You Are Known By What You Do

Nowhere else in the Bible as works-based as the book of James is. For him, it is by our works that our redemption is validated. And James is not alone in this. If you look at the Old Testament, we see a very external relationship with the spiritual experience. Atonement is shown by the sacrifice of livestock. Grieving is shown by the tearing of fabric. Deals are brokered by the passing of sandals (true story). James just picks up where the Old Testament left off, for the Bible is a very Hebrew-centric manuscript and reflects their cultural experience.

Where people get confused is they come to the conclusion that it is fact our works that saved us, that it is by a series of merit badges or brownie points that we are saved. This creates a sense of guilt for those who feel they have not done enough and a sense of pride in those who feel they have checked all the appropriate boxes. In the Gospels, Christ is quick to dispel both feelings. He goes to the outcast, even the criminal moments from death, and says, I am enough. To the self-righteous, He urges to drop the charade and come follow Him. We are not the authors of our salvation, even our own faith. All of it is a gift.

If it is a gift, then what is works? Works are the fruits of our salvation. Out of our love for  Christ and for others, we do good works. Out of the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we venture out of our comfort zone to perform miracles. You can “like” and “love” as many posts as you want, but still there comes a time when we are called to show our love in a real sense, to give of ourselves either in time or treasure or ability, as a physical manifestation of our spoken claims.

Always be listening for these opportunities, for they are often small and pass quickly, but partaking in them makes a world of difference. So today, keep your eyes, heart, body, and soul open. You may just have the opportunity to change a life and let them know they truly matter and that your affections are real.

Bless and be a blessing. Amen.

A Seat for Judas

So we all know Judas as the man who betrayed Jesus, but did you know he served as the treasurer for Jesus’ earthly ministry and sat in the seat of honor at the Last Supper? This was not an accident. Jesus loves His prodigals. He is constantly holding them near. Peter who denied Jesus three times was given the keys to the church of Jerusalem. Paul who outright persecuted the early church was chosen as the main witness to the Gentiles. Just when we think we are furthest from God, God is closest to us, calling us to come home.

Progressive Theology

People rag on Paul

because he did not speak loudly enough

about freeing the slaves

or giving voice to women

It is important to note that

for that time

the steps that he did take were huge,

calling for the inclusion of Gentiles,

for a master to acknowledge his escaped slave

as a brother,

and boldly stating that there is

neither Jew nor Gentile,

nor slave nor free,

nor man nor woman

in Christ;

but we would be foolish to stop there,

just in the same way that our Founding Fathers

espoused liberty while withholding rights

from many.

No, it would millennia before

the Paul saw the freeing of slaves,

the protections of the immigrant,

and the giving of authority to women.

Just as Jesus did not come to abolish the law

but rather fulfill it

we strive not to debunk Paul’s asserts

but rather to see them come to true fruition

it is progressive theology.

Just as God is not quick to act,

but rather takes His time in seeing His will be done,

so too does society take its time to get where it needs to go.

We must continue to be both active and patient in that regard,

knowing that growth, whether personal or society,

takes time,

but eventually that Kairos time does come.

 

Nicodemus: a Tale of the Reluctant Believer

John 3:1-21, 7:40-52, 19:38-42

Nicodemus is a fascinating dude. We see him first in John 3, sneaking in to see Jesus at night. He’s a respected religious leader of high social standing. He wants to know more about this itinerant preacher, but Jesus is a controversial figure, so Nicodemus comes at night. They talk. Nicodemus asks questions and Jesus answers. When Nicodemus can’t make sense of Jesus’ response, the LORD calls him to the ropes. ‘If you, the righteous elite don’t get it, how could anybody else?’ asserts Jesus. Nicodemus undoubtedly leaves befuddled, but Jesus doesn’t push him, nor does He call him out, exposing their meeting to the general public.

Instead, Nicodemus goes home and stews on it. A debate occurs some time later amongst the Jews. People are saying there is no way Jesus could be the Messiah. Nicodemus isn’t sold. He wants to hear more. We can only imagine that Nicodemus is asking around, maybe staying at the back of the crowd while Jesus is making his rounds about Israel. We don’t know if they ever talked again. We don’t see any other reference to Nicodemus until after Jesus is dead.

When Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross, Nicodemus is there, helping anoint him with oil. He gets it. Some would say, ‘too late,’ but it is never too late with God. Three days later, Jesus resurrected and Nicodemus undoubtedly is ready.

You see, for some, coming to acknowledge Jesus is LORD is a quick thing. You’re at a big event or stumble into church or listening to the radio, the preacher makes an altar call, and bam! you’re a believer. For others, it’s a long process. Sometimes, it takes the entirety of their earthly lives; but there is no time for God, only opportunity. The door is open. The invitation is waiting. Will you say, ‘yes,’ to Him?

