did Jesus come to create a religion?

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Category : Exodus, Jesus, barbarian, bible, different, love

……….

God spent a lot of time explaining every detail he wanted in his home with the Israelites.  He didn’t leave much to the imagination or ask us to do “whatever works.”  God had a very specific plan in mind for his home, and the people who would be directly interacting with it.

Interestingly Jesus didn’t do this.  Jesus was messy.

There wasn’t a lot of formality around how to approach him.  There wasn’t a lot of people wearing only certain types of clothing.  Or saying certain types of things.  In fact, Jesus constantly had people touching him who were “ceremonially unclean,” meaning people who couldn’t enter God’s presence.  And yet he didn’t do anything but love them.

Sometimes you hear people say that Jesus meant to create a religion.  But I don’t buy that.  I think Jesus came to establish a relationship with us.  This is why he always loved the people who needed it, and why the New Testament isn’t filled with rules on how to establish a physical church.  Jesus went out of his way to break social conventions in order to build relationships.

Relationships are messy.  Religion is organized.  Relationships have sacrifice, love, compassion.  Religions have rules, structure, bureaucracies.

What would Christianity look like if we were more interested in showing that same love, and less interested in showing religious protocol?  How would your life be different if local churches worked to create a relationship with God and not to create a religion?

an easter miracle

Category : God, Jesus, different, hope, love, miracles

…….

Conservation of resources is a theory psychologists use to explain stress.  In short it says that people only have so many “resources” for dealing with problems and each additional demand on those resources drains our “reserves.”  This is why we can find ourselves so angry and irritated with people for something simple.

Can anyone say happy holidays?

If you’ve ever felt yourself overwhelmed by requests for help, you’ve experienced this.  Even when these requests come from people we care about, they can still feel overpowering and make us want to hide.

Yet God deals with that every day.

There are literally billions of people turning to him in need.  Asking for stuff.  Nagging even.  Yet he never grows weary or tired.

“Oh sure” you’re thinking, ”but that’s because God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and eternal.”  True.  But frankly I think that would make it worse.  Look at it this way: if you knew the answer to every question, wouldn’t it get annoying to have people asking you the same questions?  I imagine Stephen Hawking gets tired of answering “what’s a black hole?”

The same with being all-powerful.  If athletes and rock stars get tired of signing autographs, think how it would be if you could do anything you wanted, whenever you wanted.  But instead of being left alone to do that, you were always surrounded by someone asking for help.  Would you just get tired of people coming to you because they knew you could help them?

Even having all the time in the world wouldn’t be enough.  In fact that’s probably the worst of the three.  You’d be stuck for all eternity in the equivalent of customer service!

So there must be another explanation of why God is so involved in our lives.  And the only one that I can come up with is love.  When we love something or someone we’re willing to spend whatever time, energy, and resources to fix the problem.  I love video games, so I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about them.  Love is what makes us willing to answer the same questions time and again.  It’s what allows us to use whatever resources we have to help.  And it’s what allows us to be willing to spend an infinite amount of time with someone.

I believe this is what the essence of Easter is.  God didn’t have to come down to earth to relate to us.  He could have said “take it or leave it” and walked away.  But he not only chose to live among us.  He chose to die in an awful, horrible way.  What makes an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-time God do something like that?

Love.

And that’s the Easter miracle.

quote of the day: Dietrich Bonhoeffer – forgiveness

Category : God, faith, live for the eternal, living a life of faith, love, taking action

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship wrote:

“Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God.  Jesus does not promise that when we bless our enemies and do good to them they will not despitefully use and persecute us.  They certainly will.  But not even that can hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them….We are doing vicariously for them what they cannot do for themselves.”

what i’m watching: fireproof

Category : God, feeding my brain, hope, love, taking action

 

I saw this movie with some hesitation. 

As a rule I’m not a fan of things marketed as “Christian” to “Christians.”  Especially when it comes to entertainment.  ”Christian movies,” in my experience, tend to have extremely cheesy plots and low entertainment value.  Of course it doesn’t need to be this way, I just think it is this way.  But my girlfriend had been pushing to watch Fireproof for a few weeks, so on Valentine’s day I relented. 

Like most things involving God, I was surprised.

Fireproof is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  That’s not to say the acting was top notch.  It wasn’t.  And the production values were pretty low.  But this movie touches on something.  It’s bigger than the sum of its parts.     

The story revolves around a couple who’s marriage is falling apart.  Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is a firefighter who’s better at putting out fires than saving his marriage.  When his wife demands a divorce, Holt turns to his father, who asks him to take “the love dare“  - a 40 day journal describing how God wants him to treat his wife.

