Rich in Poverty

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. – Matthew 26:11

We all know who the poor are. It's obvious. We see them every day. Many of us actually fit the bill for being poor.

This passage from Matthew's Gospel is a troubling one. The context is the story of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, breaking open an expensive bottle of perfume and anointing Jesus' feet. The disciples grumbled saying, "This was expensive perfume. Why wasn't it sold and the money given to the poor?"

Jesus, though, saw things a bit differently. Mary was in poverty. She probably spent all she had to purchase the perfume so she could anoint Jesus' feet with it. In the kingdom of God, there is nothing more precious, more valuable, than the full self giving of oneself, in love, to God. Remember the time Jesus and his disciples were in the temple observing people giving their tithes? They saw both rich and poor giving money, but it was of the poor woman who gave all she had that Jesus said, "This woman has given more than anyone else. They gave out of their wealth, but she has given out of her poverty." The same principle applies here with Mary. Not only would it have been cruel to take the heart offered gift from Mary and give it to someone else, but it would be an insult to her poverty and sincerity in her self giving.

Jesus did not take what she did lightly. He was not glorifying in himself. Rather, he showed the utmost humility in receiving from a woman in poverty. He was not above her. He did not set himself as superior to her and her gift. He graciously received it.

The "poor" in the original quote are not merely those of financial poverty, but anyone who is in great need. Whether it be ignorance, addiction, entitlement, or whatever, these are people who are in deep and desperate need. We often think of them as victims of their own foolishness. And perhaps they are, but that does not eliminate their present situation.

As Christians, we are to condemn NO ONE. We are to love all. We are to pray for our enemies (and not in the sense of asking God to 'get them' or 'make them like us'), bless those who curse us and give sustenance to any who are in need of it.

The world is full of poverty of all sorts. We have not been called to eradicate it, as it will never happen, but we are called to love, to feed, to give.

ET and the Imago Dei

et8242One thing that science has taught us about ourselves is that we are, apparently, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant creatures, on a small planet, in a remote section, of an obscure galaxy. The incarnation notwithstanding, humanity is not the center of the cosmos and I do not see that being imago dei gives us any unique claim to being so.

Suppose there are other races. There certainly have been other human species on earth in the past. But suppose there are intelligent races “out there”, in the vast, unfathomable reaches of space. Science tells us the likely hood of there NOT being other intelligent races as being so remote that there almost certainly are. This doesn’t mean we will ever meet them. But, that fact should not dissuade us from acknowledging the probability of their existence.

If the Image of God is man as man, then we have a right to rule over all of creation, as the Bible says. But, if the image of God is something other, something built into the fabric of the universe toward which all things grow and are becoming, then man as man is not the center.

For me, I cannot fathom that this beastly tribe we find ourselves members of are the divine appointed representatives of God to the creation. Yes, certainly there have been some beautiful men and women. For sure, there are those who strive to live by high ideals and moral mastery. But as a race? I don’t think so.

Jesus is certainly the epitome of what man is becoming and should be. He came to deliver us from our destitute nature and draw us into communion with God. In other words, redemption is the full embodiment of the imago dei in humanity. Not only did Jesus come because man is important to God (we are!) but also because by coming, we are made significant in ways we could not have achieved on our own. We are not merely loved of God for our own sake but for Christ’s sake.

Until we get off of the pedestal we have built to the greatness of man, we will continue to fight religious wars, wage religious attacks against our own, and generally fail to be all that we could be.

Suppose in 10,000 years time, if we ever get that far, chimpanzees have evolved to the point of language and basic agrarian culture. Here we would have apes in the same position we were at 10’s of thousands of years ago. Will they be imago dei? To my mind, the answer is of course they will be. But to anyone who sees man as the pinnacle of creation, they will be creatures to be lorded over by man…just as they are now.

How to Fix the Border Problem

d0dcf869247f0494e7f38adab27e2b241112136037-500x338Christians in the United States of America, are you concerned about our borders? Are you concerned about the de-christianization of America?

I have words for you.

Psalm 146.

It is not the duty of the US government to protect and defend Christianity. There is no official religion of these United States and, indeed, separation of Church and State are written into the warp and woof of who we are as a nation. All religions have a place here under our government, and each has the very same rights and privilege as our own: the free exercise of religion.

Do you want a Christian nation? It will never, indeed cannot, happen under our current Constitution. Do you want people to be Christians? Then start with yourself and begin living like Jesus. Stop your dogmatism. Stop the arrogance. Stop with the superiority complex. Start feeding and caring for the poor. Start loving the outcast, the disenfranchised, the minorities. Start treating all as human beings who bear the dignity of God’s image. Stop telling others how to live. Instead, show them a better way by living it yourself. You cannot legislate religion.

