Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What does it take to actually "get" the real Jesus?

[Here are the scriptures I'm referencing today].

I'm continuing chronologically through the Gospels, and I'm asking this week:
Who is Jesus, really? And what does it mean to recognize and to accept Him?
I see, for example, that the first thing the apostle John tells us is that Jesus is God – our Creator, our Life, our Light. But John didn't start off instinctively knowing Jesus is God any more than we can or could. So he's sharing here wisdom he'd already spent some time learning not information he understood from the start.

And that's something we all have in common with the apostle John: knowing instinctively who Jesus really is just doesn't happen, even among people raised to be God's People. John tells us that when Jesus came He was God Himself in human flesh, working next to other people, talking with other people, teaching other people – and still almost no one on the whole planet understood, much less recognized Him. Even worse, when God Himself even walked among them, almost no one among those who counted themselves as HIS PEOPLE (even THE BEST OF His People) accepted Him even as a good teacher, much less as God.

And that's all still so true of today that it stinks. Which means our lives – even/especially our "Good Christian" lives – can stink, until we ourselves actually recognize and accept the real Jesus for who He really is.

So, how goes recognizing and accepting the real Jesus start? How does the Bible show us how to start – and how not to start – recognizing and accepting God alive among us?

Reading this week, first we see God recognizing Jesus, and sharing His Spirit. In our process here, that's kind of "cheating", to recognize yourself, but it was mightily important to the people of that day, who had to understand that while God hadn't physically walked among them before, He was not only doing it now but also pleased with, recognizing, and putting His stamp of approval on the result. And that's cool. Anything "spiritual" or "godly" or "church-approved" or "tradition-approved" that doesn't actually show God's stamp of approval is either demonic or human garbage. Might be pretty, but I wouldn't put it in your mouth.

Second one to show is John the Baptist – that filthy church-rejecter we met in earlier parts of the Gospel story (and talked a bit more about in an earlier post).

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, and John balked. Was that because he fully recognized Jesus was God? It's not certain here, but it is certain that John already knew that Jesus was something the likes of which no human being (except Moses, Eve, and Adam) had ever laid eyes on before. Maybe we should give John the Baptist at least a half-point here, because at the very least he saw:
  • Jesus received the Spirit of God and was announced by God as having His stamp of approval,
  • Jesus had a natural power and place that made him a piece of nothing by comparison, 
  • Jesus was the one who was going to be sacrificed for the sins of the world and,
  • Jesus was the Son of God.
Did John the Baptist fully comprehend at this early stage exactly and completely what all that actually meant or would mean? Various opinions could be justified answering that. But we do know from the Bible that John had and got a greater spiritual understanding from his birth (remember God's plan for him was to show up just before and announce the Messiah's arrival), but more important to us and what we can learn from John the Baptist for our own lives is that he stayed with God's truth – and not the truth of the organized religion he was born part of. God granted an extra measure of understanding to John the Baptist, and then John remained outside of everything (spiritually, physically, etc) that might have clouded or turned his understanding.

Do we do that, in our lives? When God grants us an extra measure of His truth, do we do whatever it takes to stay true to it? Or do we say we're sticking with God's truth, when we're actually sticking with the too-human "truth" of fake Christianity and the goodies it delivers us in this world?

Third person to show up recognizing Jesus? Satan. But we can say "recognizing", yes – but not truly understanding. We'd have to say that the devil doesn't truly understand God at all, or he'd have never gone off and decided to work up all the problems he's created since even before he messed up Eve and Adam. And he certainly wouldn't have tried to tempt Jesus into giving up the human race, the love of His life, for a few pieces of the kinds of crap the rest of us fall for over and over again ("for the good of the church / family / world!", of course).

In what ways do we (me, you, everyone) get in God's face and then act like the devil? How much "good"-evil has been done in the last thousands of years by "Good Religious People" (including Christians, though, as my fundamentalist grandmother used to say, "being Christian means you should know better more than anyone else")? How often do we recognize Jesus, sure, but we don't understand Him or what He's all about enough to not hurt our kid, much less not drive thousands of people to suicide or murder millions in war, all in "God's" name?

Next people to notice Jesus were all the Good Religious People in Israel, who marched right out with the best of everything they had to offer in offerings and worship, led by the Good Religious Leaders.


The Good Religious People – including the Good Religious Leaders – didn't start to notice Jesus until He started torquing them off by not being impressed with them, and by teaching God's truth in ways that didn't benefit them personally. But we'll get to them later, when they do in fact start showing up as being important at all to any part of the Gospel story.

