God & Church are Not Synonymous: Pt 1

I think it’s taken me near 10 years to realize, that despite the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, most people assume church and God are synonymous. They are not.  They never have been.

It took going back through the memories of being inside the church system to realize I believed it once. It was never spoken out right, but it has always been implied.

When I started weaning away from the church system my brothers had really critical things to say to me over the smallest detail. Stupid things that have stuck with me like thorns under the skin since that time. But I think I get it now. I think they saw the way I acted at or towards church was synonymous in their mind to how I was acting or respecting (or lack of {in their mind}) towards God. Not even that  it was connected, but it was a directly linked together in a full embodiment. If I didn’t mark the sign-in sheet correctly I was mocking God, not the sign-in sheets.

I never realized that this side of Protestant Reformation that there was still such a direct correlation in the minds of the masses of church goers. I mean I know that’s how masses of pastor think. I know the people are trained to associate the two. However, I just didn’t realize how much that is the reality within the church system.

There has long been this thought that if someone leaves their local church building and gathering times, that they’ve walked out on God. For many this does happen, because there is no separation between them.

I can’t emphasize enough that God and church are not synonymous.

Sometimes it takes looking at history to realize, that something that holds a scared title isn’t always what it seems. For me, the most simplistic words that really spelled this out for me was when Jesus said: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would act like it.” (John 8:39)

God judges someone by their heart, what’s on the inside, the true character which we develop within ourselves, our true motives and intentions. God sees that clearly. If that’s how God judges us, is it any different for an institution or an assembly of people?

God knows that our true intentions and our heart cause for us to do all things that flow out of us. All of our actions. The way we perceive people comes from our heart and our inner being. I believe this is also true for any system, corporation, community, assembly.

Now in a matter of speaking, a system has no heart, no inner being. Therefore those who align themselves with any given system become the heart therein. Yet so often we trade our minds & hearts for a go-with-the-flow mob mentality. We create a system to unify and drive us to our intend goal, but often it’s not long before we sacrifice our own goals, our own drive for the sake (health and sustaining) of the system.

I see this is still the reality of something called church. I too was part of  that once.

This is the strange thing about “church”:
It starts by saying that you can have a personal relationship with God. But then the whole time is spent telling you how to interpret God, how to serve God, how to do these things through more solidly aligning yourself with the local “church” and its “ministries”.  This happens so much so, that for those who actually do learn to grow and interpret on their own, they do not become the prize pupils, but instead are consider the ones who need to be corrected, or even broken in.
My husband and I have heard multiple stories like this. We’ve both been in these situations. We know it happens everywhere. It is not an isolated event.

We also know this isn’t God. This isn’t how God works. This isn’t the relationship that God had in mind.

A healthy body works together. Period. A body with auto-immune disease attacks itself. This is not consider healthy or normal. This is considered to be something that is in need of cure and of treatments, as there is often no known cures for many auto-immune diseases. Maybe especially spiritual ones which go unidentified. 

This thing calling itself church attacks itself. Am I to believe that is the resemblance of the body of Christ?

500 years ago (and more) there was something that was calling itself The Church. It was taught that this was the one way to know God, to honor God, to get to heaven, to be safe in this life, to be a responsible admirable citizen of your country. The Church was the guardians to Truth, or so it was taught.

But there arose men and women who disagreed with this thing called The Church. They disagreed that this system was not doing what it said it was meant to do. They disagreed that this system was honestly, openly, freely leading people Truth and to God.
To them the cruelties of the opposing a well-established system were unleashed. There was no mercy for such trouble makers. We are not too far removed from this history.

As a matter of fact, we maybe standing in the middle of an era where history repeats itself. We maybe at a crux of guarding and regarding the sacred words and descriptions back unto their true intentions. System or no system, when a people want to know God and want to know truth, there is an unquenchable thirst for the authentic thing.

Yet we have seen in history that the artificial thing will defend it’s stolen/assumed throne. The price for truth is high. Very, very high. Yet for something so priceless, we’d be fools to settle for anything less than the whole truth.

We can no longer bow our necks and bear this a little further in history. We cannot continue to plow for a master who is not our God. We must consider who and what we are truly serving. What do we truly fear? Whom do we truly want to serve? Are we interested in God? Or are we interested in our own rewards and security?

God and church are not synonymous. They never have been.

