Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Potential of Ragged, Reckless Love

Very early in my journey of faith (circa 1970’s) I was confronted by the fundamentalist doctrinal establishment of the denomination God was using to draw me to Himself when I heard (loud and clear I might add) that divorce was a clear “Biblical” infraction. So clear an infraction that it would forbid anyone from serving in any leadership level in a local assembly. 

In Bible College, when I verbally noted (in contrast to this hard nosed view) that recovering drug addicts were beautifully preaching and leading us in a vibrant renewal, I was told that I was “young in the faith” and naive. And, after all, there was a "clear Bible teaching" about marriage and divorce. 

Well, I’ve observed that today’s “clear Biblical teaching” can easily become tomorrow’s sad commentary on our lack of love. There are so many examples I could cite …like racially mixed marriages (clear Bible teaching), men with long hair (clear Bible teaching), worldly entertainment (clear Bible teaching)... just to name a few.


What if today’s limited understanding of a wide range of cultural challenges will one day be compared to the ignorance about racial integration in the USA from the 1950’s and ’60’s? We had Bible verses! What if we’re so afraid of the extremes, the aberrations, and the fear mongering that we can’t see ONE person sitting in front of us asking for love? Asking for acceptance? Asking for a simple margin of patience from us while they sort out the madness (ours, theirs, and the wide world)?

Love refuses to lump anyone into a monolithic category. Love floods our vision with insight, sight into, and simply SEEING that one person beyond any and all character assumptions and assassinations. Love respects ALL humans even when a Bible verse seems to disrespect that very same human being. Love never fails. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When I Talk About Love I'm Not Trying to be Relevant or Clever...


I'm known for preaching, writing, and posting about love. Some have called me "Bishop Love" or "The Dean of Love"... I guess I could be called much worse, so I'll happily accept the labels. But I want to be specific as to why I'm so committed to this topic...please allow me 10 minutes of your time ~

The best place to start would be with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Please take some pains to read this carefully;

“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say:”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

The complexity AND simplicity of Love is found in the sheer impossibility of it. That's inherent to King's quote here because this statement requires us to remember that he actually survived his own home being terroristically attacked. We must recall that black churches were routinely fire-bombed and Sunday School children were killed...in my life time...in the USA. King's creed and response? LOVE. More than simply being "relevant" or "clever"... he put his one life on the line for LOVE. I'm convinced that 21st Century Christianity is at a similar intersection today. 

The political bitterness of our time is a potential set-up for a raw discovery of the practice of Divine Love. Dealing with every hot-topic of our day from a Christian perspective must find a way to default to this "One Command" of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that we will either spend our energies on other methods or we will spend and be spent in a healthy and joyous practice of Love. 

M. Scott Peck, author of the classic book, "Road Less Traveled" said, "Real love is a permanently enlarging experience." Some of us get stuck in small definitions of love and fail to see a wide world dying for a mature and vital love... 

When I was 5 I loved my original dog, “Tiny”....but when I was 12, she got sick and had to be euthanized. I accused my parents of not “loving her” like I did because they made that decision. Well, I was right. They grew, but I was still a 5 year old kid in a 12 year old body loving a dog without an adult mind.

Mature Love is the most difficult, mind challenging choice we can make in a world of complexities and vast choices. But it is the choice Jesus said we'd have to make if we were to be known as His true disciples.   The path I've found through this narrow way (sound familiar?) is the path of LOVING ONE PERSON SITTING IN FRONT OF ME. If that sounds cliched, let me challenge you...

If I get publicly loud about political ideals and indignant about groups of people seeking to corrupt my world I might ultimately find ONE person, sitting in front of me, from one of those groups...seeking and perhaps even desperate for...Love. I can not afford to fight broad political groups when I am committed to LOVE ONE PERSON...sitting in front of me. 

Looking in the eyes of that ONE person, my broad generalized political statements will pale. That ONE person, whose singular "finger-printed" life story, will not fit my pat simplistic answers edited to fit on a political party platform. Like Dr. King, my passions had better be shaped by my real life, first hand experiences, or I risk making Jesus my poster boy for a current news cycle rant. 

