“Justice” … 6 days to go … make a date in your diary!

kitchen table

Wednesday, February 10th 2016

Topic is “Justice”

The Church Set Free kitchen table

A bunch of posts on one theme

a diversity and abundance of






life and living

Pull up a seat – our table is big enough.


FEBRUARY 10th 2016

Conversations around the globe



Make a date in your diary … !

Would a Muslim know you are a Christian?

I was planning on this topic before Susan’s excellent post on a story out of Kenya (read it here).

In the ancient Roman world, before Constantine made Christianity the Empire’s state religion, Christians were under constant persecution in varying parts of the Empire. Even during the times when Rome itself did not openly outlaw Christianity, local authorities would take it upon themselves to jail, if not execute, Christians to keep the peace and the population appeased. Even Roman soldiers would take joy to go out of their way to make life difficult on the Christians they encountered.

Throughout all of this one thing remained consistent, Christians (for the most part) followed Christ’s teachings

So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt 7:12)

If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matt 5:41)

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44)

Christians showed agape not only to other Christians, but to everyone they encountered, friend or foe. Citizens knew that if they were in trouble, needed help, were destitute, or were ill, they could go to a Christian household, ask for help, and they would be given whatever they needed, no questions asked. Even Roman soldiers knew they could go to a Christian and seek healing for wounds or illnesses and not be turned away.

Today, would people know you were a Christian because of how you treated others, even those who would do you harm? Would you invite a Muslim into your home if they needed your help? Would you allow refugees into your country, knowing there is the possibility that they might do you harm?

A short tale. Recently I had the opportunity to help a local food bank collect much needed funds. At a holiday fair near where I live we asked patrons to donate whatever they could afford. I was pleased at the generosity of the people, but two things surprised me:

  • A gentleman who looked like he should be receiving assistance walked up to me. I looked down at the cracked screen on his cellphone, and was prepared to give him one of the free meal coupons we were giving out. To my surprise he put $5 into my container, wished me a Merry Christmas, then disappeared into the crowd. I was moved, and remembered Jesus’ comment about the widow he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:2-4).
  • The other thing that struck me odd is that during the entire three hours we were collecting contributions not a single “suit” (male or female) contributed anything. While their attitude towards us was no different than any other person, not one contributed so much as a single dollar. These are people who could have easily afforded even a small contribution. Asking others there about what they noticed (as this was my first year at this event) I was told that was not unusual.

So, how does the world see your Christianity? Would those that knew you say that you lived your Christianity? If you were taken to court and accused of being a Christian would you be found guilty?

Simply and Honestly Yourself – Secret Santa Worship Day

©Aaro Keipi
©Aaro Keipi

QUOTE “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (John 4:23-24, The Message)

All editors on Church Set Free, along with other contributors, have decided today to write about Worship. What it is in our point of view. What it means to us. How we participate. And since we’re all different, all a ragtag bunch of square pegs in round holes, I imagine we’re called to worship uniquely. Some following corporate guidelines. Some using private boundaries. Some using no boundaries at all. Some somewhere in between the lines.

As you read my own point of view, I encourage you to go deeper, to explore how others find their connection with God, and to seek ways you best unite with the One who abides in you.

I discover worship in this group. And I treasure worship just the two of us, alone with my Father. At home on my deck. Or in my rocking chair. Or writing praise poems in front of my corner window, my cat sitting in repose on the window sill. God surrounds me with His beauty, and I embrace Him with my heart. It is sacred and holy. It is warm and inviting. It is laughter filled and joyous. And sometimes, it is simply silent.

To be quite frank, I rarely worship in church anymore. Have I had some bad experiences in church? Sure. But I’m not blaming church. And I’m certainly not going to tell stories here that would add grist to the mills of people who simply want excuses not to go.

