Love without the small print

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I have a weekly commute to London.  It keeps me in touch with the general populace in this part of the world.  A populace drawn into their own personal smartphone screen.

Music.  Emails.  Instant Messaging.  Interminable Indulgent Instagram.  Social Media.  Less and less (thankfully) those intrusive “Can you hear me?” phone-calls on (what used to be called) mobile telephones.  Voice calls much less popular now keyboard and lens replaces the need for actually speaking.

And the biggest draw of these wonderful gadgets … ?

We can all look down.  We can avoid the need to pretend we are alone.  Avoid the discomfort of not making eye contact.  Avoid all the embarrassment of not having to speak to someone face-to-face (or kneecap-to-kneecap).

I remember my younger sister commuting regularly in London years ago (before smartphones). She reported how wonderful it was to see so many people praying for such extended periods. She couldn’t comprehend that closing one’s eyes when commuting in cramped spaces was simply the accepted way of avoiding eye-contact. I still chuckle remembering her face when she found out that praying wasn’t such a common occurrence in The City after all!

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My Godmother’s husband was a chatterer.  An embarrassment.
In any situation he would strike up a conversation.  Loudly.  What we (used to) think of as “The American Way”.
That genetic malady which ignores everyone else’s comfort zones … which rides roughshod over others’ expected-and-defended “personal space”.
But the odd thing was that the majority of those who suffered this intrusion seemed to enjoy the experience.
We just cringed in the background.  With a little envy.

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And as I look out and see the headlines … the (current) forensic analysis of the (another) horrific terrorist attack on London Bridgethe repeated claim of (all) government who have “allocated £xxm in additional funding” (to fix every problem raised) the noise of right and wrong (as we reduce our planet to one giant overflowing rubbish bin)the permanent public arena of “gladiatorial protagonists” spewed out for our entertainment in news and “social meeja”the increasing and inextricable “looking down” and away from so much that unites us

I wonder what other species is quite so self-absorbed.

I wonder how we have detached ourselves from who we really are.  How we made “religion” just another science.  How we made science just another “god”.  How we manage to convince ourselves that “being connected” (to this wonderful self-healing-home) is no longer relevant to us.

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Us the alpha species … the species no longer a “species” … a “species” now having outgrown itself.   Now entitled … now complacent … now detached from the very connection that gave birth to each of us … on this planet that nurtures us … that heals us simply by the sound of a breeze – the sight of all those stars – the smell of freshly cut grass – the taste of cold icy water.   These simple things that connect us – heal our restlessness – our searching – our very souls.

I wonder what other species despises its own kind so much that it chooses to look down … chooses to detach … chooses to “talk” to someone on the other side of the world (in preference to someone sitting right next to me).

Is it fear – and if so of what?  And if it isn’t fear then … what?  Arrogance?  Entitlement?  Ignorance?  That “you aren’t interesting enough” … ?

What is it that means we each choose to look down more and more?

Even church.

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That (default) looking down when “talking” to the being who is loved and loves.  The default (of “worship”) that is now the default for (“talking” to) everybody.  The default “nice smile” that is the default for everyone in every (unexciting) conversation.

I think church has a very important role to play in the world today. 

A role to encourage “looking up” as THE default.  Making eye-contact as THE default.  Finding excitement in the ordinary (that is each of us) as THE default.  Drawing ALL together as THE ONLY default. 

(because the preaching of correctness … of sin … of division salvation … of judgment salvation …. is the default of looking down)

And “the default” of looking up can only start by looking God in the eye.   By not bitching about sin all the time.  By making Love the beginning AND middle AND end of ALL conversations.  Real love.  Unconditional love.  Inclusive love.

Love without the small print of religion and correct (rule littered) teaching”.

We need to teach THE default of looking up.

Because if the church really is “the people” …

We are ALL “the people”!

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When that kicks in – loves checks out

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I think loving me the hardest of all.  I don’t mean the “I can’t be bothered.” … the “I could never do that.” … the “Let someone else do it.”   Nor do I mean the “I am better than anyone else.”… the “I have rights.” … the “What about me.”

I mean loving me as I would love my own child … my own partner … that stranger in need … that best friend I have known for ever … that special someone I would walk over hot coals for …

That kind of “loving me”.

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The greatest of these.

God?  Well loving God comes in all shapes and sizes.  Initially like a stranger who must be obeyed.  Then, perhaps, as a wonderful deity who can only be worshipped and praised.  Then, maybe, the most important relationship in my life.  Then, possibly, a friend – a best friend.  No longer the detached “up there” gaseous ether.  Now someone I trust.  Not to “fix things” all the time.  That is my role – just like no friend expects me to “fix things” in every part of their life.  That would be just plain weird!  Just someone who will always think the best of me.  Never give up on me.  Always have an ear for me.

I heard someone who does daily marathons for a living say that we rarely – if ever – really know what we are each capable of.  I think that lack of knowing underpins this “The Greatest of these” …

Others?  Well loving others is pretty easy too.  An odd donation … I am praying for you … My thoughts are with you … perhaps even a volunteering of my time – my skills – my resources – my heartbeats – perhaps even my whole diary!  Which is like giving my life for you (the “others” we must love).  Except that is a weird kind of love.  It’s an obligation kind of love.  A duty kind of love.  A service kind of love.  A bit like a God kind of love.  I should (if I am a good Christian).