I’m not going to pretend the movie’s plot was original, or that it’s somehow ground breaking.  Rotten Tomatoes gave Fireproof a 37%.  That’s not very good.

But as I alluded the strength of the movie isn’t in the story line, the acting, or the production values.  The strength of the movie is the fact that we can all identify with the characters.  We’ve all been hurt by someone we loved.  We’ve all felt that betrayal, and the anger that comes with it.  We all long to be loved.  And I believe we all long to know God.

I found myself completely identifying with Caleb and his demand for respect.  While my girlfriend completely identified with Caleb’s wife (Erin Bethea) and her longing for love. 

The primary focus of R3 is how you live out a life of faith, and Fireproof offers a perfect illustration of this.  The characters do enough “wrong” things that it’s easy to blame either one of them for the situation.  Just like in real life, no one is perfect.  We all do things that damage relationships.  The world tells us we should repay violence with violence, sarcasm with sarcasm.  But what we see through Caleb Holt is someone who wants to act out in anger towards his wife, but chooses to do something else.  And it’s through that “something else” that his marriage is saved.

That’s what it means to live out a life of faith.  We must choose to live differently, to live for something else.  And in doing so, God transforms us. 

 

 

 

unconditional love

Category : God, different, faith, love

 

I am still fighting a cold, the flu, or ebola.  I can’t really tell which.  The way I’ve felt makes me think it’s all three.  Which means that for better or worse there has been a lot of channel surfing.  Okay, that’s mostly for the worst.  Especially when you land on one of those so-called day time talk shows. 

One show had a young guy yelling into the camera that he didn’t get someone pregnant and that it was all a trick.  He knew the child couldn’t be his, because he knew the girl had been sleeping with someone else too.  His closing argument was, “why should I fall in love with a baby that’s not mine?”

Let that sink in for a moment.

We live in a world that operates out of quid pro quo mentality.  If that baby is mine, then I will love it.  We forget just how harsh that can be.  What would have happened if Joseph told Mary, “why should I fall in love with a baby that’s not mine?”  That’s a reasonable response isn’t it?  The baby wasn’t his.  It surely complicated his life.  Plus he was well within his legal right to not only divorce her, but to have her put to death.  Yet he didn’t.

Why should I fall in love with a baby that’s not mine? 

Imagine if that was the standard God used!  Thank God (literally) it’s not.  God acts out of love not because we deserve it or can earn it, but because love is who God is.  It’s a defining characteristic.  And the closer we move towards God, the more we begin to be defined that way. 

Christianity is founded on a scandalous message.  But it’s a message that’s scandalous not just because of who was involved, but also because of their actions.  2,000 years ago people who loved God made radical decisions that went against the world’s wisdom.  They made decisions to love people no matter what.  Today, people still make that same choice.

When you see someone in your life in need, don’t say “why should I love them, they aren’t mine?”  Instead, say, “I love them, because that’s who God is.”  Or as Brandon Heath says, Lord “give me your heart for the ones forgotten.  Give me your eyes so I can see.”

God’s love

Category : God, choice, love

   

Have you ever loved someone so much that all you wanted to do was talk to them?  But because they were angry and frustrated they were avoiding you.  The thing is, they weren’t really even mad at you.  They were just upset at things in their life.  No matter what you tried, they wouldn’t talk to you.  They believed talking to you would mean having to deal with their anger, and it was easier to just keep quiet.

And as you sat there, you knew that all you really wanted was simply to talk to them.  Sure you’d have to talk about the problems bothering them at some point.  But it didn’t have to be right away.  You just wanted to spend some time with them.  To enjoy their company.  To love them. 

And as they avoided you, your heart broke.

I wonder…

Is that how God feels when we stop talking with him?

virtual church

Category : barbarian, love, radical, taking action

 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with bad news.  Every day it seems like another problem crops up, or society takes another step away from following God.  And perhaps that’s true.  Perhaps today really is “worse” than yesterday.  But let me tell you a secret…

None of that matters.

God doesn’t call us to judge non-Christians.  He calls us to love them, and share our faith with him.  In a way, the more problems the world has, the more opportunities we have to share His message.  Now clearly a broken world is not a thing to rejoice over!  But we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves.  We have a mission to accomplish.

That’s what I love about organizations like LifeChurch.tv.  They saw a situation and instead of defining it as a “problem” they recognized a need.  This “need” was a lot of people, who probably don’t know God, in a game called Second Life.  So they bought some virtual land and built a virtual church. 