I’ll just say I’ve had a calling to spread the Good News in an expansive way for about 5-6 years now. A Spirit-led calling which has become stronger with every passing year. Not some airy-fairy thing, this calling has become so strong that a few years ago, I attended and completed a 2-year Bible interpretation certification program. Because I wanted to ensure I was not only reading, but writing about the Word correctly. To live a life of love, reflecting Jesus in my heart and in my words. My sense is my Father wants me to use this gift of writing to spread His Good News of Christ’s love and grace, of compassion and mercy, of everlasting salvation and life to as many as will read the words He places in my thoughts.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message)

tapestry-panelWhen I first found this group of bloggers online, I felt an immediate connection – a koinonia – I hadn’t felt in years. It wasn’t just an emotion. It was a spiritual relationship, like a thread in a tapestry sewn by the Holy Spirit. I’ve been knit together with some of them for about two years; some of them have been connected for longer. And to be able to meet this way in real time together – across this country and other countries – reminds me of the way the apostle Paul met with and disciple his churches. But Paul had to travel long miles and over much time to see other believers face to face. Oh, but what if he had Skype!

I truly believe church and worship comes in different forms for different people. Truthfully, when I first became a believer, I couldn’t have done it without traditional church. Attending church bolstered my prayer life and my bond with other believers. It started me on a lifelong journey of study and discipleship. And I would never, ever tell anyone not to belong to a traditional church. I think fellowship is important. I think it’s particularly important for young, growing families.

However, I also think there may be a season or more when another kind of church is appropriate. A more intimate kind of church. A living room kind of church, where getting to know the heart and needs of people is important. Where worshiping through daily words and actions is more important than listening to a sermon on Sunday morning. Where a good cry, a belly laugh or a hug can lead someone to the Father’s heart more certainly than a seat in a building. I am fortunate. I have both in my blogging community and in my housing community.

“And let us consider how to encourage each other to show love and do good works.  Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but continue to encourage one another all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

If you look at the Church Set Free Aboutpage, you’ll see we’re all here to build up and encourage, to learn and disciple, that it’s a safe place of mutual love and respect, and “seeing someone come to a new relationship with Christ is more important than having our own way.” I invite you to worship with us today, to see how ten different people unite together to love the same God. While we each worship in our own way, we all do our best to listen to the Spirit and follow God’s way.

We’re all growing in the Spirit; God isn’t finished with any of us yet. As we plant seeds of encouragement in you, I hope you pass along whatever has encouraged you, whatever has caused your heart to swell with love and grace, whatever thread has connected you to the heart of Jesus in worship.

Sodom: A Follow up

I want to talk a bit about homosexuality.

And rigid beliefs.

And intractable hearts that don’t allow the Spirit to transform them.

And why we Christians seem to value sexual sin – any kind of sex, but homosexuality in particular – a higher order sin than any other.

Because I don’t think God does.

This subject piggyback’s off another blog I read a few of days ago entitled simply, Sodom.

So where do we get off thinking Sodom was destroyed for homosexuality? Well, if you have narrowness of vision, it begins and ends with Genesis 19:4-11.

Really.AmyPoehlerBut let’s go back for a moment to Genesis 18:20. “And the Lord said, ‘The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.’”

At this point, God reveals His plan to destroy the cities to His friend Abraham, who negotiates with God that if He finds even ten righteous among the city, God will not destroy it.

Enter two angels at the city gate; Lot sees them and bows down to them “with his face to the earth.” (Genesis 19:1) Lot invites the two gentlemen to his home to dine and spend the night. Here, the “all important” Genesis 19:4-11 relays the story of all the village men of Sodom, young and old, who come to Lot’s house to terrorize these visitors.

This is not about sex or relationship; this is about rape and violence. When Lot refused to hand over his visitors, he offered them his daughters to assuage their vicious craving. This wasn’t lust; it was greed. Men were worth more, and Lot offered them his possessions of lesser value to protect his celestial guests.

Now, in 19:13 the angels tell Lot to gather his family and take them out of the city because it will be destroyed. Why? “Because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

Please now, those of you ready to jump the gun and declare the sin: it is still not defined by God or the angels!

