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 Great Commission

lines at DMV
lines at DMV

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.

Knock_pennyDo 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

Coffee.buzzfeedWe 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)