I heard someone say that “We are a broad church”.  That the buildings aren’t “it” that “we are” it.  But I still don’t really know what “it” is.   Or why I am expected to go to “it”.   I think “it” gets in the way of “The Greatest of these” …

And then me.

What I have found over the years is that when I consciously register that I am “doing” love (in whatever moment of my life and with whoever that moment is with) … It is no longer love.  It is me “giving”.

And I have learned that when I think “giving” I think “getting” (in some weird default can’t control it kind of way).  I have found that when this “The Greatest of these” is a “commandment” … giving AND getting become involved.

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And when that kicks in – loves checks out.

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And as I absorb the essence of (what I think) is the point of the bible … I find that “commandment stuff” less and less relevant.  Along with all this “transaction” faith we have created … The need to sign-up for the creeds stuff.  The “I believe” stuff.  The hierarchy stuff.  The “institution” stuff.  The “religion” stuff which includes creation and sin and a lot of deaths and more sin and atonement through more killing innocent creatures bred for the purpose of “their blood shed for me”.

And then the great “reset”. 

The cross and resurrection – and a conundrum.  The “blood shed for me” being the biggie – with the “resurrection” being the proof it’s all good.  Because if the blood is “it” then why the need for the resurrection?  And if the resurrection is “it” why the need for the killing and blood?  there is loads of healing and bringing others back to life – loads of “your sins ore forgiven”  – all without a cross in sight …

And why the “facts and evidence” we have now made all of this.  The “But God Says” (in the bible).  And the bible is The Word of God (but the Koran isn’t).  Nor is (just) the Old Testament.  Nor is  the continuous political meddling relevant – other than it proves the bible IS God inspired (really???).

Why that “need” for the bible to be “it” – unless it is so the church can be “it” – which means I get to be “it” by being saved and believing in all of “it”?

The Greatest of these.

Two words have become more and more powerful in my journey with The Greatest of these …

“I Am”.

I

and

Am

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The Greatest of these is I and Am.

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(what else can top that?)

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What does “We need builder-uppers” really mean?

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“I have come to realise that many Christians question much that is taught (and written) in and of the bible but … privately. “ 

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“Needing to know the bible”

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“My bible teaching started young with The Nice Bits.   Even “The Most Important Bit” is  airbrushed beyond recognition.   Being “washed in blood” has only ever been (and remains) a gratuitous-gore-fest-of-senseless-killing … unless it is The Story of The Cross.”

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“Bigging-up the bible” has to be done in the right way, or else it is “knocking the bible”.   And then we open up that “we have enough criticisers” – we need “builder-uppers”.   And – of course – the qualified-in-God “facts” of what God and Jesus actually meant by sin and saved – all the “correct” (builder-upper) bible stuff.

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“Being scripturally correct … The devil does it … atheists do it … Christians do it … we ALL do it … We ALL screw with the bible.  And yet the bible remains The Way.”

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Want to read the rest?.

“Needing to know the bible”  – justmebeingcurious

.Might not be what you expect.

Thank you –

Paul

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Getting the job done

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Facebook post by “Clergy Coaching Network”
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state,
but rather the conscience of the state.  It must be the guide and the critic
of the state, and never its tool.  If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal
it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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And a selection of comments …
I have problems interpreting what was intended for a theocracy to be for a non-theocratic state like America.
Jesus was very political.
But that prophetic zeal must always be tempered with discernment to assure that the Holy Spirit is behind the message.
What does he mean by prophetic zeal?
Read Amos or Micah or Hosea.

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And “theocracy” … ?
“Theocracy, government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law. Theocratic rule was typical of early civilizations.”
And “prophetic” … ?
“The adjective prophetic traces all the way back to the Greek word prophētikos, meaning “predicting.”  You know who’s really good at predicting stuff?  Prophets.  Usually, prophetic is used to describe a thing — like a warning, a feeling, or a complaint — rather than a person.”
And “zeal” … ?
“Zealous is the adjective for the noun zeal “eager partisanship”; the latter has a long e, but zealous has a short one: ZEL-uhs.  It can have a slightly negative connotation, and people are sometimes described as “overzealous,” meaning they try too hard.”

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More and more I see the clergy “qualified (in God)” having this consequence.

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All the theological-and-seminary-production-line-consequence of a bible “authorised” by scholars (themselves previously qualified in God).  Just seems too familiar – a constant throwback to the good old (biblical) days when Jesus kept saying:

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“You have seen it written but I say … “

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All the theological-and-seminary-production-line-consequence of … “Let’s get back to the original Greek”“Scholars are agreed that this definition – ““If only you would actually study your bible (like I do) – “ …  Just like the good old (biblical) days when Jesus kept saying:

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“All of that don’t get you close to God … “

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I have a job.

When something goes wrong we go forensic:  “What happened, why did it happen, how can we stop it happening again?”  And I find myself suggesting that instead of yet another “process change” – we just care a little more and a little better.  That we remember why we are doing “this” and who we are doing “this”for. 

