This tiny ten-letter-mustard-seed-phrase

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There are certain word-strings that stick a pin in me.  A very real “ouch” word-string.  And then I have to find out why.  GSHJ does that from time to time.  I can be reading something and “ouch” followed by “What was that for?

It happened with this:  “Have We Made Bible Study Too Simple?”   The first “ouch” was the word ”study” followed closely by another with “we”.

It was Don Merritt who made me aware of me using a “straw-man” in some of my writing: A fictional “they” in order for me to tear down this fictional “they” as evidence for the point I was making.  And the use of “we” is the most-used straw-man.  Because “we” is (almost) the same as “they” – with a twist.  “We” is me being right and you (who should be one of “we”) having to agree with me – because “we” are correct and “they” (who say – incorrectly – that they are “we”) are not.

Ouch.

Then the word “study” in front of “bible”.  Bible Study.   A phrase used so often it is now its own “evidence”: bible study.  This tiny ten-letter-mustard-seed-phrase packed full of institutional religious baggage like this (from the “About Page”): “Missio Alliance began as an initiative of Ecclesia, a relational network of missionally-minded churches and leaders that takes a primary interest in encouraging and equipping church planters.”  Which screams: “We are God Qualified” – unlike like me.  Unless “me” is God Qualified – and then I might be “we”.

Ouch.

Then this from the post: “At the moment I was a bit taken back.  This shut down the conversation.  It was before my days in seminary and honestly, I wasn’t equipped with a good answer.”

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I get a lot of this Paul – I got a lot of this from you in your “early days”.  This dependence on you and your own cleverness – to fit-in – to be seen to have a “good answer”.  To be able to win the argument – to successfully argue me out of the bible and into another (allegedly).  See the infamous Pharisees and Sadducees – all the “sees and cees” (now reborn as “ologies and isms”).  It’s all about cleverness – being seen to have the right answer – to win hearts and minds for me.   And in the process to split and divide – to maintain the God Qualified as gatekeepers for me – to maintain “them” relying on “we” to explain me.

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And I have just created my own straw-man.  The God Qualified (of seminary and theological college).  My direct conversation with God Soft Hands Jesus – my “baggage” of “dividing” those who believe in the same God Soft Hands Jesus as I do – but not “exactly” the same as mine.  My appealing to those who have a similar train of thought – and in the process dismissing those who don’t.

Because if any of us (or they) really lived this “All Are Welcome” fiction – none of this would matter.  It wouldn’t matter what I (or you) believed if we really lived being capable of love without condition – really lived that love can only be love without condition.  Really believed that “love” split into four (God Qualified) Greek words … is putting cleverness in the way of God … causing another to stumble … perhaps a child who loves without condition because love IS without condition.

And that makes us all false teachers – makes us all use and abuse the bible – because we all look at “sinners” and “sin” as some external force to be beaten – we all look to God to save us.

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And there you go again.  Who is “we and us” – and what were you saying about using “we and they”?

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And he is right.  As is the (possible) rebuttal that “Church folk have to talk to church folk – so using a common language saves time.”

Except that I bumped into this “common language” and the language is not “common”.  It is institutional and God Qualified – it is the language of “seminary Church”.

And that keeps me from you – and keeps us ALL from God Soft Hands Jesus and living love that IS love without condition.

Him, you and me.

“All” without condition.

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Takes me back to the good old days when it was just the “sees and cees”!

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This Easter Sunday …

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“My teaching as a Christian was that these past three days were busy days not sad days. That the deceased Son of God was busy visiting dead people – saving all those dead people who had died before the cross and all that – saving the ones who should have been saved throughout time before the cross – the ones who weren’t saved because there hadn’t been a cross – and now there was …?

Well Jesus was busy retro fitting saving.”

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PARTEEEEE … !

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I was taught that today the party is in church.  Well …

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“This Easter Sunday I am not going to church.”

 

– – – – – – – – – –

 

(why not invest a couple of minutes in finding out why … )

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That is the choice of the living, paulfg

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Happy Easter

🙂

 

Paul

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This is always a me thing

I have read many blogs written by those who have lived the reality of being seen and treated as a “them”. A lot of those blogs are of mental illness, others of suicide, some of this and some of that.  And all of them have one thing in common:

Love.

Love is the common thread connecting each of those blogs: the love of a parent, of a child, of friends and acquaintances and of strangers … Of love lost and love found, love that hurts so bad and love that builds, love that is the only thing keeping that person going … And love that lives beyond death …

One such post was “What IF?” – I reblogged it yesterday here because it asked the question:  “What if The Church of Jesus Christ was a leader in showing the world how to support those who are suffering from mental illness in the exact same way they lead the world in how to support those who are suffering from any other form of trial, tribulation or persecution?  What if I could feel at ease to raise my hand in a Sunday School class and say: “Please pray for me. I’m going through a very bad flare of my OCD, and I’m experiencing a great deal of mental pain every waking minute of every day.”

And then today I read this: “All the People who Didn’t Know Me”  “Truthfully speaking, the only real difference between me today is that I take care of more people and have a place to live. That is the only separation I had when I was homeless. Yet, the treatment I received then as opposed to now is like night and day. The only real difference is how people treated me (then) than now.”