I'm not suggesting we should be dispassionate about worthy causes...I'm simply shouting that we should remember that "ONE PERSON" who is disparate for love but might be afraid of us due to our loud political protests. 

Yes...that's a tough gig. Love is ALWAYS the hardest choice to make in the midst of our simplistic news cycle driven culture. 

"LOVE = ONE COMMANDMENT" ~Jesus~


“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” ~Erich Fromm

Saturday, March 30, 2019

To the Spiritual Refugees Part 2

Since early November of 2018 I have been seeking out the lives of those whom I have come to lovingly call "spiritual refugees"; the young, middle aged, and seniors who have been alienated from the brick and mortar of 21st century church for a wide variety of reasons, too lengthy to list for the purposes of this blog. Maybe you're still in a church but not quite feeling "at home", or you've fled the standard evangelical format, or...or...or...

Originally I thought it would be easy for me to set up "one on one" meetings in the Twin Cities to LISTEN AND LOVE. Unfortunately, I underestimated the logistics of that goal due to my own new life schedule and the very busy lives of those with whom I am seeking to communicate.

So....If I've contacted you or you've contacted me about meeting with me on this basis, I am trying a new strategy in the hope of getting this off the ground. Saturday April 6, 2019 my wife and I would like to invite you to our home (2694 200th Ave Emerald, WI) at 6pm. I am not giving up on the possibility of meeting everyone "one on one", but at this juncture I simply need to adjust, review, and start fresh.

I continue to be blown away by the responses I've had...both the number and the spirit of all of you. I promise (as I have all along) that I will LISTEN and LOVE. No judgements, no pressure, no need to explain in depth why you've walked away from most churches...my wife Ginger and I simply want to offer our 45 years of pastoral ministry as a listening post. In fact, for lack of a better name for this meeting, I've decided to call it, TO LISTEN AND TO LOVE.

If you have more questions about this goal, I have outlined it on my website randydeanministries.com and on other blogs here at randydeanministries.blogspot.com. You can also call me at 715-265-7141 or email me at randydeanministries@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Replacing Awful with AWE

The brand spanking new baby church of the New Testament discovered and practiced AWE. The book of Acts chapter 2 verse 43 says, "...and everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles...". I've often tried to imagine what this might have looked like but, almost as often, I fall back into seeing it in the context of the 21st century church...through buildings, worship services, and the like. I'm certainly not opposed to our buildings and services creating "awe", but I just don't think this passage is referring to those things.

Almost every awe-struck act Jesus demonstrated in the Gospels was simply in the dust and dirt of the paths He walked. It seems to me that the apostles immediately sought to replicate this ordinary pattern in order to introduce the extraordinary.

When Jesus said, "The poor have the gospel preached to them.." it was in the surroundings of the harsh realities of, well...the poor! (Matthew 11:5). In the frustrating middle of disabilities, disease, death, and poverty Jesus introduced the AWE of His Kingdom. This is what the apostles pursued and I am convinced we too must be in full pursuit of the rainbow of AWE in the middle of our brown paper bag bland world.

We're living in a time of awful events and awful behavior by an awful lot of people! There's no time like the present to introduce AWE as a light in the dark tunnel of awful. Let's practice AWE, let's plan AWE, let's prepare AWE, and let's get busy with AWE.

Jennifer Stellar, PhD, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto says, "People feeling awe focus more of their attention outward and value others more in social interactions." She defines awe as the emotion we feel in response to something vast that defies our existing frame of reference. She has also studied how AWE can affect our immune system in positive ways. Simply stated, I think it has to do with firing up our child-like wonder as we learn to expect and practice AWE instead of being awful.

Here's how we can practice AWE:
*Do kind things. Let me slow it down a bit....Do...Kind...Things! Seeing someone react to kindness, directly or indirectly is awe-inspiring. Be fully engaged in DOING KIND THINGS DAILY.
*Look away from our phones and into the eyes of everyone we see. Smile randomly at random strangers. SEE people with the aim of pure love and say "hi" to everyone...spooky, I know.
*When we are asked to pray for someone, do it right on the spot. Not with showy loud expression, but with authentic connection to that person.
*Expect spiritual activity in and around every bland activity and thing you are doing. Imagine how different life today would be if Moses had not seen a "burning bush" in the middle of his day job shepherding sheep. (BTW, he called it a "marvelous sight" Exodus 3:3)

Not long ago, I had a dream about someone in a completely random way. The next morning I contacted that person to tell him how beautiful it was to see him in my dreams. Their response was, "That's awesome!" It was simple and free! And the result built AWE into both of us.