But woe to you … For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13

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Not Superheroes, Just Friends

About a month and half ago, a friend of ours confessed he need to turn himself in for DUI. We prayed with him and have prayed for him since then.  A few weeks after that, another friend told us about his agonizing relapse, we listened, and he asked us to pray he’d get into detox. Maybe a month later, a different friend of ours found out his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him. We were able to be with him that day, and spent the night keeping him company and being available.

We’re not miracle workers. We don’t change the world with our prayers. But we believe this is who we are meant to be. We believe this is what resurrection life looks like. We are thankful for those who will let us know when their life isn’t perfect and they need some support. Not everyone will tell us, not everyone will let us help or pray or sit with them and listen. Not everyone can trust, hope, or call out for help. We are thankful that God has made these friends strong enough to include us.

Somehow, I don’t think people imagine this as the good Christian life. We don’t evangelize (as its known to be), we don’t seal them with cliches, we don’t tell them everything will be okay. We just try to be available, try to pray, try to believe with them.
…and personally I can’t imagine much else to be the “Christian thing to do”.

We’ve never once stopped to think or accuse the devil. We’ve not yet become overwhelmed. Instead we thank God that these fine people have entrusted us with their tough situations. We thank God that we’ve been able to look into their faces, and hear it from them. We’ve thanked God that we are able to pray with/for them, and fully believe God will strength the weak hands and feeble knees. We know they need the prayers. We all do.

My husband and I are searching for a new place to live, and it’s frustrating. We haven’t found an open door, and we start to get a little put out with God. What does he want from us anyway? We’re trying! Then something happens… not to us but to whom we love …and we get quiet. We remember to be thankful. Although our current residence is limiting, and we’re ready to move forward, we are still a part of life. Life is not out there, somewhere, someday, instead…it is today. With all the bad and good and waiting, it still counts as life.

If I have to take a moment to remember this, to think about it, and to let the gratitude sink in, then I’m sure I’m not the only one.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, addictions and cheaters, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And this is why we believe that we are already part of the resurrection life. In life we feel pain, we share heartbreak, we hope in unseen circumstances, we fall and get up again, we sorrow, we rejoice, we try. WE do this together. We include one another in these adventures -which at times seem to lead nowhere- and we pray. We include God.

When saints pray for a common hope, I believe it’s like going to a concert with a beloved band on stage. It feels like everyone is singing along, the crowd is pressing forward, strangers become friends, there is strength in numbers. There’s also that one weird person who has to yell something like “marry me” or “I love you” to one of the band members…but that’s easily ignore or laughed away.
In a concert like this, people are sweaty, smelly, sometimes pushy, close and pressing closer. Some yell the whole song, some sing, yet we all seem to lose our voice by the end of the night. And we love it! It’s like a sign of hardwork well accomplished. Not only did the band get on stage and perform, but we were all a part of the concert tonight…and it was beautiful.

If you’ve never been to a concert like that, you’re missing out. If you’ve never lived a faith like that, then you’re missing it…missing everything.

One or two of these friends (from the previously stated stories), said to us something along the lines of, “I don’t deserve friends like you” to which my husband perfectly replied, “Everyone deserves friends like us.”

We’re not superheroes. But in real life, we are friends to real people. We love our friends. We are proud of our friends.Our prayers for them pour out more regularly than prayers for ourselves. We are thankful for those who have allowed us to journey with them. We know these aren’t just bad times, but these are times where God is working.  We press on, carrying the burdens of our friends. Hoping. Rising…one more time. We will try. Together we will walk through today.

If this isn’t what faith is suppose to look like, then God help us. It’s the best we’ve got thus far.

We Need Dreamers

We need dreamers.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking dreamers are the ethereal, conceptional, all play and no work people. They are not. Sometimes the misjudgment is made that dreamers and idealist are lofty, aloof, pretentious people. They are not exactly that either. Dreamers should also be known for being doers. They are the innovate, world-changing, try-try-again, problem solving people who have brought the world into new leaps and bounds. Often, even for this, they are hated.

To know me be friends with a dreamer is to live in the midst of a love story written about life itself. However a disappointed and scorned dreamer can be just opposite of these many beautiful things. A disilliousioned, I don’t care what happens to the world, mess. When dreamers are with held from dreaming they become the scorners, the scoffers, the do-nothing’s. They become the nightmares that no one else has the answer to, because without dreamers, idealist, romantics, lovers there is no moving forward. There is no picturing a world as it could be. There is no getting up today because hope maybe victorious. Without the dreamers things don’t even merely continue as they are, but they decay because the dreamers are the problem solvers.

