Monday, September 27, 2010

Yes, we really CAN - and should - figure it out without "leaders"

Yesterday, completely by accident, my wife and I ended up in the audience of a same-sex marriage debate forum.

Most of those on the panel were local to the state we currently live in, but there was one very famous national figure: Maggie Gallagher known most for being president of the so-called "National Organization for Marriage". That's the group that lies about Gay people and our  families and then gets all emotional accusing Gay people of "attacking" them when they get even a tiny response [check out some NOM info here and a YouTube discussing one of their ads here]. And Maggie sure lived up to the ideals of her organization, yesterday.

Maggie Gallagher pushes what she believes, and she wholeheartedly believes her belief is of God -- as do those who follow her. And the same is true of almost all other Christian leaders, from Right to Left and back again. From James Dobson to Pope Benedict XVI to John Dominic Crossan to Martin Luther and more, people most often understand God's way through the human Christian leaders they choose to follow (in church, through television, through books, and so on).

What's wrong with that? Well, for one thing, it's against God.

Speaking prophetically through David, God said:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you. [Psalm 32:8-9]
Yet that's what almost all of us do, almost all of the time. We're like horses (more like mules) that don't come to God unless we have something that's not God that makes us move. In David's day, that something was the Mosaic law -- something given by God for and to the ancient Hebrews, but certainly not itself God, not meant to be used forever, and never able to save us by itself. Today most often we use other human beings - Christian leaders and their churches and organizations - to guide us to God's truth.

Problem is, being just as human as the rest of us, there's no guarantee that Christian leaders are actually any closer to God's truth than we are. In fact, if their surety of being closer to God's truth is a theological education, pastoral or priestly ordination or confirmation, or something else gotten via human beings, they may actually be further from God's real truth than someone without.

And when that's the case, do we really think that the bit and bridle they have in our mouths is going to lead us to Jesus?

What did Jesus say?
..the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [John 14:26]
So, the things for any Christian to know to be right with God are the things that Jesus has said. And these are the things we don't need any teacher to learn once the Holy Spirit begins to teach us.

When does the Holy Spirit begin to teach us? have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. [1 John 2:20]
When the Holy Spirit enters our hearts, we have God's anointing. Then we can and should learn and know God's truth:
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. [1 John 2:24-27]
What should we learn and keep in our minds and hearts? What keeps us tight with God? What guarantees us eternal life? What was taught at the beginning. 

What what taught at the beginning? The original message, right from the mouths of Jesus and His first disciples.  

And why don't we need anyone to keep us in God's truth? Because (hopefully) we have the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts. 

As Christians, if we're doing what God says, we're learning only from God what Jesus taught from the beginning. And that excludes a lot of things human beings have added on or changed in the last 1,900 years. In fact, it excludes almost everything we often count as "Christian" or ok for Christians today.

Maggie Gallagher's own description yesterday of what God means for marriage, for example, is classic Roman Catholic teaching, rooted in pagan and very human ideas thought up four hundred and more years after Christ, and added on to the poo-pile of "just as good as Jesus" teaching still called "Christianity" -- and all by men who loathed women and God's natural creation (things Jesus never went along with). 

So, while those who follow Maggie Gallagher think they're doing things God's way, they're actually simply going along with the human-created belief system Maggie Gallagher has taken on because it attempts to give honor to and makes sense of Maggie Gallagher's very messed up life (as she described it). 

And that's what we all risk when we decide to be or follow human leaders. Our flaws always lead first, even when (especially when) we believe ourselves trained or mature beyond such problems.

In fact, there's only one human being who wasn't completely full of his/her own ridiculous, sinful, self-centered human nature - and that was Jesus. All of the rest of us human beings should come with a large, flashing label:

Do not follow!
Potentially spiritually dangerous to self and others.

So, if we're doing anything except going right and only to Jesus? We should be cringing right now just imagining it...

Two more things:

First, does this mean we should never listen to each other? 

Absolutely not. We are (hopefully) a gift to each other, and we are all parts of the body of Christ. If the arms and legs aren't listening to each other, or the ankle thinks it can get where it needs to go on its own - they're all in big trouble. Paul wrote to the Hebrews:
Let's consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let's not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let's encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. [Hebrews 10:24-25]
Working and living and loving and challenging together (not sitting in a stained glass box once a week and repeating prayers and songs someone else leads us in) is what we as Christians are called to do. It's one of the things we should be learning from God, through our Holy Spirit anointing. It's certainly one of the things the first Christians had down pat. We know that because their love for each other was one of the things that drew so many new people to what they had to offer: the real Jesus.

Second, just how does it work, to use our anointing to get back to and stick with what Jesus taught?

