Luke 15:11: And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. Continue reading
Whom do you Worship?
Okay, this seems a simple enough question – when you pray in your home, to whom are you praying? When you worship in church, whom is your church worshiping? Why, God, of course! Are you?
We believe in a Triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit. So, I will ask again – Whom do you Worship? To whom do you pray?
This answer should also be simple, and immediate: the Father, and the Father alone. It is to the Father that worship is due. Not the Son, nor the Spirit, but the Father alone.
Jesus is very clear on this, yet I often hear people, pastors, congregations saying how they worship Jesus, or pray to the Spirit. Jesus never advocated us to pray to him (or the Spirit) quite the opposite:
Matt 6:6 “But, when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father…”
Matt 6:9 “Pray like this: Our Father who…”
John 15:16 “whatever you ask the Father in my name…”
John 16:23 “If you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.”
Jesus’ every will and act was done, not for His own glory, but for the Fathers:
Matt 5:16 “…give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matt 16:27 “For the Son of Man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father…”
John 4:23 “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”
John 5:19 “the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing.”
When Jesus prayed, it was to the Father; when He taught us to pray, it was to the Father. Jesus tells us of the Spirit not that He will send the Spirit, but that the Father will send the Spirit in Jesus’ name. Everything comes from the Father, all worship is due to the Father alone. While Jesus tells us that He and the Father are one, as is the Spirit, He has made it clear that it is to the Father alone that we are to pray and it is the Father alone to whom worship is due.
So, again, I ask: Whom do you Worship?
I live in the U.S. in the State of California and I voted this morning.
Did my Christian world view influence the way I voted? Sure. How could it not. I’m also a 65-year-old woman. That also influenced the way I voted. So did the sum total of my life experience.
So now I await the results, along with the residents of this state, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. The final primary is next week when the District of Columbia votes.
Of course, these are only the primaries. The general election date is November 8th.
And every presidential election year I pray. I began praying back in April last year.
“This prayer is also for all the believers who will follow [these disciples] and hear them speak. Father, may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that You sent Me.
“All the glory You have given to Me, I pass on to them. May that glory unify them and make them one as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23)
Why do we allow The Enemy to throw us into disunion over anger or litmus tests?
How many give The Enemy a foothold by ranting on Facebook, “liking” or retweeting a negative comment, telling or passing along a sarcastic political joke, or refusing or forgetting to pray for those in office?
How many choose to protest with fists and angry words? Applaud the arrogant and proud rather than humble and courteous? How many prefer those who can shout the loudest rather than those who listen and work for peace and unity? (Matthew 5:3-9)
How many, if the person you vote for is not elected, are already determined to pass along your anger to others, to become bitter and cynical, to refuse any attempt at peacemaking or unity?
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.” (Matthew 5:21-22 The Message)
Why is unity so difficult for those of us who call ourselves Christians? Why do we make life difficult for each other, disown each other and tell each other we’re going to hell if we disagree doctrinally with each other? Do you know how many different theological doctrines exist? The images shown are from the table of contents from only one book* – 323 pages of seventeen different doctrines and 2-4 different sides of each of those doctrines. Doctrine is merely man-made and though it may be based on Scripture, it is still widely interpreted.
Jesus did not pray for us to be one with doctrine. He prayed for us to be one with Him and with the Father.
The Holy Spirit is in us in order to accomplish this oneness. If we ignore the Spirit of God and instead worship doctrine or agendas or a person running for office, aren’t we guilty of idolatry? Haven’t we walked away from our First Love? If we have, we must turn back, and remember what the Gospel is truly about. (Revelation 2:4-5)
May You hear again this faithful refrain of the words Jesus prayed: may we be as one as You and Your Son and the Spirit are as one; may we all be as one in You as You are in us. In that oneness, may be treat each other with love, grace and dignity, and in that unity show the world who You are in us.