We need the dreamers. They dreamers are doers. They get things done. They innovate, they conquer, they vindicate.

Dreamers need support systems to be their roots, not to hold them down from being too lofty or ethereal, but to hold them strong when things get rough up there. …to keep them from slipping in the wind speeds of life that you can’t even imagine (no pun intended) if you’re not also a dreamer. Dreamers need strong, deep support systems that don’t mind get a little bit of dirt on them for the benfit of all. Dreamers need to people who don’t want to angrily cut down their “loftiness”. Trust me folks, life itself we’ll make prunings to any dreamer, but only the ones with good healthy support systems will be the ones to make through those times alive. The rest face devastions that will turn them into something they were never meant to be shaped into.

We need the dreamers, and we need to love the dreamers, …the romantics, the idealist, the lovers, we need them too. People who change the world in a positive way simply because they saw something the rest of hadn’t imagined, these people are beautiful gift from heaven. I don’t want to lose them.

I make not guarantees that I could ever be the strong healthy dreamer to change the world for the better, but at least I’ve tasted enough of it know what this feels like. It hurts like hell (as the phrase goes). And for the ones who make it, it’s worth it. It worth it for all of us.

Dreamers change the world. Dreamers write music. Dreamers build enterprises. Dreamers care for wounded and those who need to be rehabilated. Dreamers love, even when love seems elusive, because a dreamer is compelled to become more than what is seen. Dreamers invent. Dreams scout, draw maps, climb mountains. Dreamers stay home and raise responsible children. Dreamers share their dreams, because maybe you can’t imagine things only going this far and stopping either.

Dreamers open doors for us to choose a beautiful future. We need the dreamers.

Proverbs 31: the Last Great Mystery

Here’s a phrase that causes my hair to bristle down my spine (so to speak), “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

Really it’s cute little phrase, however I believe it’s highly misdirected. Women are often told this is the standard for them to live up to. This is the stigma for what wife really ought to be. Just so we’re clear: It’s not.

Actually I have no idea how anyone reads the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs, a book of wisdom, parables, & idioms, and then comes to chapter 31 and suddenly it’s suppose to be freakishly literal? OR… maybe there’s something we’ve missed? (like maybe the previous 30 chapters of Proverbs and their writing style)

How about we take a chance to talk a little bit about how Proverbs 31 isn’t about a woman or all women, but it’s about the church, the Bride of Christ? How about talking about the beautiful poetry and idiom used in Proverbs 31 to hide God’s wisdom from those who call themselves “wise & insightful” and authors, but instead revealed it to the least of these, “the lost generation” …me… maybe you? Maybe whoever is willing to consider these things without looking for a quick & cheap version. Whoever has the time to read all 31 chapters of Proverbs and therefore has built insight and humbleness, so that they can have their hearts ready for the most outstanding mystery of all: the church.

“She is far more precious than jewels.”
Jesus seems to come across the issue of money and what to do with it rather frequently. Strangely enough I don’t think Dave Ramsey or any other “money saver”, budge-lover is going to quote much of Jesus.  When Jesus says cool things like,
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings
or
So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
or
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
It’s very different approach than the most trusted name-brand Christian teaching, which is elapsed in weirdness by the fact the Proverbs 31 say of the Bride of Christ that “she” is more far more precious than jewels. …or riches or wealth or money or the pathetic things we usually (even if secretly) find our own worth in it.

Yet it starts to make sense that “she” is more far more precious than jewels, when you think of Jesus saying, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
or
God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
Indeed these are the description of things that are much more precious than jewels! This dedicate you’re whole life, get-down-on-your-knees goodness. This is the church, the Bride of Christ, uniting with Christ and bring the Kingdom of God upon the earth. St Paul calls this a “profound mystery” the uniting of the church & Christ. Indeed, although weaves a beautiful pattern to make it clear throughout the whole Bible, we rush pass the big picture to find “what can I get out of this” and certainly such an attitude will not bring us to being united with anyone or anything. Yet we’re here now, let’s consider a few things.