It works like this:
Whatever you're considering, always check out what Jesus or one of His first disciples had to say about it, and go with what they taught.
Does that mean we have to live their exact lives? No, of course not. Times have changed, cultures have changed. What hasn't changed? What God expects of us. So, if God expected loving enemies 2,000 years ago, He expects it now. Does that mean we only have to love enemies that still dress or act like Roman soldiers, or that we have to dress or act like Jews or Greeks 2,000 years ago? Of course not! We live in Jesus to the extent that we follow what God means to accomplish, and not to the extent we play stupid-literal with His words.

Now, doing that can be difficult because, in accepting the original and only real teachings of Jesus, we have to peel away the added-on and changed garbage human beings insist goes with it. That garbage is like a smoking or drinking habit - it seems like our best friend, makes us feel good about ourselves and our world, even while it's killing us and destroying our families. But that's what the Holy Spirit is there for: that teaching and reminding part. 

Keep in mind too that doing things God's way doesn't mean having all understanding. It doesn't even mean we have to be really smart. For example, there are probably three people in the world who truly understand all the causes and problems with the various wars going on right now -- wars against terrorists, wars by terrorists, wars against terrorists by terrorists. Everyone else has a bias, and -- sorry -- nearly all of us simply get our "information" from whatever propaganda source we like most. We just don't have access to the information sources and wisdom it would take to truly sort out who started what and what it all means and so on.

But we don't have to be Christian Albert Einstein to figure out God's way, because Jesus not only told us what it is, He also lived it. Take a look at these few scriptures, for example:
You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew 5:38-48]
While Jesus was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “ Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. [Matthew 26:47-52]
Wasn't Judas an enemy that night? Weren't those who came to arrest Jesus His enemies? Heck, they were acting against God Himself!  Today's Christian world overwhelmingly authorizes and promotes attacking enemies, shoving and hurting back under the human-created "just war theory" and other ideas added on to Christianity after its beginning. If we follow Christian leaders, then, we are most likely going to go along with if not participate in torture, rape, and killing other human beings, and even blasphemously call it "God's will" or "God's work". In doing so, we are living and acting and believing completely opposite of Jesus' teachings.

At odds with.
Separate from.
In opposition to.
Hostile to.

Don't know about you, but in the end I don't intend to stand before the Ancient of Days and tell Him I chose to go completely against Him and the orders He gave because my pastor/priest/pope told me it was the most godly thing to do.

What about this:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed. [Matthew 27:11-14] 
I'm guessing we'd all agree that Pilate and other Jewish chief priests and elders were all pretty much Jesus' enemies that night. It couldn't have been more obvious to anyone watching that they meant to kill him in the most brutal way -- there was no other reason to bring him before the power of Rome. Yet today the Christian leaders most people see can't wait to scream louder and louder, and to get more and more confrontational and belligerent in the rest of the world's face -- all while claiming they stand for Jesus Christ and His way. But is that what Jesus did? Don't think so. These in-your-face-for-God Christians are, in fact, living in opposition to what Jesus lived, and what the Holy Spirit would teach them. 
 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him.  They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “ Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. [Matthew 27:27-31]
 Ok - now's when Jesus gets off His knees and calls down a zillion angels to kick enemy butt, right? He's had it with this ungodly behavior, and He's not going to allow them to insult God or God's people or God's ways any longer, right? Wrong, of course. Jesus gave very specific instructions regarding how to behave when we are abused and even killed. He said and lived that we are not to become the evil that we are angry at and hurt by, even when that evil attacks God and God's people . But, once again, that's not the message we get from most Christian leaders today. Oh, we get lip-service, of course. And we get told Jesus only allowed all this because He was paying for our sins. And we get reminded that Jesus did say He would come and kick evil's butt.

But what they forget or ignore (because it doesn't fit their own human-created version of what Jesus said) is that Jesus only had to pay for our sins because we human beings have from the beginning insisted on completely messing things up by constantly making up our own versions of what God wants. 

See, Jesus took one lash because God said don't kill other people, but instead, throughout human history we've not only made up reasons He shouldn't care we've killed people, but also reasons He should even like it.

Jesus took another lash because we human beings love-love-love to reinvent His plan. Jesus said He's coming at the End to finally answer every prayer that asked Him to finally and completely get rid of all evil in the world (especially including all the evil that pretends to be godly in the world). But then Christian leaders change that to mean (1) He can't possibly mean us, even if we've lived completely opposite every way He said to live and still called ourselves His followers, and (2) since He's coming to wipe out just the bad stuff in the end, that means we get to wipe out everything that our puny human minds have decided is bad stuff today.

(How in the world does God manage to put up with us? Can anyone ever doubt His mercy and the huge effort He's put out to save us from ourselves?) 