Odd Moments in the Bible

I don’t know what your experience is with the Scriptures, but as holy and wonderful they are you gotta admit there are some pretty chuckle-y bits in there. Here are some of my favs. Enjoy!

1) Gideon’s on a Roll!

Judges 7

So Gideon the coward has been appointed to command an army against their rivals, Midianites. In classical Gideon fashion, he is less than eager to go. God responds by sending him a sign. Go spy on their camp, says the Almighty, you’ll like what you hear. Gideon, as shy as he is, obeys. He sneaks into the Midianite camp and finds himself beside a tent of two soldiers. One soldier relates to the other that he has had a dream. That dream? That a giant loaf of barley bread tumbles into their camp and destroys it. Not a boulder, not a fireball. A loaf of barley bread. I don’t know, maybe they all have a gluten intolerance or just finished watched that scene of Ghostbusters with the Stay-puff Marshmallow Man. I don’t know. But it gets better! The second soldier says, well the meaning is clear. The Israelites will destroy us. Not just any Israelites, but Gideon specifically. I mean, this is a serious Star Wars “these are not the droids you’re looking for” moment. I can only imagine what the other person is saying.

I don’t know about you, but I have times where words come out that I don’t even anticipate. In this case, this is some serious Holy Spirit action right there. #fearthebarleyloaf lol

2) Ba’al in the Bathroom

1 Kings 18

So things in Israel had gotten pretty bad for the followers of God under the reign of King Ahah. He and his wife, Jezebel, were going around, worshipping idols and killing believers. God sends the prophet Elijah to call them out on their misdeeds. They spend chapters butting heads until finally Elijah decides to draw a line in the sand. He arranges all the priests of Ba’al to come out to the top of Mount Carmel to meet him for a duel. Ahab, sick of the prophet’s annoyances, takes him up on the offer. All the priests come out and there they are, facing off against Elijah in a Western-style showdown.

The terms are simple. First god to set fire to the altar wins. Elijah, like the good sport he is, lets the Ba’al guys go first. They start calling and calling and calling to their god. When nothing happens, they start dancing around. Then, they start cutting themselves. These are some very devoted people here, but Elijah is having none of it. He starts throwing shade. Where’s your god at? says the priest. Maybe he’s asleep or away on a vacation or on the toilet. This trolling only makes the Ba’al guys angrier. They really get into it, but nothing happens.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn. He steps forward, prays ‘ok God, do your thing,’ and a giant plume of fire reigns down the altar, burning it to pieces. So the priests of Ba’al are embarrassed, exhausted, and beaten, but Elijah is not done yet. He calls all the closeted believers of God Jehovah to come out from hiding. They do and lay waste to the priests of Ba’al. We all gotta chose sides sometimes. Choose wisely.

3) Jonah’s Meltdown

Jonah 4

Contrary to popular belief, God is not so much into the smiting business, as He is in the saving business. The Ninevites have gone off the deep end and God Jehovah calls on Jonah to urge them to repent. Jonah isn’t having any of it. He takes the first ship out of town, which hits choppy water, so choppy Jonah has to abandon ship. While he’s in the water, he gets eaten by a great sea creature. In the belly, he realizes that this is not a good place to be and that it’s his own stupid fault that he’s there. So, he tells God he’s sorry. Just then, the fish spits him out and he goes back to Ninevah and tells them to repent, just like he did, and they do. Only Jonah is not happy by this. He wanted them to burn. So he spends a solid chapter wishing he was dead and that God would smite them. All the while he is burning up under the heat of the Sun. So, God sends him a plant to cover his head, but the plant dies and Jonah launches into another burst of hysterics because his cover is gone. God is not amused. He asks Jonah why he would carry so much about a plant and so little about the thousands of people that would die if God had done his bidding. Jonah has no response. God doesn’t put up with that shit. Obey God, y’all. Don’t get eaten by a fish.

4) No Duh Proverbs 

There is some pretty sage-like advice to be found in the Word, stuff that is profound and life-changing. Then, there is stuff that seems so obvious you don’t know why it’s there. It’s like the warning label on chainsaws that says, don’t stop with limbs or genitals. It seems so clear, but of course people must be doing it or else it wouldn’t be in there. So, here are some of my favorite warning labels from the Bible.

“If you find honey, eat just the right amount;
    otherwise, you’ll get full and vomit it up.”

-Proverbs 25:16

Honey is great. We should all do what we can to keep our bee population alive so that we can have more of it. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Doesn’t matter what it is. So, the Bible reminds us, check yourself before you wreck yourself, else you get a massive tummy ache.