One of my favorite phrases in Proverbs 31 is, “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens
This isn’t about being a workaholic. This is about the church who finding itself in dark times arises and becomes that which she was always made to be. Often many modern “fundamentalist” consider the first many chapters of the book of Acts to be the image of what church is suppose to be. Ironically, this “first century church” is really just the Deuteronomitcal church, mean that is what God’s people were told to be back in the book of Deuteronomy. It isn’t a new pattern, but a solid classic pattern of who God’s people were always meant to be. That’s probably one contributing reason why it really took off at that time. It was probably the most Hebraic thing those Jews had ever seen! And in a world where the Roman/Greek culture was threatening the stability of Jewish culture at all, it must of been some crazy revolution to start being truly Hebraic at that time. A really back-to-the-roots kind of moment!

One time someone pointed out to me how in the stories of Jesus life they always have these phrase “then the next day Jesus went here” “then the next day” “then the next day”  but when Judas betrayed Jesus suddenly the authors happen to record “and it was night“.  Indeed nothing feels like the darkest times, such as night, like betrayal. Yet in Proverbs 31 “she” gets up at night and does what she always does.
Many of the old preachers get up there and say how these are dark times, the last days, things are getting worse, ect. I’m sure if you’ve had to sit in church for a year or better, you’ve heard these things more than a few times. …But so what!? If we are the church, let’s get arises. Let’s get to it. There’s work to be done.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” -Galatians 6:9-10

She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
– Proverbs 31:13-20

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
 Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
– Isaiah 55:1-2

This is the image of the church. This has always been the image of God’s people. This isn’t just something God does, but it’s something he asks us to do as the Bride of Christ. Because God is relational, this is something that God wants us to be in on too. Yes God can and will do these things alone if necessary, however we are fortunate enough to find that God doesn’t find it necessary but is willing to include us.

What we do as the people of God is a big deal to God. Jesus makes that super clear when he tells the parable know as “the sheep and the goats” in Matthew 25:31-46. God wants to be in on what God is doing around us, yet we can choose to say “oh that not my thing” “that’s not my calling” and if that’s what we choose God will let us make that choice. Because it is the willingness of our hearts that make “our thing”. It the willingness in our hearts that will make it so that we feel it’s necessary for us to be what God is continuously describing in the Bible. It’s the willingness in our hearts that makes us to see that what we have obtained through Christ Jesus is profitable for those around us. They need it, we got it. but we have it to share it.

There’s this crazy beautiful, poetic, heart-wrenching verse that says,
You (God) will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
– Psalms 102:13-14

It ought to be the church who is the servant who has compassion & pity about this “dust” & “stones” of Zion. It ought to be the church, because it’s God’s compassion and it’s God’s chosen time to favor his sweet Zion.
And Zion is much more than just the church, but that’s for another time perhaps.

Here’s perhaps one of the most bold and otherwise crazy statements in Proverbs 31:
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. … She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
I can only begin to guess at this bold phrase.
It brings to mind the famous Isaiah 1:13 which states: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

This is forgiveness, redemption, and beautiful freedom all wrapped up into one. It’s like the church isn’t afraid of the dark, it isn’t afraid of the cold, it isn’t afraid of the systems which the principalities can throw-down, because the church (the people of God) are washed clean of this  world’s sentiments and wrapped up in God’s wisdom and Christ redemption. We have nothing to fear in these times, or the times to come.  It’s like this tiny bold phrase is talking about the stuff that the saints and martyrs are made out of. …the beauty of holiness, the tears of Zion, maybe that’s what it means when it say “or all her household are clothed in scarlet“. It’s joy just to read this mystery and consider the deep implications of what we are and what we can be as the Bride of Christ, as the church, as the people of God.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
I find no way to mistake this as any other great man, than the Messiah himself. The judges always sat at the gates, and of course Jesus is given all authority & power to be the judge of all. Could it be anyone other the he who is betrothed the Bride of Christ, Jesus Christ himself? The reference seems so plain to me.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Again we have a vivid picture of what the church truly looks like. An intrinsically familiar picture that can’t be disfigured by modern systems that call themselves “church” but then don’t apply these same characteristics. The church who speaks the words of God through the wisdom of God that speaks a language that our spirits can actually connect with when deep calls unto deep. And yet it’s not just talk, it’s for real. This something that’s so familiar, even though it’s sadly so foreign in our modern society.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.
This is the successful story, or end of the story, when it all comes together. When Jesus receives a glorious bride who’s innocent & blameless & without stain, as it’s said it will be, then indeed those who are preserved by the perseverance of the saints, and also Jesus Christ himself, may in that day both truly say how they’ve longed for this beautiful occasion to come. This is an opportunity we have in front of us, if we choose to seek God, seek truth, and dwell in the beauty & wisdom of the Bible. Then we might just be the people of God act like that which God has created us to be from the beginning.
…Working together as a people of God, as we preserve God’s words & wisdom by investing them into the next generation, by living them out in our own lives, by working together, and by believing in God’s wisdom above & beyond any great worldly advice or temptation. Then, indeed, that’d most likely be a era where such a proclamation as “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” would be heard. Let’s strive to give God this opportunity, and the kids of the future this opportunity. Let’s not steal from them what ought to rightfully be there, and that being the chance to make this declaration in the times to come.