May we remember this today and every day throughout the rest of this year. May we pray for all our leaders, whoever they are, that they would seek to lead justly and compassionately, and that they would seek to be peacemakers and unifiers. Amen
*Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, © 2009, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI
This Great Commission
Jesus went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 The Message)
I’ve written before on these specific commands of Jesus which all begin with love.
Do you have a profound desire to go on a mission trip to another country? Neither do I.
Do you ache to learn apologetics? Neither do I!
Do you have a hunger to walk around strange neighborhoods knocking on doors? Neither do I!
How, then, do we as Christians not reject the Commission of Jesus?
As we live our lives obeying the commands of Jesus we become more like him; we reflect his image. We mature in our faith and embody faith and works. We allow those who cannot see him to know him through us.
“Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Fr. Francis of Assisi
We don’t need to travel to spread the gospel. Our “there” is where ever we are. Our “there” is our home, our car, our friend’s house, our workplace, our school, our neighborhood, our gym, our coffee shop, our restaurant, our grocery store, our hardware store, our nightclub, our jail cell, (the dmv, the airport) our social media hangout. It’s how we speak and act when we are “there.”
“There” is how we treat our family, our friends, and strangers when we are “there.” “There” is the decisions we make when we are “there.” There is no “here” and “there.” There is only “there.” And we are “there” all of the time.
How many times do we extend grace to a friend who has made a mistake, but refuse to extend grace to a stranger who makes a mistake? Couldn’t we expand the gospel by widening our circle of grace?
Please begin to think about the commission God commanded Jesus to pass along to us. Please allow the Spirit to stir your heart. Please allow the words of Jesus to play across your mind. Please open up the possibility that people who don’t know Jesus can see him through you.
I fall to my knees and pray to our Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your love be the rich soil where your lives take root; may it be the bedrock where your lives are founded. And may you have the power to understand the love of Christ is infinitely long, wide, high and deep, surpassing everything you have previously experienced. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
A Different Perspective
It all comes down to love.
When I read, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23),” I hear something quite different than most folks. (Are you surprised? I do walk to the beat of a different drummer.) Most folks hear Jesus saying, “Yes, following me will be a huge burden; it will involve suffering. It will involve giving up many things. It may involve walking away from friends and family. It definitely includes telling people about me. Only the fittest will survive this journey. So pick up that cross and follow me!”
I am certain from this point of view comes the fear of displeasing God, of losing his love, of losing salvation. From this point of view comes the fear of not being fit, not fitting in, not performing up to snuff, not gaining entrance to heaven. We were not meant to fear; we were meant to abide in God’s love so we do not fear. The apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Why else would Jesus say, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)
The cross was a horrific image to first century listeners. Today, it would be analogous to an electric chair or a hanging noose. If we are to follow the words and actions of Jesus, we must remember he did not carry his cross alone. Simon of Cyrene helped him on that long walk to Golgotha. (Matthew 27:32) And just as Jesus cast his burden onto Simon and permitted him to assist, Jesus tells us to cast our burdens onto him, and exchange them for his singular burden.
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 emphasis mine)
Based on his words and actions, when I read those words, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me,” I hear Jesus saying, “Look, it doesn’t matter what your personal prejudices or agendas are; that’s your cross to bear. My commands (the ones I gave to all people in all places for all times) are paramount; they are fundamental, and central to my Gospel. If you want that cross to keep weighing you down, fine. But if you want to follow me, I tell you here and now, my burden is far lighter. My burden is love. Love God and your neighbors. Love each other as I have loved you.
“Yes, make disciples; that is, make people feel safe and loved. Tell people the truth of the Good News, that they are invited into the family of God right now, just as they are. Then help them in their journey to accept the Father’s unconditional love and grace. Are you courageous enough to do this, to take up my burden and walk with me?”
When Jesus said, “Follow me,” he expected us to follow his commands. But which commands? Some of his commands were for a specific time and place (like telling the rich young ruler to give up his possessions), but others, based on Hebrew grammar, were universal:
Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
“Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
“Teach these new disciples to obey all these commands (Yep, these four – five including this one!) I have given you.” (Matthew 29:20)
So, based on these commands, are you ready to follow him?