Get up and go do some AWE right now!

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Love Alone is Credible


For as long as I can remember, when I scan the night sky I am at a complete and wonderful loss to comprehend what I’m seeing. I’ve read the science and attempted to grasp the genius of astrophysicists. And while I respect it all, it almost always fails to pull me upward, outward, forward, and into a substantive transcendence matching what I’m looking at in that night sky. 

The Hubble telescope images we are now able to casually enjoy show us furious explosions of blinding light and excruciating colors without defined shape or even the slightest explanation for their existence. And yet the Bible simply says, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1).

When I’m completely honest I have to admit that my faith is smaller than I’m comfortable with and inadequate to carry the love I know I carry for the God of this glory. Love is where it all lands… “love alone is credible” (Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar) and love alone sorts it out, finalizes my questions, and keeps me founded. There are no competitors for my heart. Love alone for God alone! 

From his book, “Love and War”, John Eldridge says, “Every thing that has ever stirred your heart~that is God romancing you.” Since we love Him because He first loved us (I John) I personally must conclude that God’s irresistible, passionate love seeks to ignite the same quality IN me FOR Him. While faith will always be standard spiritual equipment, love out distances the requirement for faith and, in fact, is the only fuel worthy of mention FOR my faith (I Corinthians 13:2-3). 

It’s the only container I have, the only grasp, and the only true desire that keeps me secure. I love this God. His starry skies hold my imagination and the rapturous, mind crushing expanse is more than I can resist. This glory leaves me with one solid purpose for my living ~I will love this God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. 

This God landed on earth and my love tells me, His name is Jesus Christ. That’s greater than faith and far far larger than rational thought. There are no faith formulas or dogmatic demands capable of holding my attention…Love has won my full attention. Jesus Himself made it clear that love was the ultimate evidence for our faith (John 13:34-35)! In fact, Jesus prayed that the love of Heaven (and if you will, the supernatural adhesive between the trinity) would penetrate and permeate we humans on earth (John 17:22-26).

So I have chosen not to be overwhelmed by the lifestyle choices others or my culture’s slide into confusion because I know this God’s glory is capable to love us all into recovery and sanity. How? I can no more explain “how” than I can explain how our Sun, a dwarf star, 93 million miles away from earth can hold 7 billion lives in complete and perfect balance while we spin through the universe at thousands of miles per hour with exact precision. My choice in response to all fallenness is to make my life more available for Love which, in turn, makes me a delivery port for Resurrection life for my world. 

The siren song of doctrinal purity demands my time and affections with constant noisy rhythms seeking my ego driven one dimensional quotes to end all quotes. But those night skies, those glories, those implausible expanses, and that crazy lover of all humans, Jesus just keeps my eyes straining for more than Hubble will ever disclose. 

7th Century bishop, St. Isaac the Syrian said, “In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to a wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of governance of creation be finally comprised.”


This God has kissed my soul so that I am flat out ruined on lessor, feeble attractions for my attention. 


I will always and forever love this God. And this God will love us all here on earth until His Kingdom comes and His will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

In Search of the "One"

For the past 30 years my wife and I have had the pleasure and honor to pastor the flock of Living Word Chapel in the township of Forest. We concluded this loving assignment as of December 31, 2018 and we began a new adventure the very next day. At the age of 65 and 62, we believed it was time to re-FIRE and not retire. 

We are blessed with good health, a deep and abiding love for God, and a rich desire to serve and love people outside the “brick and mortar” of the church building. With our daughter and son-in-law taking our place as senior leaders of our church, my wife Ginger and I are embarking on what we’ve passionately called, “a mission to America.” 

Researchers tell us that the fastest growing demographic of religious participants are the folks coming to be known as “none of the above.” They are an amalgamation of some running away from organized religion, some (right or wrong) who’ve lost confidence in clergy, and some who are outright weary of anything resembling the previous two categories. 