“You must not insult a deaf person or put some obstacle in front of a blind person that would cause them to trip. Instead, fear your God; I am the Lord.”

-Leviticus 19:14

Leviticus teaches us a lot about proper sanitation and living a holy life. Then, there is this gem. I’m sorry, but if you’re going around tripping blind people, you should fear the Lord, cuz nobody should be doing that. Use your heads people. Be kind.

Honorable Mention: Bears and Bullies

2 Kings 2

After Elijah has served his term as resident prophet of the LORD, he gives Elisha the wheel. God takes Elijah away in a flaming chariot and leaves Elisha to his own devices. He starts off kinda simple, parts some water, makes other water drinkable. You know, the usual stuff. Then, some kids are off insulting Elisha for being bald. Elisha is not amused. So, he summons and she-bear to maul the kids. Apparently, he just finished playing Far Cry 5 and thought Cheeseburger the bear would make a great protégé.

Does the punishment seem a bit excessive? You bet. But Elisha is not one to be messed with. Respect your elders, y’all, or else… bears.

5) I Can Has Swordz

Luke 22

This passage is one that just is proof-positive that God has a sense of humor. Jesus is with His disciples. They have spent all this time together and Jesus is about to go away. He tells the twelve, ‘you know, I know you’ve never needed anything while you were with me, right?’ And they’re like, right. And he’s like, ‘well, things are gonna get a little rough soon as I go away, so I’m gonna let you have a couple swords for self-defense, just in case.’ And they immediately rip out a sword. Where has it been all this time? Who knows, but they’ve got one. He’s like fine, and they go out to the Garden of Gethsemane and run into some bad guys. Without hesitation, they whip out the sword and whap off a guy’s ear. You can hear Jesus face-palming in the background. What part of “my grace is sufficient for you did you not understand?”

Boys and their toys, man. Boys and their toys.

 

On Homosexuality

In the beginning, God created male and female

in Their image

In the Gospels, we are told by Jesus

that in heaven we will neither marry nor be given in marriage,

so the matter of who you love is immaterial in the grand scope of eternity.

We see in Sodom quite the antithesis of any loving and platonic,

but rather the byproduct of rape culture

and child molestation prevalent in those times, as it is in ours.

In fact, this practice of older men defiling young boys

carries over to Paul’s day,

where Paul again expressly forbids it.

And then their is Levitical law.

These laws were sanitary by nature,

encouraging people to avoid pork and bottom feeders, both of which carry deadly

parasites,

and to keep their homes clean

In this vein, it is understandable to withhold from sexual relations,

as anything to do with sex or sexuality involves the transmission of fluids,

which may or may not carry blood-born pathogens and sexually transmitted diseases,

and the passages give male homosexual relations extra pause

as anal penetration carries with it addition chance of transmission,

but we are now allowed to eat pork

and we are encouraged to delight in our sexuality,

even though Western culture still retains and rather convoluted relationship with it.

As Jesus said in the Scriptures, never will an iota of the Gospel will be thrown out

or discarded,

but our perception of it is allowed to change.

If not for Jesus’ middle road, we would not have the substitutionary atonement

fulfilling and bypassing the former call for endless sacrifice.

In the same way, we see that God is bigger and wiser than any one of us.

Their perspective is eternal.

You of course are called upon to make your own decisions on the matter,

for we must be sure of our convictions lest we fall into sin, as Paul so warns us.

So, examine the Scriptures and make up your own mind.

Be loved. Be blessed. Thank you for your time.

 

 

The Good Samaritan

*Luke 10:30-36

 

Let’s look at the parable

of the good Samaritan.

You got this guy, cruising down the road,

gets beat up and robbed and left to die

in a ditch.

A bunch of well-to-do, well-respected

“pious” peeps

from his own nation stroll by,

but they’ve got places to be,

especially if he’s dying

Cuz a dying man would make a “holy man”

unclean.

Along comes a Samaritan,

who doesn’t have all the lingo and the rules,

he just knows someone is hurt,

doesn’t matter that the Jews and Samaritans

usually don’t get along,

he’s got a conscience, so he lends a hand,

he goes over what is expected of him,

cuz he’s just doing it to do it

you know?

There’s no expectation of reward.

And the “dead” man gets better and the Samaritan goes on his way

and who knows if they see each other again,

it’s not about anything more than doing the right thing.

We only have the moment.

Sure, we can brush it off with excuses and agendas,

but we all have a call to do something good,

each person’s call is different,

but it’s there, beckoning.

Keep your ear to the Earth

and your eyes to the skies

and you’ll find it.

Do good, my friends.

In all things, do good.