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. 


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”.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Beauty

I have not always loved Christmas. I tried real hard when I was a kid with some successes and some terrible failures. What I didn’t know then but I’ve learned since is that drug addictions and family dysfunctions don’t take a holiday break….in fact, they ramp it up. It can be summed up in the holiday greeting I grew up with, “Merry Kiss My A__”. Lovely sentiment, isn’t it?

But somewhere in life with two little kids and a wife who grew up with a family that relished Christmas, I had a Scrooge-like epiphany. Something, somehow broke into my reality and lodged in my heart and thinking. This life, this world, this one and only shot we have at spreading good cheer, needs Christmas.

And here, I am not talking about the Christmas “wars”. That’s nonsense. If I’m upset about losing influence in the world due to the fact that not enough people say, “Merry Christmas”, it is not a sign that the nation is in a moral free-fall….it’s a sign that I need to regain my credibility.

And, I am not talking about the droning of some who argue that Jesus’ Birthday is not actually December 25th (they’re right), or that we need to end the commercialization of the holidays (simple heart-felt gifts are always of higher value than money spent), or that various traditions of Christmas have been borrowed from a variety of pagan rituals (yep, it’s true; along with the modern calendar, astronomical maps and more names of people places and things than an encyclopedia could list) … blah, blah, blah.

I still believe this life of multiple disappointments and grieving needs a Christmas break. This world of scary people and hatred needs a Christmas break. This one and only shot we have at spreading good cheer, needs Christmas.

It’s about the insertion of beauty in a collection of far too much indignity and disgrace. It’s about clearing a small patch of ground, declaring a cease fire and singing Silent Night. I looked this up in Wikipedia, so the details might not be completely accurate. Just bear with me and read this;
"The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

In a world of reality shows that become ugly reality, we need beauty. In a world of unhinged ego, we need beauty. In a world where a friend of mine presides and weeps over a daily parade of human agony in the justice system, we need beauty. In a world where the f-bomb is a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb and artistic musical expression, we need beauty.

I want you to understand why I don’t care if pagan paltry has had a role in shaping Christmas. In my opinion, if something is beautiful, it was created by and belongs to God. Winter solstice provides a unique opportunity for reflection on dark bone chilling nights. In the mind-set of the Old Testament, if you touched a leper, you got leprosy. But now, on this side of the Cross, when we touch the leper, the leper is healed! Some people just need a bigger God, a far more real Jesus and much more completely defeated prince of darkness.

Let me tell you about my own personal Christmas tradition that brings me to tears every year. I started this when my kids were tiny. Late on Christmas Eve, after everything is done and a quiet has settled in, I take my car keys (or bells if they are available) and I go outside. I look up at the sky as if to look for Santa, throw my head back, jiggle my keys and as loud as I can I shout, “HO, HO, HO! Merry Christmas!” I’m not kidding. Ask anyone who lives within a mile of me. Dogs howl and the valley around me echoes….and I cry.

I cry because it is my shout for beauty. I cry because I hope some kid somewhere hears me and wonders if there really is a Santa. I cry because I love the moment. In this one and only shot for bringing peace on earth and good will toward all people, beauty deserves at least 15 minutes of fame every year.

So, Merry Christmas…HO, HO, HO!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pre-Christian World

It has been said that Christianity has not failed but that it has rarely been authentically attempted. I believe we are not living in a "post-Christian" era as much as we are living in a PRE-Christian era; a time of genuinely REpresenting the beauty of Christ and the true character of His Father.

What if we are not at all living in a society of past Christian glory? What if the history we tend to see only with the most romanticized ideals does not at all support the notion that our best days of faith are behind us? Isn’t it possible we’ve never known a truly, majestically thorough impact of genuine Kingdom Come influence in the U.S.A. and the western world?

Think about it; a Christian nation did not advocate the ownership of slaves. Christianity was not the core value supporting the Natives of this land being herded off to reservations and marginalized into the near extinction of their culture. It was not a Christian nation that forbade women the right to vote for most of our history. A nation living out the full bloom of Christ like beauty did not sponsor segregation with its ignorant “separate but equal” world view.

To be perfectly transparent about it all, some people painted the above crimes with the brush stroke of their silly interpretations of the Bible, but they were utterly and completely wrong! The error of their ways is so thoroughly egregious it is impossible to say with any certainty how long it will take to live it down!

Here’s my thundering point; it is utterly and completely possible that we are wrong to think of our current day as being a “post-Christian” era! I’m proposing that to live in the illusion of our past being something it was not is to rob us of the potential of an outrageous dream inspired faith for today and tomorrow!

We have not yet seen what God could do in a truly Christ inspired environment. “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26:14).

Our day is a time of birth pains waiting the revealing of the authentic children of a Father Whose love is prepared to make an appearance on the stage of history. What wonders we will behold are limited only by our allegiance to fables of the past.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Heal the Sick and Say, "This Is the Kingdom!"

Two years ago I was awakened by the Presence of God on a Sunday morning. He poured into my heart the following promises for healing in our house and upon our region. The phrase “deluge and oceanic appearance of a Healing Presence and an environmental shift” is as near a quote as I can ever remember God speaking to me.

I urge you to join us in believing for these broken areas of our humanity to be healed in magnificent ways. This day October 11, 2011 we covenant again to the promise of God for our region.

God has promised me: A deluge and oceanic appearance of a Healing Presence and an environmental shift for the following 7 areas of healing and health;
1. Emotional healing; from unfounded anxiety, sudden-harsh, but brief; crippling nevertheless~ healed!

2. Thought life healing; self destructive-from self sabotaging success to unreasonable surrender to defeat~ healed!

3. To be significantly loved; undeniably, permanently connected to significant relationships ~ healed!

4. Healing from the inability to effectively convey the truest quality of love~ healed!

5. Healing from the victim mentality; asserting that my life has challenges that only others can correct ~ healed!

6. Healing from the spirit of poverty; “there’s never enough” must change to, “there’s more than enough” ~ healed!

7. Radical, raw, real, recognizable physical healings. YES, YES, YES!

As our doubts abound, so the pain will continue to own our quality of life. As a faith and passion for God and His presence abounds, so will our quality of life arise. Stay where you are and keep what you've always had. Or, you can arise and reach for what you have never known and you will grow beyond you're wildest dreams.