I’m convinced that there remains a latent and vital spirituality in the hearts of these dear sheep…who seem to me to resemble the “one” lamb who has drifted away from the 99. I’m deeply committed to the discovery of a way to search and find these sheep without giving them any more reasons to run or hide. When I read the gospels, I see Jesus walking dusty paths in search of these folks who’ve I’ve come to call, “spiritual refugees.” Our new life is taking us on similar dusty paths in search of the “one.”

One of the beautiful (and somewhat unexpected) side effects of this new adventure has been the renewal of our “first love” passion (Revelation 2:4). Life outside the security of our previous normal routines has pressed us to pray with a renewed faith and a love with a reckless joy. 

American Christianity has not failed…it is simply awaiting our reach for its most basic tenants; laying down our lives for others, faith to move mountains, RISK, and most of all, sacrificial love. The life of Jesus Christ beckons us forward and upward. While we will always need the beauty of our sanctuaries, I am also convinced that we must walk out FROM our places of worship and lovingly learn to see the majority of America’s population who have either fled our churches or they have simply never entered the doors. And when we truly see them, we must also genuinely learn to LISTEN and LOVE them…right where they are, without attempting to strong-arm them back into our churches. 


Perhaps our authentic love is all they’ve ever wanted…and maybe, just maybe, love will change US more than it will ever change “them.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sloppy Wet Kisses: The Jesus Love-In


Luke 7:37-50 tells the story of a day in the life of Jesus that demands our full attention. It's about a woman with a terrible reputation expressing wild affection for Him, up to and including, sloppy wet kisses.

As with all Biblical narratives, there are ancient cultural norms throughout this gospel treasure. I would invite every reader of this blog to Google search the hosting expectations of that time and place. But for the purpose of my moments here, I need to express what I see as the deep human energies happening and the intense emotions painted by Dr. Luke's word picture. It is nothing short of jaw dropping by any cultural norms but especially....21st Century Church standards and sensibilities.

The Passion Translation says bluntly, "...there was an immoral woman of the streets, known to be a prostitute...", and the story unfolds from there. She crashes the dinner party of a respected leader of the Jewish tradition in order to give an incredible gift of love to Jesus. We have no proof of any previous significant conversations she may have had with Jesus. We do not explicitly know to what extent Jesus may have personally spoken to her previous to this dinner party.

Whatever else the case may be, this much we know; she is overcome with love and emotion at the mere possibility of Jesus' forgiveness toward her ragged and raw reality. Old Testament law and human traditional additions to it coldly required the death penalty for her lifestyle. The rigid fundamentalist of that era would have been repulsed by any religious tolerance for her behavior. She was spiritually dead to the conservative members of the organized faith surrounding her life and in the home she had just invaded.

This is nothing short of a sign and wonder of the magnificent transcendent energy radiating from the personage of Jesus. She knows somewhere in the caverns of her emotional bankruptcy that HE will love her so completely and so perfectly that she will live the rest of her life with a freedom she's never known. For her, this is not about her sinful life. For her, this about discovering what her potential life was always supposed to be. This Love was so completely perfect, so soul satisfying, so emotionally charged, so psychologically healing, that she instinctively knows, LIFE has arrived within her desparate reach.

This is the baseline of how we 21st Century people of faith in Christ are to be loved and, to LOVE our entire world. If it seems impossible, then we are on notice that we are potentially bankrupt of the most genuine nature that should be defined as "Christian". The sin and diversity of the 21st Century is no surprise to our Eternal Father. Whatever we deem as aberrant, deviant, disgusting, and vulgar is not outside of the Love of God. If we are determined to redefine His Love as constrictive or restrictive to any human brokenness, it is simply and sadly the definition of our own lack of a deep encounter with the God of all transformitve Love (I John 4:7-21).

The words of Jesus to Simon (the host of this party) underscore what I've just stated. Wildly generous forgiveness, internally and externally, determines our genuine encounter with this existential, monumental LOVE. Knowing this, experiencing this, and giving this Love freely to all is our challenge and privilege. It is also the full measure of what it means to be truth-fully Christian.

Tune in to my Podcast on this subject ~

http://nobsbishop.com/NoBSBishopSloppyWetKisses.mp3