Listening to God

Dear God, what does the future hold?

Then the man said to me, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel, because, from the day you first set your mind to understand things and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard. I’ve come because of your words!  For twenty-one days, the leader of the Persian kingdom blocked my way. But then Michael, one of the highest leaders, came to help me. I left Michael there with the leader of the Persian kingdom.  But I’ve come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the future because there is another vision concerning that time.” Danial 10:12-14

I just came back from two weeks in the UK, visiting family.  During that time, I tried to write, think, and meditate but found myself feeling like I was being pushed back, as if there was a different atmosphere and yet many similarities.  There were those with a passion for unification without losing identification.  There were those passionate about the environment, and there are those longing for what they perceived were the ‘good ole days.’ The common thread was their concern for the future.

In the text, Danial nemesis was the Prince of Persia, but can I interject that it could easily have been hatred, obsession, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, racism, nationalism,  jealousy, all these attitudes can block us from receiving God’s best.  That can be on a personal, local, or even national level.

God knows the future, and I, for one, would be wise to stop second-guessing God. Perhaps that’s why the Apostle John tells us to use both ears and listen to the Spirit

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Extinction Rebellion, a Christian Response.

Last year, Dan Tomberlin wrote, “The sociopolitical tribalism promoted by postmodern social justice warriors is just as insidious as the racism & sexism of the modern era. Both are born of anger and hate. The Christian vision of New Creation is all tribes & tongues as one new humanity in Christ bound together in love. There can be no justice without love. Love transcends tribalism.”

Extinction Rebellion Logo

Let me start by saying how much I love and appreciate the theological contribution Dan brings to the table. However, as a postmodern social justice warrior, I don’t hate or get angry with anyone. I do find it frustrating when a Christians motto is ‘don’t know, don’t care, and don’t tell me.’ The kingdom is about love, yes! But its also a love for the things that God loves.

Recently, in various places around the world, you may have heard about a group called ‘Extinction Rebellion.’ They probably fit into Dan’s concept of a sociopolitical tribe, yet, upon closer scrutiny, they are not hateful or angry and seem to have values that a Christian could adhere to.

Extinction Rebellion has 10 principles:

  1. They have a shared vision of change. Creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
  2. They set their mission on what is necessary. Seeking to mobilize 3.5% of the population to achieve a system change – using ideas such as “Momentum-driven organizing” to achieve this.
  3. They seek to create a regenerative culture. Creating a culture that is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  4. They openly challenge themselves and the toxic system. Leaving behind comfort zones to take action for change.
  5. They value reflection and learning. Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as their own experiences.
  6. They welcome everyone and every part of everyone. Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  7. They avoid power structures, breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
  8. They avoid blaming and shaming, we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  9. They are a non-violent network, using a non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
  10. They are based on autonomy and decentralization to collectively create structures needed to challenge power.

Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of the Extinction Rebellion.

As Christians, can we say amen to these values? Do we have a shared vision of change? – Do we want to see Love winning overall, to see all people committing to loving one another and knowing they are loved (as Jesus commanded)?  Do we want life for all people in the generations to come? To we care about the environment, the future, and future generations?

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Small Minded People

Gulliver’s Travels

For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape from the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face, and see him eye to eye. (jer 23:3-4)

Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. (Je 1:7–8).

In the story of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver is shipwrecked and finds himself on the shores of Lilliput.  The little people there (six inches tall) tie him down with ropes. After giving assurances of his good behavior, he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favorite of the Lilliput Royal Court. He is also given permission by the King of Lilliput to go around the city on condition that he must not hurt their subjects. The people of Lilliput spend most of their time focusing on trivial matters. Eventually, Gulliver is convicted for putting out a fire by urinating on the flames.  He is sentenced to being blinded, but escapes.

A children’s story? Yes! But, it is also a political satire against the royal court of King George III, and against the current teachings of philosophers like Thomas Hobbs, who wrote about the need for a population to be submissive to the King.

Like Jeremiah, the people will go along with a majority view, even when it flies in the face of the word of God.  The prophets are bound, imprisoned, and killed. We too can be guilty of focusing on the small things, rather than seeing God’s bigger picture.

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Holy Discontent!

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!” (Isa 43:19)

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Cor 13:11-12)

Holy discontent! That’s what you feel when you know that God is up to something, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it.  The Apostle Paul talks about, ‘looking in a mirror that gives only a dim, blurred reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma.’ I know in my case, God will give me a clue by exposing me to an article, a book, a thought, or a scripture, but my frustration will build as I desire to see the whole.

The Isaiah text is part of a bigger paragraph where God talks about doing something tremendous that goes beyond just another exodus.  Israel is stuck in a religion of past miracles, past events, and faith that has got old. Claus Westermann, in a commentary on Isaiah by Walter Brueggemann, says of the new things:

“Israel requires to be shaken out of a faith that has nothing to learn about God’s activity, and therefore nothing to learn about what is possible with him, the greater danger which threatens any faith that is hidebound in dogmatism, faith that has ceased to be able to expect anything really new from God.”

Holy discontent is just God’s way of shaking us up, keeping us fresh and always expecting something new.  Beware, the ‘new’ might challenge the old, requiring us to change.

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Holy Envy

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. (Ro 11:11–14)

Paul is talking about Israel and how he wants to ‘provoke them to jealousy,’ that they may seek more of what God has for them.  It’s that phrase that I want to focus on in this morning’s devotion.  Is God provoking you to jealousy or ‘holy envy’?