Ah, but now we come to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 16:15-17:24 is all about being unfaithful to God – it’s about breaking the Old Testament Covenant God established with Moses. Israel continually turned away from God, looking for reasons to abandon trust with Him. In this passage, God uses the terms whore, whoring, prostitute or adulterous over 20 times. It has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with turning back to idol worship when God gave them everything. God defines the sin for which Sodom’s was destroyed – and it isn’t what you think.

In addition, God says unfaithfulness is worse than anything Sodom may have done. (emphasis mine)

“As I live,” declares the Lord God, “your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)

I mean, gosh – God didn’t even think enough about the “abomination” to name it. Like it was almost an afterthought. So what does God name as the guilt of Sodom?


Excess of food of wealth but not aiding the poor and needy.

And THIS, God declares, was not as sinful as idol worship. As breaking faith. As not trusting He will wholly and completely love and care for you. Grant you grace and mercy when you need it. Give you comfort, compassion and connection to His heart.

See – Jesus was God come to life in human form. Jesus was the personification of the Father. (“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30)

He told us what’s most important: ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

He said, Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

He said, By this all people will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

As His disciple John said, Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

This message of love and hope also posted on Susan Irene Fox

How will we be known?

The world is round. Around and around.
A ring is round. No beginning no end.
A circular reference.
The circle of life.
We are born we live we die.

And what of the living? What is that all about? How do we know it was all worth it? How will be remembered?

How will we be known … ?

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

How often do we each plod through living – walking to the beat of our own drummer? On the inside: It’s okay really … all doom and gloom … fun and frolics! And on the outside? We have our “grown up face” showing. We hide behind our grown-up face as a matter of course: act your age not your shoe size … the default greeting: “How are you?” … the default answer: “I’m fine” … the verbal “air kiss” … allowing nothing real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

I am not sure we practice fellowship enough. I think we confuse fellowship with relationship with socialising.

Socialising together. Eating together. Gossiping together. And amongst the church community there comes committee’ing together for a smaller number. Decisions and budgets and making Kingdom Things happen. It reminds me of social clubs, sports clubs, doing clubs. What do we have in common?

We have God in common. We have church in common.

Except doing church involves a lot of finances. A lot of different opinions about where things go, what things are repaired, what things should be bought, who should decide what things are bought. I have a session of just that this week. Good people with church in common. Good people with God in common.

Seems to me that unless we find God, talk God, a personal God, a loving God , a God who is real – to each of us. Unless we share that God, see that God, feel that God, touch that God, unite in the One we all “work so hard for” – we become more and more like the “stereotypical couple” whose lives slowly drift apart:

We don’t seem to have that much in common. Just the kids (God). And they are all grown up now. We just seem to argue about money (budgets) all the time. We seem to have different priorities (missions). I like doing my things (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising) and she/he likes his/hers (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising). I am fond of him/her but she/he is not the same person I married (was first saved). What’s the point of sticking together (going each Sunday) if it’s just out of habit – out of duty?

Every counsellor would ask how much that couple talked, how they talked, when they talked, and what they talked about. They would also ask how each listened, heard, allowed the other to be heard. And they would ask that couple to practice talking. Setting aside time to talk. Making it a practice to listen. To hear. To really hear.

Tonight I have fellowship with one other. Just one other. That is really exciting! Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus. With one other person and God. Over a table in a pub. Good food with good people. Tonight is exciting! The purpose? To get below the surface. And find God. And talk God. A personal God. A loving God. A God who is real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

We have more than God in common, more than “the church” in common. We have Love in common. The Love of all Love. An eternal love. A ceaseless love. A love so unconditional we are all loved. And if that “outflows” (as we all say it does) – then we should be real “fellowshipping” all the time (shouldn’t we?).

Because why would we not want to talk about this Love and how we are changed? About how we live differently? About how you have been changed and live differently – about how I have been changed and live differently?

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

I desire fellowship. I seek fellowship. Relationship where I am known and I am loved. Where you are known and you are loved. Where that knowing and this Love changes all of us. Because without fellowship – without being known – without being loved … How are we to be changed?

And if this Love does not change us …

All we have in common is another social club. One that is not particularly appealing. One that is very “clubby”. One that is full of air-kisses and the bible. Oh – and God. That God we worship the same way at the same time in the same place because that is how we are so often taught.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

Woman at the Well – John 4

I hope this short film moves you as well.