The first big secret to living a truly godly life is to do what Jesus said. He wasn't making any of it up. And He never said we're allowed to change or adapt His few simple rules to make them "make more sense", or because we're "smarter" or "more enlightened" now than people were 2,000 years ago. He just said "Do it, and I'll know you're Mine."

The second big secret to living a truly godly life is continually purging all the made-up human crapola that's been added by Christian leaders to what we think is "normal", and cemented on by their followers for that last 1,900 years. You spiritually hungry? Tired? You want meat and vegetables? A decent roof over your too-human head? Then stop eating the dirt and poo your fellow human beings brought forth out of their own dark hearts and messed up lives, and get into the Jesus Diner, where the Bread of Life never runs out, and the Water of Life fills the pool of the free mansion out back.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What do real leaders look like?

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open." - Corrie ten Boom (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983)

It can be very confusing and even scary. There's just so much poor and false leadership among those who call themselves "Christian" today. It's very easy - as Jesus warned it would be - to end up on the wide path to destruction, instead of the narrow path that actually leads to God and life.

So where do we find people who've done it right?

Well, one of the leaders I've learned most from is a woman who never would have called herself a leader, and who never had any intention of becoming a well-known anything (though I'm sure she would have loved being known in her local community as a really good watch repairer).

I never met Corrie ten Boom. In fact, when she died in 1983 I was a young lesbian still in deep hurt and hatred of all things Christian, having been chased away from God by those who were claiming most loudly to be His best (and often only) representatives.

I wonder if I'd been able to meet Corrie before she went to the Lord, would I have been spared another 15-20 years of struggling to find out that God had nothing to do with the rejection I'd been dealt, and that being a follower of Jesus actually did mean something good (and not something vile and hate-filed, as I'd been taught)?

Truly, God only knows. And although those were horribly painful years, I don't regret them. I learned as Corrie learned: the pain in our lives can come from outside evil, or from within ourselves, but neither of them is God's real way. What is God's real way?

That's the other thing that Corrie ten Boom can show us so very well.

Corrie grew up Christian in the Netherlands, and was in her middle life when the Nazi's took over her country. She and her family soon were hiding and helping Jews escape, stealing and making food ration cards to feed their charges, all while continuing to work their family business. All until they were found out and taken by the Nazis, first to prison (where her elderly father died), and then she and her sister to the horrible Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. There, her sister died and Corrie was spared death only on a technical error (so the world would say!).

And it was in the midst of all this pain that Corrie learned about the real Jesus, and about allowing Him into her heart and strength to do the things she could not do under her own power.

What things? Well, things like:
  • Risking all she had -- even her beloved family and ability to make a living that fed her family - to stand up against what was wrong. 
  • Surviving horrible evil that beat, starved, reviled, and killed her family (a sister right before her eyes), when so few were able to. And,
  • After the war and being released, actually shaking the hand and forgiving one of the camp guards who'd done all this to her, releasing her worldly right to hate and perhaps even hurt this man (she later wrote of that experience, "For a long moment we grasped each others' hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.")
See, one of the things I appreciate most about Corrie ten Boom is that she is a real Christian hero. She's also a real Christian leader. She was confronted by evil and pain the likes of which most of us reading this post will never know, and she did things wrong. She hated. She failed her Lord over and over again.She was just as human as all the rest of us.

But then she allowed Jesus to heal her. She allowed Jesus to teach her. She allowed Jesus to correct her day after day after day, again and again and again until there was so much of Jesus in Corrie ten Boom that few could walk away from even a conversation with her without knowing the depths of Jesus' love for them. She brought untold numbers of people to Jesus - both in the camp and later throughout the world - not because she helped them learn the prayer that would get them a new car, or pay off their bills, or even to have a happy family or strong nation. Not because she got them hooked on her own church. Not because she zoomed them up each Sunday so they'd have enough spiritual zip to make it to the next Sunday "hit".

No, Corrie ten Boom was truly the hands, eyes, feet, mouth, and heart of Jesus in this world because she gave people Jesus - just Jesus.

If you haven't checked Corrie ten Boom out, I invite you to do so. If you think you've learned all you can from her life, I invite you to take a new look. Jesus never stops teaching through the example of those who are real leaders in His real church.

Here are some things to check out:

Her life:

Her books (note that a lot of these can be found at the library or in used book stores - I list links only so you can see more about them):
 Other stuff: 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Real shepherds really repent

Recently a large group of Gay Christian church leaders of a certain "brand" (not named for privacy, but it’s a familiar kind of modern Christianity I'm referring to here) invited a number of us here locally to take part in its newest venture. They're attempting to build a new worship community, and offering all the things that normally attract people to church (even to the "unchurch" they say they're making this time).