You who depend on the US government to “save” this “christian” nation, go and read Psalm 146. Our hope is in the name of the Lord our God, not in presidents or congressmen/women. God cares not a whit for your concerns about immigration. He does care how you treat those immigrants. You want to recapture our nation for Christ? Be captured by him yourself, first. Ours is not a kingdom of this world. We do not win elections. We do not vote in this kingdom. We do not swear allegiance to any king, emperor, president or prime minister. We belong to Christ! We do not use the government to foster our own ends.

If you want to capture America for Jesus, it must be done one person at a time through our own faithful living out of the gospel. Any other worldly method cannot and will not ever be blessed by God.

Here, for your convenience, is Psalm 146. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it. This and this alone is the answer to our problems. America hasn’t failed, Christians have failed to honor their Lord through living holy and righteous lives.

146 Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Do not trust in princes,
In [c]mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 His spirit departs, he returns to [d]the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
5 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps [e]faith forever;
7 Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.
8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
9 The Lord [f]protects the [g]strangers;
He [h]supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He [i]thwarts the way of the wicked.
10 The Lord will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Hallelujah!

Kenosis

Jesus_washing_Peter's_feetKenosis. Self-emptying. That is what God did in Christ Jesus. He divested himself of divine right and became human; with all our human frailties and limitations.

Jesus, the man, the human being, gave up, according to the will of the Father, all rank and privilege of the godhead in order that he might be human.

This self-emptying of Jesus manifested itself in his life on earth through his self-giving. He did not live for himself, but gave his entire life for the life of all mankind. Not only in a cosmic way, redeeming the human race, but also in particular ways such as loving his friends, caring for the poor and destitute, feeding the hungry, calming the anxious, healing the sick.

We can talk about the “cosmic” redemption of Christ until we are blue in the face, but until we begin our own self-giving we know nothing of his Kenosis. Until we care for the poor, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, we don’t know anything about Jesus.

The Truest Hope for Mankind

nativity-sceneThose who know me, know I take my faith very seriously.
Those who know me, know I try not to take life too seriously.
Those who know me, know I have a warped sense of humor.
Those who know me, know i am no prude or puritan.

On this Christmas night, 2015, what that means is I am again in wonder and awe that the Almighty God became human. I am not so confident in myself that I claim to comprehend what it means. My best guess is that the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, revealed himself as human being, born in the most humble way possible, to demonstrate to us what “impresses” God. In a world full of “christians” who believe that there are a few lucky souls who will make it to heaven, with the hellish destination being the primary one for most of humanity, I find myself thinking they must be joking. God, who knows nothing but absolute bliss, perfect happiness and everlasting joy, all in Himself, with no need for anything or anyone else, THIS God, became a creature who poops, pees, eats, sleeps and does everything a creature does. He humbled himself in order to send a few us to heaven? LOL! If God is going to do a work, he does it to its fullest. He doesn’t cut corners. He never fails. He didn’t come to save a few, he came to save us all! He defeated hell and death! He holds the keys to them both! Keys are for opening locks. He opens the gates of hell and of the grave so that those who are in them can be freed.

Are you in hell? Are you dying? He holds your keys. Someday, in this life or the next, you will be freed. Freed to be all you ever dreamed and hoped for and so much more that you cannot begin to imagine it.

Jesus shows us the way. Follow him. There is no hell he cannot rescue you from. No death so thorough, you cannot be raised. Follow him. Imitate him. Do what he did. Live as he lived. Trust him.

Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word and Logos of God, the truest Hope for mankind.

The Opposite of Fear is…

The opposite of fear is not bravery. Bravery is acting heroically in spite of ones fear. No, the opposite of fear is love.
We live in a society that talks a lot about love; it seems to be everywhere. But, in reality, there are few who love. Those few are brave souls who make the most of what they have and shout their good news from the mountain tops. The rest of us follow their rhetoric but seem to never get anything really accomplished. Why, when love is in the air, is our society teetering on the brink of self destruction?
It is because, with the exception of those few, we live in fear. Not just superficial fear, but deep, profound fear. Fear of one another, of the future, of ourselves. We have deep uncertainties because of intellectual commitments that no longer ring true for us but which we cannot rid ourselves of without risking our social status, often within our own families.
Jesus Christ taught us to love one another. Holy Scripture tells us that “where there is fear, love has not yet been made perfect, for perfect love casts out fear.”
In order to save our society, it will take more than a few voicing their love over the media. It will take listening and doing on our part. Self giving is the truest fruit of love and we can all make a difference by putting others first and giving of ourselves, our time, and our resources to those who are less fortunate than we are.
We can be brave and give place to our doubts. Listen to those who’s ideas provoke you to deeper thoughts. Doubt can never be gotten rid of by suppressing or denying it. It can only be gotten rid of by answering the question that has been put to us. Moreover, a pat answer will not suffice. We must examine the question thoroughly and answer just as thoroughly. We must be willing to accept rejection by those who disagree; those who are not willing to step out of fear into love.
Let me make one thing clear, love is not emotion. Love is more than mere commitment, too. Love is determined, resolute, steadfast self-sacrifice. Love never fails. The emotions and the commitment to another come with love, but they are not it in themselves.
Do not do anything out of fear. If you cannot do something in love, then feel no obligation to do it at all until you can do it in love. This is the gateway to personal freedom. It can liberate you from all that binds you. When we act in fear, we are in bondage, but when we can act in love we are truly free. Endeavor to do everything out of of love. Never in fear.
Are you afraid of God? Are you motivated to obey him because of fear of hell or punishment? God will not condemn you for this kind of obedience, but it is not what pleases him most. He wishes you to be free, not in bondage to fear. Serve him in Love and you will be free to experience all that he has prepared for you in this life.
Above all, love one another. For Love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that loves not, does not know God, for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.