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children when we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And the victory that has overcome the world is our faith. (1 John 5:1-4 emphasis mine)
(Thank you to Don Merritt and Little Monk for the clarity of instruction on the grammar of the commandments of Jesus.)
Angel’s Journal, Entry Three: “Flurries of Excitement”
Things are moving so quickly now around The Master that it’s hard to keep up or sense the direction of events. I noted my own optimism at the greetings given when He entered Jerusalem, and how heart-warming it was to see Him given the acclaim He truly deserves.
On the other hand, it seems always “the other sandal to drop” (as humans say), when some religious critics complained about the furor, and bid The Master to quiet the tumult and praise. (These whiners plot together behind their closed doors, inspired, fueled and fanned by the whisperings of the Dark Ones appealing to their fear and ambition, counseling them to kill this “dangerous radical” (Pfft! As… if…) lest The Master rouse the people and draw down the ire of the Romans to disturb their comfortable power base.)
But The Master would not be dissuaded from letting events unfold as they would. He created a mad flurry of excited activity here when He said. “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” O my goodness! What a scramble up here, as all the regional and geological caretaking angels for that region instantly drew forth references on “speech” and “vocal biology and technology”, and flashed off to find the guardian angel who cared for the prophet Balaam, and the one who looked after his mount, and the angel who confronted them on the road. I had to shake my head at all the instant research going on for “Atypical Vocal Manifestations in Revelation of God’s Nature or Will”, all in the “twinkling of an eye” (as humans say), as we all revert to “celestial time” for purely internal matters (like research).
It all turned out to be a false alarm, as the crowds and disciples did NOT cease to praise Him, and He extended no invitation or permission for Creation Itself to declare the Truth it knows. A bit of a letdown, I must admit… that is a moment we all look forward to with GREAT anticipation. But still, I know He knows what He’s doing…
The OTHER great flurry of excitement was when He rode straight up to the Temple, climbed the great stairs there with throng in tow, and opened all the cages and pens of the “blemishless” sacrificial animals (such chaos that was!) and overturned the tables and accounts of all the animal sellers and the money changers. You’ve never heard such shouting, bleating, squealing, all combined with merchants trying to stifle their urge to curse (they were, after all, in the courtyard of the Temple), and shouting indignantly.
We angels had seen Him do this before, of course, three “years” ago when The Master began what we called “His Wanderings” after coming up out of the Water with John. But that time He had fewer followers in His wake, and had woven a flagellus of cords with which to drive His targets forth. THIS time, He needed no such weaponry, as the crowd trailing along seemed like an army. None had left His train as He rode up to the Temple, expecting to see quite a “show”. (In which expectation they were not disappointed.)
All of us, however, could feel The Master’s waves of grief as He strode, resolute, and cleared out the space from which He chose to teach throughout this week. It’s not “mind reading” to see what The Master reflects on when His grief is so profound and He speaks words aloud.
His heart was breaking as He revered this place, this House built by Solomon for the Shekinah to dwell among His people… and saw it degrade into a tawdry merchant market to milk the piety of the people for their esteem and their money. Jerusalem “slayer of the prophets”, and centre of religious hypocrisy.
Throughout the shouting, cursing, and chaos of driving out the temple merchants, Archangel Michael and his honor guard had stood tensely at the ready. No thoroughbred racehorse in their starting gate ever trembled with suppressed speed and rage to begin, as did those angels in that moment.
But… no word came… no trumpet rang… no bell or shot.
The temple cleared, the conspirators hated, plotted, and retired behind closed doors, the Dark Ones grinned even more broadly leering at us, and The Master simply sat down to watch people come make their offerings…
As we all settled back to continue watching events unfold…
*Sigh*… More later. Things seem to have settled down, but we shall wait and see.
Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties
“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (I Timothy 1:5)
Love is patient and kind.