Indeed we can only end with: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

Again I simply state that God has called us into a working relationship with him. Although God is perfectly capable of running history and the whole Earth (universe really) on his own, that’s simple not what God wants to do.  God wants to work with his creation (you & me) and God wants us to take part in the privilege of setting things right. We can choose to mindlessly go with the systems of the world or systematized “church”, but God has a greater calling on our lives than those wisdoms can perceive. Yet for those who seek, for those who are willing God gives his Holy Spirit to counsel and direct our spirit, and lead us through the Bible, teaching us to be the people whom God has always meant for us to be.

There is hope beyond the cliches and truisms that we’ve been taught, and pray there’s enough life left in us to seek it out, to find it, and to emerse ourselves in God’s words & wisdom. Let’s we merely become a people who keep repeating our forefathers mistakes. …and therein we’d truly become the lost and the last generation.

Proverbs 31 it isn’t about a woman, it isn’t about how women or females should be. It’s about us as the Bride of Christ, the church, the people of God. It’s us being what God has always meant for us to be. It’s possible. It’s different. It’s perfect. We can do perfect when we do it together.

Love & grace,

Afflicted on All Sides: Church and Isis

“We want more than the wars of our fathers” are some lyrics from Switchfoot’s song We Were Meant to Live. They stick in my head as news media proclaims ludicrous clips. It seems like there’s a lot of stories on the news about how people are “trying to join Isis”. Unfortunately it seems like many who are claiming to make this attempt are Millennials. Every time I ask myself why? In America, thankfully, we don’t know too much about growing up with a war being a norm of life. Personally I hate the thought that any child grows up in land were war is normal, and certainly God didn’t make us to be a hateful killing people. But it does happen, and this is hard to understand.

I think we need purpose.

Jesus clearly says that the enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” and this is not what God is about. Instead Jesus make the statement, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Life being the very opposite of the one who comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But it goes on from there.

Knowing that not everything goes perfectly in life, Jesus continues to explain, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep

Too often I find myself asking why those who call themselves Christians or even church leaders, don’t act according to how the Bible describes God’s people or act similar to God’s own heart. Too often Jesus is right, the hired-hand runs away and leaves other Christians to face all kinds of attacks alone. Some are utter devastating and fatal to our faith, and this just isn’t the reflection of Jesus… or at least it shouldn’t be. Yet for some of us, this is what we’ve come to know as Christianity.

There are horrific articles, blogs, books, seminars, and other public gossip about how the Millennial generation is lost to the church, and how the church mildly mourns this loss. But I mourn these articles, blogs, books, seminars, and general public gossip which seem to make it ok and a cultural fact instead of grave news that brings us utter sorrow. The more I hear of it, the  more accepting people of it, as if it’s merely how it is at this time, and there’s nothing to be done to change it or even to slow the loss of life.
These are hired-hands which flee in the time of our need. This is not how Jesus works. Yet too often this has become the representation of Christianity to our modern world. So much so that the news frequently reports that Millennial-aged people -who the church doesn’t care about anymore- flee this land of freedom to go unto Isis who comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

That thing that is claiming to be “the church” but does not act according to the ways of Jesus, and does not reflect the heart of God is liar!

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me … and I lay down my life for the sheep.” This is how Jesus conducts changing the world.

Jesus also makes the statement that, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

I say there is a reason that modern day mainstream church can’t get Millennials in or to stay in their system. I say they know of voice of the Shepherd and what they’re hearing from modern churches isn’t it, and they scatter. and the hired-hands let them scatter because it’s not their sheep, they don’t care. Because you can’t actually pay someone to care.