Jesus is simple. We can be too.

I just feel as though we have grown apart. You have never understood me, allowed me to be me. You never allowed me to really know you, you always held back. You insist you should be you, but you keep trying to change me into something I am not. When we are good we are great – but all too often we are miles apart. I am not sure we want the same things anymore. The only thing we have in common is the children, and now that they are all grown up …

Relationship breakdown.

Why do we assume love is the soft option? That love is not enough – that we need some rules to provide the backbone, the right stuff, the clarity? Relationship breakdown is love corrosion. And talk of “patching things up” makes love seem too “ordinary” to be worth it: If we really loved each other we wouldn’t need to.

On the one hand – we say love is “too soft” to be the answer. On the other – we believe love is “too special” to need rules. So love becomes elusive, hard to pin down, shouldn’t be pinned down … all the “opposites which attract” … don’t really.

So it is left to the “heaving breast” writers of fiction and song … the pain of love, the sacrifice of love, the sweetness of love, the power of love. They capture the essence of love. They show us how.

Except we all know that is baloney. We have lives to lead, work to do, children to look after, friends to keep in touch with, appearances to keep up, all of that. But the songs and stories all tell us that if love is real it will overcome all that “ordinary” stuff. And we tend to buy-into that whilst denying we have. We so often expect the stardust of love to somehow sprinkle itself over the rest. And if it doesn’t – then it can’t be really be love. Can it?

“An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’ John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’” Luke 9:46-50

More and more as I read this thing we call the bible, the more I see a God who desires in us the same simplicity He sees in Love. A God who is Love. Does not see Love as stardust. Who sees Love as we see breathing: I Am Love (here is how).

‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’

All too often we reserve that sentiment for Church. The brief interlude of sacrifice and smiles we call worship. An hour of nodding in agreement before heading back to the real world. The real world where our brand of God suits us nicely. Where yours does not. Where your labels and rules do not suit me at all. Where I defend my faith in so many ways. Often through no more than inertia. The inertia of NOT welcoming “this child in my name”, through NOT welcoming “the one who sent me”, and by NOT even paying lip-service to the notion of “the least among all of you is the greatest”

So is this inertia Love? Is this inertia Relationship? Is this inertia “real anything” at all? Can we really poke a stick in the eye of the Pharisees – when we already sit amongst them through inertia – preferring to tick boxes of attendance and tithing we call faith?

Because when presented with an argument, Jesus sought out a child. When presented with righteous indignation Jesus found words of healing.

Jesus makes Love simple. Not because He was qualified to “love”, not because He had a degree in God, nor because He had a duty to love. Jesus makes Love simple because He is Love. He outflows Love. He cannot be anything but Love. And that IS Love.

“Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

So just how do I know who is against me or for me? How do I know who I should love and who I should not? How do I know when to love others and when not? How do I know who to save and who not?

How do I know?

God Soft Hands Jesus never taught the theology of division. He never pursued academic religion. Jesus never teaches me who to love and who not to love.

I did that. We did that. I do that. We do that. And every time we even think or ask ourselves or others the question “who and who not” – that is NOT Love.

We are taught to harness power, taught to contain power, to make power “safe”. And then too often harness the “power of love”, and almost always make safe the power of God. We make God safe. And in making God safe, we make Love NOT Love. And in making Love not Love, we need rules to fill the gaps. We create the gaps we then need to fill. Or else we would not know if we were loving.

And if I call myself a Christian, I must know when to love, who to love – who not to love, what not to love. Or else how can I know who to save, who needs saving, when they have been saved, when they can call themselves a Christian, when I can call them a Christian (and when not). And so, like hamsters in a wheel, we spin ever faster. Ever more irrelevant. Ever more distant. Safe In these safe cages we call church. Safe to call each other saved. That is NOT Love. That is religion. That is gaps. That is rules. That is God safe in a box.

Jesus is simple. We can be too.

Love set free IS always the answer – IF we allow.