When we think that we’ve arrived, know everything, or have exclusivity in our faith, we are in danger of missing out on the ‘more’ that God has for us. I have always been part of a Pentecostal denomination;  and for the past twenty years, my particular flavor of Pentecostalism has been Wesleyan holiness. In the past ten years, however, I have found myself looking at some of the other practices within the Christian family and yes, wishing I had some of what they have in my life, and why not?

Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to know that ‘more’ in their lives too.  He wrote, “God would grant you, according to the riches of glory, to be strengthened with might through the Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height (God). (Eph 3:16–18)

If we think that God is one-dimensional, then we can missout on so much. So, in my Christian life, I have incorporated the eucharist of the Anglicans, the liturgy of the Lutherans, the Lexicon of the Methodists, the prayer and contemplation of the Christian mystics, the prayer-life of the Celtic Christians and the Spirit of the Pentecostals.  If God wants to create ‘holy envy’ in me, then I’m all in.  It doesn’t make me any less of a Pentecostal; in fact, it has only added to my experience.

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Blank Canvas

Given a blank canvas, what would I be?

Gay, straight, female, or male?

Would I be black, white, brown

Or some shade in between?

Would I be spiritual, seeking out God

Or would I a loner, just me and my dog.

Would I be English or American no less,

Or a displaced Palestinian, or even a Kerd?”

Would I be poor, wealthy, or rich?

Or would I be homeless and left in the ditch.

A prisoner, a slave, they’re one and the same.

The government don’t care,

To them, it’s a game.

Given a blank canvas, what would I be?

Given that choice, I’d rather be me.

Written by Terry Threadwell.

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Hi, My Name is Doubt!

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying,  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matt 11:2-7

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared that even doubt to be a sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! — Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality.

Fredrich Nietzche lived in a time when Christianity became fundamentalist, tieing everything up so that there was no room for doubt.  The Christian wasn’t allowed to doubt, such expressions were sinful, and showed a complete lack of faith.

No doubt is not sin! Faith in our minds battles with a thousand and one emotions.  In religion and philosophy, we call it doubt, but in real life, we might call it depression, anxiety, or anyone of the many diagnoses that make up our mental health.  When God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, God wasn’t joking—we are complex.

John the Baptist had been out there in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord.  Confronting demons both spiritual and physical, but know he was in prison. Alone, with only his thoughts and doubts to keep him company, he begins to question. Jesus responds to John’s question by telling him all the miracles that were happening and about to happen—‘John, you did your bit, preparing the way for God to move,’ doubt not!

You might be in that place of doubt this morning, and God would tell you this morning, ‘I AM is walking with you and has a plan for your life.’

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Micah

June 25, 2019. Devotions

God’s Message as it came to Micah of Moresheth. It came during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. It had to do with what was going on in Samaria and Jerusalem. [ God Takes the Witness Stand ] Listen, people—all of you. Listen, earth, and everyone in it: The Master, God, takes the witness stand against you, the Master from his Holy Temple. Look, here he comes! God, from his place! He comes down and strides across mountains and hills. Mountains sink under his feet; valleys split apart; The rock mountains crumble into gravel, the river valleys leak like sieves. All this because of Jacob’s sin, because Israel’s family did wrong.

The nations sin, idolatry, and immorality was so grave that they drew God attention.  The analogy Micah uses is of a giant striding the land, causing the things that have always been there to change. Crushed mountains, split valleys and dried up rivers.  Judah and Israel would have been foolish to ignore the signs, but ignore them they did.

The prophets often prophecied in poetic prose. God is a Spirit and doesn’t stride like a giant, and yet, God still moves. Perhaps we need to see and take note of global warming and the footprint we are leaving on our environment.  Then we should look for the spiritual and the prophetic voice, as God tries to get our attention.

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Reconciled

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. (Joh 21:15-17 NKJ)

“The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.” ― Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change

Matthew 26:33, 35 Peter speaking to Jesus boasts, “Even if all the rest lose their faith and fall away, I will still be beside you, Jesus!” …. Peter replied, “I absolutely will never deny you, even if I have to die with you!” And all the others said the same thing. Yet, when the time came to stand up and be counted the ‘Rock, Petros, Peter ’ was nowhere to be found. Now on the beach comes Peter’ moment of reconciliation.

The question Jesus asks could be twofold. “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Was Jesus pointing to the fish, representing his old way of life, or was he pointing to the other disciples, ‘is your love greater than these disciples? Peter would have felt the sting of that rhetorical question, knowing full well that he had denied the Lord three times.

After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah.” Instead of the ‘Rock,’ Peter had proved he was still the ‘Reed,’ blown around by the fear of man and public opinion, he had denied the Lord he claimed to love so much, and Jesus knew where to meet him. Twice, when Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” Jesus used the Greek word agapas, meaning unselfish love, and twice Peter replies, with philio, meaning friend. Jesus asks him a third time, this time using the word philio. Peter, frustrated responds with, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus knows where we are too!

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Believe Without Seeing

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Joh 20:24-29 NKJ)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1 NKJ)

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

In many ways Thomas get a bad rap, why shouldn’t he have the same experience as Mary and the other disciples.  Mary met the risen Lord and the tomb, and the disciples were in the locked room when Jesus appeared.  For some reason, Thomas wasn’t there the first time, but eight days later the Lord appears to them again.  This time Thomas is there, and Jesus said to him, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

The issue wasn’t one of doubt, but trust, and indirectly love.  You would have thought that by now the disciples would have been a close-knit community.  Thomas’s distrust of his friend’s words threatened to the very unity of the community.

In John’s gospel, it is those who believe without seeing that are the true believers.

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