But I do care, because those sheep are part of my flock. It’s not okay to say that the Millennials have left “church” and oh-well we’ll get em next time. It’s not okay to watch a generation be discarded and think that changing music or sermon topics is “the golden key” to making a difference. Sing what you want, preach what you want, that still ain’t the voice of the Good Shepherd calling out, and I for one am not coming to it. I don’t think anyone else is either.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Shame on any of us so-called Christians, who allow a generation to scattered then watch them get snagged into a death-trap. Shame on any of us who tisk at some young life that would “attempt to join Isis” but never pray for a generation that’s been left out on a hillside to die because we thought they weren’t perfect enough. Such things are obviously not the work of the Good Shepherd. Such attitudes are never heard from the voice of God. As a matter of fact, this is indeed the one thing that God said “never entered my mind“; Sacrificing one’s children for the sake of prosperity is never something a Godly church would do.

I want more than the wars of our fathers. I want life, and I want it to the full. It is not okay that Millennials refuse “church” who are suppose to have the words of life, but flee to Isis, a culture of death. I fear for the elders and leaders of the modern mainstream church. How will they answer God when they’ve allowed or even endorsed such things? That is NOT the church.

We live here & now on purpose. We Millennials are not a mistake. We are not a kink in time or in church fluidity. We will not find our purposes fulfilled in politics or surfaces scratching. We will not be distracted when the Good Shepherd calls to us, and we will follow his voice. We do not follow the voices of strangers, and we will run from them if needed.
I will pray the for leaders who knows the worth of the flock is in each of the individuals, and in them being together.  I will continue to pray for the confused scatter flock of this generation, but I will not for sake them to the wolves.

This is my generation.
This my Jesus.
but that thing isn’t church.

Miracle: Beyond Belief

At the end of the days where we’re asking questions about whether or not God can do miracles, I think the truth is we’re not asking if God can do miracles but will He. …and not just somewhere at sometime, but for us at this time. Which ultimately sounds more like we’re asking whether God truly cares and what kind of God are we serving and how much does God care about the situations we find ourselves in? These questions are deeper and more personal than just wondering if God can and/or will do miracles still… today.

There are two stories that strike me. One is found in Mark chapter 1 starting at verse 40, and the second story is found in John chapter 11 (the whole chapter).

The first story is short be always hits me straight through the heart. An unnamed man with a severe skin disease approaches Jesus and says, “If you want, you can make me clean.”  It wasn’t unusually for Jesus to meet people who wanted to be healed, but this man’s phrase always stabs my heart. What had he learned about God that let him know that the Messiah has power to heal, but also maybe he doesn’t want to be bothered with our infirmaries. Of course he could help… but does he really want to? Are we a bother to God?

The second story is about a family that Jesus is considered to be good friends with. Two sisters who live within their brother’s house. They depend on their brother. But the brother gets sick and the sickness causes his death. They’d sent a message to Jesus as soon as he was plagued with such an illness and let Jesus know the circumstances, but Jesus seemingly waits for the death and gives no other response. It’s devastating story. I read it and feel a huge lump in my throat, it’s hard to swallow, tears are on the edges of my eyes. Devastating. Jesus could heal him …but does he want to?  How personal is God? Is there a cutoff point? Does God really care this time?

Who hasn’t a noticed a time where God seems distant or silent or both? It doesn’t matter if you already believe in God fully, if you have a questions about God, if you’re struggle to understand God, or if you don’t want to believe …there’s no good seating when we’re waiting on God to respond. Waiting gives us time, lots of time. We can hope, believe, preserve, but at the end of the day it’s waiting. The most out-of-control feeling of all: waiting. Being out of control makes us question what we’ve always considered to be reality.

What does God want? What does God care about? And where does that leave us?

In the first story with the unnamed man who wants to be healed from his severe skin disease, the disease that makes him untouchable, unapproachable, unworthy, unclean to this man Jesus touches him and says, “I want to” and heals him right there. Jesus shows incredible compassion and directly answers him, and even disregards his disease while he still has it, while he’s still waiting, and touches the untouchable man -healing him completely. It’s beautiful!

The second story is more complicated. Jesus does show up, but after the brother dies and is buried. The things Jesus says makes one wonder what he’s even thinking. Does he have compassion? Why is he speaking in riddles while they’re mourning the lost of their brother? Why did he wait? Jesus knew them so well, they fully believed in him, his words, and his ministry. They believed he could do miracles and that he would in their case, yet they received death… The death of their beloved brother. Yet there is miracle that’s done here too.
After four days of being dead Jesus ask the sisters faith to go beyond what they’ve already seen and heard and what they were sure that Jesus could do. They had to believe not in what Jesus could do or has done before, but what God’s intentions are and what the character of God intends at any given circumstance. Then… Before they could decide what to make out of all of this, Jesus miraculously raises their brother from the dead. It was beyond all they had known or thought to hope for. It was better than the best miracle they’d expected at this point.