Funny thing is, despite there being hundreds of spiritually hungry Gay Christians of this "brand" here (just that I know of), these church leaders are failing miserably even to come together amongst themselves, much less to attract other so-called "laity" to their endeavor.

How can that be?

Over the last three decades, these church leaders – counting themselves and each other "apostles", "pastors", "evangelists", "prophets", "worship leaders", and more – have, sometimes together and sometimes by themselves, run dozens of church groups. Most were in some kind of straight ministry for more years or decades before that. So, they more than know how to build and lead religious organizations.

Problem is, they don't know how to live as part of Jesus' church.

Like most of us, these church leaders' spiritual training began early in the legalistic, self-righteous, self-serving God-clubs that call themselves "Bible-based churches".

Like most of us, they absorbed translations of God's Word that twisted His meaning, ignored context, and only lived by certain Scriptures (while claiming to cling to all of it).
And like most of us, they learned how to be "church" and "church leaders" based on this false Christian, only-living-(a sorta)-Jesus-on-the-surface world.

The problem with all that is obvious. Especially for those who want to be church leaders, as they learn to:
  • Continually sing praises to and ask God for His healing,
  • but consume human filth,
  • become spiritually sick,
  • and then go out and convince others to also consume human-filth
  • while praising God and asking for His healing.
People in this kind of muck soon start thinking evil things are "normal" and "biblical". They start finding ways to ignore or justify things like lying, cheating, power-tripping, sleeping around, hurting and killing people, misrepresenting God for their own benefit, failing to speak up for Jesus' real way if it would cost them something, attacking and monitoring others for sin instead of oneself, and more.

And that's what these church leaders have demonstrated in too much of their "ministry" and "churches" in the last decades. And worse, they've yet to repent of any of it, which means that, whatever their intentions today – and it's a good bet that each and every one of them counts themselves as loving, godly Christiansthey are just as dangerous and anti-Christ now as they were before.

Jesus referred to this kind of fake God-living when He said:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one new convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
This kind of "Christianity" has been mainstream for 1,900 years, starting when the Greek "saints" first began reinventing God's Word so it "made more sense" and was "better" than what Jesus and the first disciples taught. This more-human-and-less-real-Jesus "Christianity" rooted and branched out from there, so that through the centuries and even today all kinds of religious and secular "scholars", both Bible- and tradition-based, have continued to "improve" God's Word and His way so much that it really reeks.

And many of us – especially our leaders – are still up to our eyeballs in it.

But hey, if we've grown up in a vat of muck, we can't help having absorbed it into every pore of our body, right? And we probably can't be blamed for thinking that's the only right way to be a disciple of Jesus, since we've never seen anything else, right?


But if we're going to be a real follower of Jesus, and especially if we're going to claim to be one of His shepherds, we've got to get out of that filthy vat and let the Holy Spirit hose us off in the yard before finding ourselves a hot bath with a lot of real-Jesus soap, somewhere else.  

And that's what these, and too many other church leaders, fail to do.
Instead, like worldly leaders, they press for more limelight, more power, more gain, while refusing more and more accountability and openness. They do this again, and again, and again, all in the Name of the Lord.

That's what makes them not worth following – because that proves them to be false leaders.

Today, it really doesn't matter how much these local or any church leaders want to create a new worship community. It doesn't matter how deeply in their hearts they feel a "call" to do so. Until they clean up and correct the messes they've already made in their own hearts and in the lives of others, they are false prophets and anti-Christs, faking the love and miracles of God without producing the Real Thing.

And they aren't to be followed or heeded by any who love and obey Jesus.

Some will hate them for their falseness. Before God healed my heart now years ago, I certainly held my share of hatred toward false Christian leaders that hurt me growing up. And since false Christian leadership has been one of the biggest causes of personal and world suffering the world has ever know, it's easy to see why they're so easy to hate.

But hating isn't the answer. Not only because as Christians we are forbidden to hate, but also because hating them means denying that God will wants these people in His (REAL) kingdom – if they will only choose to let go of their sins and come.

As for so many things, love (even of those who make themselves our enemy) and prayer (even for those who don't "deserve" it) are the answers here:
  • Love of those who have sinned and need deep repentance – just as so many of us deeply sin in our own ways.
  • Prayer for those who think they have the real Jesus and the real Holy Spirit, but do not – so that they will not be fooled into thinking their "good works" in His name will be enough to get them into heaven.
This week, I'm praying:
  • That false leaders will find their false-humility and selfish vision as repulsive to them as it is to those they've hurt – and to God.
  • That those who've been injured by false teaching will come to recognize how different it is from the real Jesus. 
  • And that those that I've hurt and mislead in my own life will be revealed to me, so that I can also repent of and correct the wrongs that I've committed.
In Jesus' Name – Amen!