Love Believes All Things

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrated to us the incomprehensible love of God. It is often said that God “loved us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins.” Yet this adage is said in a context neither amenable or conducive to grasping exactly what happened on Calvary. It is generally conceived as a fact that Jesus’ death carried some kind of weight with God so that a transaction was made in and by which sins could be forgiven.

Jesus’ death, it is said, paid the penalty due to our sins and satisfied God’s justice so that we might be able to come to God. God’s love in this is in his willingness to send Jesus to suffer and die on our behalf.

The problem I see with this notion is that God is made to have no other option. Jesus was sent as an expediency, a means to a desired end. That is to say, if God wanted to save us, this is how he had to do it.

But God is not bound by anything. He has no obligation, neither does he have any need to follow a particular method to accomplish his ends. He is totally and utterly free to accomplish anything in any way and by any means. He does not use expediencies.

It seems to me that in order for God to have freely sent Jesus, there had to be no compelling reason or requirement that he do so. Jesus came freely to live among us, to suffer as a man and to die at the hands of his fellow men.

God did this for love. Pure, unadulterated, spotless, clean, ineffable love.

Love.

But what is love?

Love is unlike anything else we might envision or consider. Unlike other things, love has no boundaries. It has no requirements. It has no beginning or end. It is free and limitless. Love is not based on what one is or what one does but rather on the bare fact that one *is*.

Suppose I say I love you. Suppose we share a life together as friends or as marriage partners. If my love for you is based on something about you, what if that something changes or even disappears or becomes something else? Can my love withstand that? No. It can’t. My love for you will fail as soon as you change. But God does not change, “I am the same yesterday today and forever.” He then cannot love us like this. His love is unchanging. Not that it is static and cold, but it is perfectly true, faithful and loyal.

Love believes all things; it ultimately does not care what we are or what we have done. Love is steadfast in it’s movement toward us. It is perpetual. If I change, God’s love for me never falters. If I fail him, he loves me still.

Love seeks primarily the happiness, the well being, the “Shalom” of the other, the beloved. It does not pass judgment based on differing attitudes of right and wrong. For instance, God does not say, “I love you, but…” He will never say this. He cannot. There are no “buts” with love. Love is free and unconditional.

Love which attempts to manipulate the other to a certain set of beliefs or behaviors, is not divine love. So called “tough” love is not love unless it is an attempt to rescue us from self-destruction. Suppose I become addicted to some destructive behavior, like illicit drug use. Love does not merrily go on it’s way and ignore my abuse. It seeks to redeem me from that self abuse, yet it does not withhold itself in any measure. Love seeks the happiness of the beloved. It does this by giving oneself to the beloved. If I am a drug addict, and you tell me “don’t do that” but do not give the means to accomplish what you are asking of me, then you are not loving me. You are attempting to manipulate me and love is not manipulative.

Jesus is the epitome of love. He freely came to human kind. He became a man. He gave himself, in his humanity, to us out of his love. We chided, abused, mocked, scorned and murdered him. Yet his love remained intact to the very end. Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing. Not only did he not judge those who killed him, but he overlooked their malice as only love can do. To death he treated humanity as his best friend, his beloved.

Jesus said that no greater love can someone have than to lay down his own life for his friend. Yet while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. Even while we were nailing him to the cross he considered us more than acquaintances, more than a mere friend. He considered us his beloved. His bride. He abandoned all his “rights” as God in order to show us his love.

That should make us think twice before we go about claiming our rights of one another.

Self giving coupled with the desire to achieve and attain the shalom of another at any cost, that is love.

I could go on about the various kinds of love we humans have and what they mean, but none of them hold a candle to the love that Jesus Christ showed us when he opened the Father’s heart to us and loved us to the death on the cross. This is the love that all other loves are to imitate. This is the love that saves the world.