In my job it is a bunch of wonderful human beings we call a “temp team”.  A bunch of “temps” who are our company out there in all these different Client’s premises.  A bunch of human beings just like us – with lives to live, bills to pay, people they love, frustrations and hope and dreams and comfort zones.

And we can “process map” the hell out of “caring for them” …  But just “caring for them” – loving them for who they are, what they are and where they are … always!

That gets the job done.   

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The qualified in God clergy have a job.

And it isn’t “working for the church”.   It isn’t about running a slick operation called the church.   It isn’t about being qualified in God.   It isn’t even about NOT being a “false teacher” (more deja vu … “You have seen it written but I say … “)

And I find myself suggesting that instead of yet another debate about “going back to the original” for yet more “spiritual discernment” …

We just care a little more, a little better.  That we remember why we are doing “this” and who we are doing “this”for … for a bunch of wonderful human beings who are neither “our flock” nor “the lost” … but a bunch of humans just like us with lives to live, bills to pay, people they love, frustrations and hope and dreams and comfort zones.

And we can “correctly interpret” the hell out of the bible “caring for them correctly” …  But just “caring for them” – loving them for who they are, what they are and where they are … always!

That gets the job done.   

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Questions, Answers and Context

I read John’s post entitled Bow and Confess earlier today with great interest and since he ended it with a series of questions, I thought it might helpful if I answer them. (If you haven’t yet read the original post, I suggest you do so now for best results) Before I do, I’d like to make it clear that John’s view is entirely his own and he is certainly entitled to it. Similarly, my view s are entirely mine, and neither of us is speaking for anyone other than ourselves, and I know that John would join me in saying that you, our readers and contributors are free to agree, disagree and freely express your own thoughts.

With that said, here are John’s questions and my answers to them. They are posed immediately after John stated this conclusion:

Here it seems Paul is giving clarification as to how anyone is ever able or confess Jesus is Lord—it is only by the Holy Spirit! It seems God’s plan is that at some point, every single person will willingly, honorably bow and confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of Father, by the Holy Spirit!

Q: Do we really dare to hope in such a loving God?

A: The short answer would have to be “NO”.  A more complete response would be to point out the fact that this conclusion is based upon a passage that was taken out of its context; that passage is Phil. 2:10-11. When we look at the entire passage, we see something quite different; here it is:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Phil. 5:5-11

When these verses are seen in context, a different picture emerges, a picture that involves Paul’s instruction to the Church in Philippi comprised of those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is telling them that their attitude should be like that of the Lord Himself, who set aside the glories of Heaven to take on the form of a servant and serve His Father’s will, even to death, to redeem humanity from its sin. As a result He has been raised to the highest place, and given all authority, and every knee will bow before Him, for the day is coming when all doubt as to who He is will be gone. It’s interesting to remember that demons, as they were being driven out by Jesus knew exactly who He was, and were terrified of Him, for they were in open and deliberate rebellion against Him. Oh yes, they will all bow down on the last day, and nobody will need to force them, but many on that day will have a serious problem on their hands.

Q: Is God’s plan really to save everyone?

A: God’s desire is to save everyone, as John 3:16 so clearly tells us, and God is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so in sending His Son to die. Yet He created us with the free will to choose whether or not to follow Him; if we do, He welcomes us with open arms, if we don’t, we have made the choice, and since God is loving and exercises restraint, He respects our choice to reject Him, even though it grieves Him greatly.

 

Q: Is he really that powerful?

A: God is all powerful, but His most amazing attribute is His restraint; He does not force us to love Him.

 

Q: Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity?

A: Certainly not! Sadly there is a logical problem in this question, for it is based upon the quotation of 1 Corinthians 12:3:

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Can you see the problem? It begins with the word “therefore”. When you see the word “therefore” the author is drawing a conclusion, thus the quotation is necessarily taken out of context. In this case, the verse falls within the larger context of 1 Corinthians 11-13 that deals with spiritual gifts, the immediate context looks like this:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:1-3

Again, Paul is addressing Christians who are already followers of Christ, reminding them of their former status as Gentiles in a larger discussion of spiritual gifts that are given to Christians when they begin to follow Jesus, not to pagans who refuse to follow Him. We know from Acts 2:38 within its larger context of Acts 2:14 ff. that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we believe the message of salvation acknowledge our faith in Christ and enter into relationship with Him.

If there is a connection between the Philippians 2 passage and the 1 Corinthians 12 passage, it is this: On the great Day of the Lord, every knee will indeed bow voluntarily, and every tongue will voluntarily have to admit that Jesus Christ is Lord! Those who have already done so in faith will be filled with joy and jubilation, and those who refused will be having a very bad day.

Bow and Confess, in my view, proves us with a wonderful opportunity to explore, to toss out ideas, to ask and to answer, and I want to thank John for posting it, for sharing a point of view and giving us a chance to examine the Scriptures together and come to the realization that our God is simply awesome in His love, and to see and recognize that His love is so great, that He allows us the freedom even to reject His grace.