Maybe some of us will find ourselves in a place where we don’t have the faith for a miracle afterall, but can we wait on God long enough with honest hearts that are willing to see what God will do? Can we believe in God’s character enough to wait, to be out-of-control and to still believe in this nonsensical situation that God’s character is strong enough to redeem this time?
Would that be a miracle?

When Villains Are Winning

Do you ever watch those movies where it seems like the bad guy has all the weapons, all plans, and all power?  This is definitely something that gets me about Disney classic kids’ movies. Sometimes the villains are just too big & bad. I think it’s excessive for a kids movie. Yet it’s not just kids movies that have this. I was at my parents house and they had their mystery crime shows on, and I was overwhelmed by horrific imaginations of the directors of the shows, let alone how too close to possible such things could be.  It’s the kind of thing that causes one’s soul to grieve.

I left that evening thinking about all the old evangelist who had been through the churches and camps I’d been to as a kid. All of them (or most of them) seemed to say the same thing, the world is going down the crapper, and they’re just waiting for Jesus to “take them home”. They didn’t really care what happens in this world next, as long as they didn’t have to be part of it.
There’s a lot of Christians who believe the world well come to a climax of a chaos before God steps in or Jesus stops it all. …and it’ll be much worse than this. People are afraid already. and I ask myself, these are the people who think they have “the good news for the world”?

It’s overwhelming if that’s as good as it gets. It’s not worth it, in my opinion, if that’s all there is to tell. Yet I think there’s something missing here. Well, I think there’s a lot missing, honestly, but what is missing is missing in the here & the now. Not some future escape hatch.

Love is missing.

After seeing those crimes shows then having that haunting mocking voices of evangelist of the past all in my head at the same time, I really had to do a reality check. Is it worth it or are we all damned because of the sins of our forefathers, which have brought us to modern day society and philosophies?  But it struck me that in the midst of the worst of it all, God still gives the same instructions. We’re not to change our character just because the times are bad. We don’t become superhuman, and we aren’t to take up some excusable violent tactics in such times. We stick with what we’ve been given from the first to do and be: Love.

I realize that many consider “Love” to be an overused word although it’s meaning is truly under utilized. So let’s try a slightly different approach: Do the little things that matter.

Once I had a calendar with inspirational quote and one month said, “Start by doing what is necessary; Then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’ll be doing the impossible
I’ve remembered that quote for all of my adult life. I knew the first time I read it, that it would be very important in my own life. As I looked up the quote again today, I saw that was from St Francis of Assisi and that too made me smile.

To change the world, to affect good, to overcome evil we start with what is necessary for us to do in our lives now, then after a while we might be able to step up to simply the things that are now possible for us to do. If we are faithful in those things we will find ourselves doing things that previously seemed impossible, because this is what Love does.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Romans 12:9-13

I think this is a bit of what it looks like to overcome evil with good. These tiny things make a big difference. Each choice can make a difference. I actually believe that love does make a difference. Love piles up. Doing the little things that matter, makes a strong fiber that can endure things we didn’t know we could actually do.

Wanting to give up when it ridiculously tough and you don’t see things coming along any better is normal. Not giving up when you want to is extraordinary. It’s doing the impossible.

Love endures because it is strong, not because it’s weak, feeble, or scared to move on. Love endures because strength of doing the little things that matter is all the more strength it takes to change the world and to overcome evil. There’s not secret formula or magic recipe to get through challenging times, instead, it’s the tiny little things which we use & depend on to get us through those times which makes us into strong, faithful, loving saints.

We endure because we are strong.
We overcome because we faithful in the little things.
We affect the good in this world because we do what is necessary.
Love is what is necessary.

God gives us the ability to affect and to change the world which he puts us in. We live now because God wanted you & I here for this moment in history. This isn’t too much, and it isn’t too dull for us to do something about it. We are the necessary people for our time.
God has not left us to chaos, and this world is not spinning out of control.  We are chosen to be here, so let’s start with what is necessary in the world around us, and maybe we’ll find ourselves doing the impossible sooner than we ever imagined.