Love understands we all learn in different ways and at different rates. We all have different levels of education. And while we may have a strong desire to learn and understand Scripture, we cannot all understand the King James Version, or the New American Standard Version or the English Standard Version. As beginners, some of us may need to cut our teeth on The Message or The Voice or the Easy to Read Version first. Please be kind and compassionate while we learn and grow in our faith. These versions are not heretical; they simply provide added explanation while we are in transition from milk to meat.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
We all fall short of the glory of God. Please don’t hold yourself higher than we are because you’ve had more education. The Pharisee had more education than the tax collector, yet the tax collector humbled himself before God (Luke 18:9-14). Please allow us to develop our own, unique relationship with our Lord.
Love is not self-absorbed, nor does it demand its own way.
Please don’t demand that I worship as you do, pray as you do, or subscribe to your religious laws or doctrine. Please don’t tell me I’m not a Christian if… Please do as He asks and teach me to be His disciple, not yours.
“We have made ourselves content not with seeking the face of God, but with studying the facts of God. We are satisfied with a religion about Christ, without the reality of Christ… There is a place that transcends the boundaries of knowledge and dogma; it is a simple yet eternally profound place where we actually abide in Christ’s love.” Br. Francis Frangipane
Love is not irritable or easily provoked.
Luke recorded Jesus saying, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If you have fully surrendered yourself to Jesus, then you have accepted His love and grace. Once you have accepted His gift, there is nothing left to irritate, annoy or provoke you. You have an unquenchable desire to give away the love and grace that overflows from Him.
Love keeps no record of being wronged, tallies up no offenses nor keeps score of the sins of others.
In relationship, do you think the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit choose to be offended by each other? Keep score against each other? Decide one was more healing than the other? One saved more souls than the other? When we point out each others’ faults and keep track of wrongs done, over the years we become bitter and resentful. Bitterness and resentment is grist for the enemy; they can easily be turned to hate, and hate locks out love.
Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.
Love and truth build bridges; hate and fear build walls. Bridges help form relationships; walls prevent relationships. Relationships advance understanding and create true justice. The absence of relationships advances terror and exclusion for everyone. Which would you rather build?
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
When decisions are made from soil of love, faith and hope are harvested. Circumstances are seen from a different point of view. Individual lives are given value instead of being seen as a commodity. Differences become less important than finding connections and common ground which lead to peace.
Love never fails.
God is love. When we allow His love to shine through us, in God’s timing others will desire His unconditional love. They will thirst for His radical grace. They will hunger for His tender mercy. But love must come first.
May [you] have power to comprehend… how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is, and therefore to know the love of Christ even though it is too great to understand fully, so that your heart may be completely filled up and flooded with God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Worship without but within words…
From some years ago…
Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship. How amazing.
“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.
And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.
And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.
And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.
And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.
And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”
There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”
I did not understand. I do now.
The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.
Love heals, love creates the desire to hear and see. Love opens the heart, dissolves fear and distrust. Love opens doors, creates pathways, softens downcast mouths, releases fists. How else will we let those around us know that we are the true followers of Jesus?
John 13:34-35 So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.
John 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)
Love conquers fear and hate, solid walls of separation and centuries old dug-in-heels of they-are-evil and we-are-righteous thinking.
Love allows embraces, possibilities and “aha!” moments. Love is responsible for transformation, seismic shifts in understanding, the willingness to explore common ground.
Eugene Peterson renders Jesus’ call to love our enemies so even the most hardened hearts can understand it:
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:44-48, The Message)
You see, if we don’t believe or subscribe to Jesus’ commands to love, then we won’t choose Love. It’s as simple as that. We’ll hang onto our immature choice to love who we want to love, not who He tells us to love. We’ll love with strings attached, yanking it away when people in our family, circle of friends or church don’t meet our expectations.
This is not the way Jesus tells us to love. Jesus tells us to love compassionately. Deeply. Sincerely. Unfailingly. Unconditionally.
Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:9,11,16,19)