This “treating people differently” is not exclusive to Church.

Church is people and people are the ones treating other people differently.  There are people of faith and no faith all over the world in every country and locality.  Treating people differently happens on social media, between friends, and frequently in families.

Treating people differently is not exclusive to “Church”.  But what is exclusive to Church is this …

“Love Me, love your neighbour (like “everyone and always and everywhere”) as you love yourself (like “all of you and always and everywhere).”  Because all else rests on this, all else grows from this, all else is this (or is not).

That is exclusive to Church … and the Church is people and only people can show the world (and each locality and street and family) that every person is loved, and all are inclusive of this unconditional love.

Because what is also exclusive to Church … THAT commandment IS quoted and idolised … THAT commandment IS the very essence of Church the building … Church the establishment … Church the people.

And what is also exclusive to “Church” … when that ownership and pride in THAT ”commandment” is shown to be a mask … of (fake) “Christian smiles” (changing to gossip and bad-mouthing) … of (public) “turn the other cheek” (really being private complacency) … of the reality of this commandment being a “switch it on and switch it off love”

Then trust is absent and integrity is absent because LOVE is absent … The very LOVE that Church exclusively names as its own in the “greatest of all commandments” (on which all else rests).

So treating others differently might not be exclusive to church …  But NOT treating anyone differently SHOULD BE exclusive to Church.

There is no hiding place.  Because God Jesus never set the bar too high.

Each Christian who reads the bible and thinks-says-preaches “this IS the greatest commandment of all” is “setting the bar” for themselves (and every other “Christian”).

I did that – I still do – because the greatest commandment of all is not work – neither burden – or ever sacrifice.   It cannot be switched on or off – because love has no switch to flick.

Which means this is not “a Christian thing” – it is not even a God thing.  This is always a me thing.

And it is an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with something so wonderfully connecting and liberating for, and with, each and every person.   Love returns much more than I can ever give.  That is why love is always the answer.

So will someone explain to me how THAT has that been turned into a heavy cross of burden to pick-up each day” – because that means there is a switch to flick.

And there isn’t.

There never was.

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A lesson in “why discipling”

 

There was a Man who provided a service. He was very knowledgeable, very experienced and very connected. He advertised, for how else would anyone know he even existed? He advertised in the places people would look for his services. And one day he received a distressed call. Someone who needed help. Someone let down by another “expert”. Someone who was paying the cost for the expert not being the expert he said he was.

This Man went to see the person in distress. And immediately saw why there was distress. The expert was indeed no expert at all. And the person in distress was right to be distressed. This Man listened to a tale of woe he had heard many times. He advised as he had advised many times. He took photographs as he had many times. But this Man could not make the past different. He could only make the future different. And the person in distress was no longer distressed – he was now angry – the “expert” had been proved to be no expert at all – and to put right the wrong would cost more money. The Man had also heard that anger many times.

The person in ex-distress and now ex-anger thanked the Man, and then set about researching the Man’s credentials – and found them to be good everywhere he looked. The Man indeed seemed to be the expert he claimed. So the job was agreed, and the job was done. By other Men who were indeed skilled at their different jobs. Men who had a pride in doing their different jobs to a very high standard. They were indeed good Men in the image of the Man.

The end.

 

That is a true story. The firm is a real firm. The job was a real job. And the job (done second time around) was to a very high standard.

 

It struck me that “the firm” – each person – was as good as the Man (the boss): each person had a job – each person understood their own job – each person knew the jobs of others and how all the different jobs fitted together. And I learned that each was valued by the boss, and each was necessary to the boss (and each other). Each had the skills, experience, tools and right attitude to do “the job” properly. And the pride in doing a good job was not for my benefit , not for their boss – it just “was” in each.

And the boss was absent a lot of the time. And there were no calls to reassure or enquire. He simply popped in on two occasions over one week. On both occasions his visit was not to impress me, it was to talk to his crew. The entire job was done to the very high standard, to the agreed price (including some details not included in the quote (and not charged either), and to the agreed schedule. All was as promised. And those details along the way … each was agreed as it happened. And that left a great impression.

Each of the crew was entrusted with the authority to change/adapt/amend his own bit without reference to the boss. I think it was because each had the same pride in their bit, and – as importantly – of the whole. Each knew they were part of the whole – and each worked their bit to achieve the whole. That was how they did things – it was that simple for each of them.

 

And – without any of us talking about God or no-God, church or no-church … I was given a fantastic living and real lesson in why disciples and “why discipling”.

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Confession with a Chuckle

So sad, but true. Here, in a 3 minute video, is a pretty accurate recap of the first 3/4 of my ministry life. I was a “fixer”, a “designer”, a “planner”, and “program author”. Could write all the manuals, teaching points, charts and illustrations, and bullet lists for any conceivable ministry effort. I was often lost in paperwork for days at a time.

Jesus laughed at me a lot. Nothing wrong with my heart, just sort of had my priorities a bit confused. I used to believe in “interruptions”. I don’t anymore. There’s just “opportunities”.

How about you and those you serve with? Which do you believe in?

“Interruptions to the Work of Ministry”

or

“Opportunities to Minister” ?

How do we look at an unexpected expression of need? I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! Grace to thee!

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.