But they aren’t alone, Catholic missionaries are getting into the act.  And others are asking important questions

Now as much as I love video games, I’ve never played Second Life.  So I don’t know if these virtual churches are still open.  But that’s not really the point. 

What matters is that people recognized a need, and they acted.  Instead of treating the game as a problem, they saw it as an opportunity to share a life-changing message.

I wonder what things in my life I treat as a problem, instead of an opportunity to grow?

absolute power & leadership

Category : Jesus, bible, love, taking action

      

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power” (John 13:3)

So what do you do when you have ultimate power?  When you have literally been given “all things”?

Well, if you’re Jesus you serve. 

John tells us that when Jesus knew he could do anything he wanted, he chose to serve his friends.  He chose to get on his knees and wash the feet of his disciples.  I wonder how I would respond if I had that kind of power?

reader comment: will God forgive me?

Category : God, love, reader comments

   

Reader Eduardo Flores sent in this comment:

“Douglas Kelly from Reformed Theological Seminary said, “The only thing we can offer God is Christ’s obedience“. When we meditate on that, we find the beauty of that statement. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our rightgeous acts are like filthy rags  to God (NIV). The only thing that God sees in us (those who are united to Christ) is Christ’s obedience and love for the Father. That is the only reason we can come to Him.”

It’s easy to start thinking we can impress God.  As humans we try to impress people on a regular basis.  We get used to people responding positively towards us when we tell jokes or work extra hours.  We’re so used to it that we hardly even think about what we’re doing. 

But stop for a minute and consider God.  Do you really think he’s someone we can impress with our behavior or ceremonies?  Do you think God really has a musical preference?  Does he like knock-knock jokes?  Is he impressed when you work 70-hour weeks?  Those are just “things” and God is not a God of “things” he’s a God of relationships.  The bottom line is this: there is nothing we can do to impress someone who has existed for all time.  And even if there was, he’s seen it by now! 

The minute we start believing God is impressed by our methods, our music, our prayers, or our language is the moment we separate ourselves from God.  The more distance we have between us, the harder it is to establish that relationship.  By focusing on “doing” we are telling God that we are more important than he is.  And how could that ever be true?  In the end, the best we can hope to “do” is to love God.  And fortunately that’s what God asks of us.  He doesn’t ask us for fancy prayers, or elaborate ceremonies.  We don’t need a stand up routine or polished resume to get into Heaven.  He just wants us to love him in our hearts.  Because he knows if we do that our lives will never be the same. 

relating to David

Category : David, God, hope, love, old testament

   

There are some people in the Bible that I can relate to better than others.  David is one of those people.  And let me be upfront, it is not because I carry a sling!  So who was David?  Not only did he ultimately become the king of Israel, he was also this courageous, adventuresome, bold man – this is the guy who volunteered to fight the precursor to Arnold Schwarzenegger after all…  David had a lot of guts.  And, well, I decidedly lack guts.  I would have been one of those soldiers cowering in fear, not the one challenging a behemoth.  So I can’t really relate to his acts of bravery or leadership.

What I relate to is how often David screwed up.  David, like all of us, made some bad decisions.  Now that’s something I can identify with!  In perhaps his most well known screw-up he not only sleeps with the wife of one of his soldier’s (and gets her pregnant), but in order to cover up his affair he has the soldier killed.  

David had many other sins as well, such as pride, lust, a temper, and rebellion towards God.  Not exactly the stereotype we have when we think of “godly” men.  So why is David so important?  What is it about David that made God love him so much?  He certainly doesn’t sound like a particularly good role model! 

At the core of David’s story is encouragement and hope.  What separates David from Saul (the previous king of Israel and someone God rejected), is that every time David was confronted with his sin, he honestly, fully, and completely turned to God to seek repentance. David admitted that he screwed up, and he asked God for help. 

It was that simple act that separates David. 

And every time he did that God forgave him.  No matter how badly David screwed up, God forgave him.  This isn’t to say there weren’t consequences to his sins – 1 and 2 Samuel are full of the consequences of David’s sins.   

David’s love of God was so strong, and so complete, that he always turned back to the path of God, no matter how far he strayed from it.  That’s a lesson that all of us can use.  No matter how far from God we’ve become…  No matter how horrible the things we’ve done…  No matter what pain we’ve caused… God loves us.  And if we turn back to him in true repentance, he will always welcome us back.

That’s why I can relate to David. Because David reminds me that no matter what I’ve done, God still wants to know me.