ve been. It’s also, and actually more about, being thrilled with what I can become!

 But if we introduce repentance as the connection with our shame and guilt without a greater connection to our purposes and value in this life, we create a system of belief founded in constant introspection with little or no escape other than to die and go to heaven... where we can finally BE who we were created to be.

 Sorry. I'm not interested in that version of the purpose of Jesus Christ. He didn’t come to ramp UP the power of the Old Testament with heavier laws. He came to set the captives of Religion Inc. FREE.

 In Mark 1:15 Jesus made it clear that the time was fulfilled, His New Kingdom was within reach and we should repent (change our minds) and believe the gospel, which is easily translated as....GOOD NEWS.

 Through Jesus the old Kingdom/Covenant was about to be completed in order to make room for the fulfillment of the NEW. This NEW Kingdom required a complete epiphany! A complete NEW way of thinking. A total renovation out of fear based relationship with God, to a NEW love based relationship which would drive out all fear. The OLD thinking, Religion Inc. thinking, shame and guilt based thinking, would actually be a wall against this NEW Kingdom.

 “REPENT! God is better than you think, so change the way you think. Do you feel that compunction of shame for stealing on your taxes last April? GOOD...that means you are alive. Now, make it right so that from here forward you can reach, run and respond ONLY to your destiny on earth. You were not put here to be a beggar for the dimes you can save by cheating on your taxes. You were put here to be a King/Queen whose wealth allows you to give more than you are forced to give by mere earthly laws”.

 Jesus is not the King of bums. Jesus is the King of Kings and Queens. When we leave repentance in the poverty of religious manipulation we devalue Jesus into the CEO of Sin Management. But when we truly REPENT, He becomes the High Priest of our Destiny, praying at the Throne of God for our complete personal fulfillment in this life.

 Raging angry preachers have made repentance a bad thing. They are wrong. Repentance is an epiphany! To repent says, “I’m waking up! I am picking a new direction. I’m not going to waste my life on mediocrity. From here forward I will live fully and abundantly”.