So, the next people who really did start paying attention to Jesus? At least two of them were originally disciples of John the Baptist, and noticed Jesus because John the Baptist gave them an intriguing hint about who Jesus was. Because they were John the Baptist's disciples, we can tell they were dissatisfied with what passed for orthodoxy in those days, and they were hungry for what they sensed of God's REAL truth elsewhere – but where?

What about you? Ever been told there's something wrong with you or your spiritual wandering, if you're dissatisfied with the religious gruel ("but it has SPRINKLES!!!") being offered by "official" church each week? Ever ponder how many of the people Jesus met who were also wanderers, also malcontents? In fact, the only people who ever met the real Jesus Christ "in church" only met Him because HE was just wandering through – and they had to follow Him outside, if they intended to stick with Him.
Next were people who started meeting Jesus through people who'd met Jesus and been impressed that here was someone different, someone special – someone their guts told them matched what God had promised to send: the Messiah. The Savior of the World.
How many people would have gotten to meet the real Jesus if others hadn't shared Him with them? How often do you share Jesus with those in your life who either haven't met Him at all, or who've only been taught the cardboard, McDonald's version of Him?

Among all these people, though (except for perhaps John the Baptist), none of them truly understood the full reality of who Jesus really was. They recognized and understood some of what He was, but they had to keep learning, and casting off old religious beliefs that proved to be human-nonsense, the whole time Jesus was on earth (all the way to His resurrection, in fact!). Then, in truth, very, very few of the many tens of thousands who met God on earth face to face and heard Him speak actually managed to stick with Him and His truth, the whole way.

We're like that too. We'll eagerly go with Jesus and His way – but only to the point where we would have to give up our "pastor"-entitlements, or where we would have to let go of some family, or where we might have to choose truly loving instead of hurting back, or where we might have to fly as a solo-Christian until such time as we met others like us, and so on. Almost inevitably, when we reach that point we turn right back around. Like 99% of people who met Jesus Christ in the flesh, we decide on some level that He asks too much, and then we go back to the human organizations made up of and run by others who've also decided He asks too much. We enjoy their company and the assurances of their re-make of Jesus' original truth - and we congratulate ourselves all the way to hell on what great Christians we are, and on how much we love the Lord.

But we don't have to be like that. In fact, we don't even have to be perfect in our sticking with Jesus and just Jesus. The Bible shows us that even from the start Jesus' disciples never, ever got anything totally right. In fact, until the very end, after a long haul and a lot of spiritual personal and world-battles, they never truly understood all of who God is, or recognized or accepted Him for who He is.

And that's a comfort we can take from the Bible and its stories about the first people to believe in Jesus Christ:  
We don't have to be perfect; we just have to be making a sincere effort in Jesus' way of doing things.
Do that, and, just like the first disciples, we eventually learn that God takes care of the rest.

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No, what are these earthquakes REALLY all about?

[These are the scriptures I'm referencing this week]

I had planned to just continue through the Gospels this week, right where we left off. But then big news about the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disasters unfolding in Japan this week.

Add to that the proclamations from some "good religious people" and their leaders that all these kinds of things are warnings from God, meant – of course! – to make us understand that God is as asinine as these "good religious people" make Him out to be.

What a mess. 

And it can really make us wonder which is scarier:
  • the huge natural disasters, 
  • the human-science-made nuclear/biological/chemical/etc disasters-in-the-making, or 
  • the religious human beings of both "Right" and "Left" who are determined to "help" us get our minds through all this.
Amazingly scary. But not amazingly scary, at the same time, when we have a grip on what the bigger picture is.

Which – it turns out – actually leads me right back to where I was going to be in the Bible anyway. Amazing thing, that Big Picture, when we understand the Bible as:
  • guidance, and not slavery
  • comfort, and not coercion, and
  • companionship, and not domination.
In the last few posts, we've already gone through the very first parts of the Gospel chronology. We've seen how God planned for and got Jesus into the world of human beings -- in a way human beings couldn't screw it up, but also in ways that gave us big clues about what His real values are (and how far those invariably are even from the "good" people values of the "good religious people" around us).

This time, the Bible's talking about John the Baptist – the prophet-guy predicted about 700 years in advance by Isaiah (another prophet-guy) who said God was going to send someone ahead of Himself, someone to spout off and tell everyone it was time to clean up their act because God was about to step foot into the human arena. 

(If we really read this part of the Bible right, it OUGHT to give us shivers down our backs).

And that's exactly what John the Baptist did. In fact, he spent his whole time working for God doing two things:
  • Telling the good religious people of his day to stop choosing evil and faking godliness, and
  • Telling people that -- as impressed as they wanted to be with him -- that they should save all that for the One coming up next – the One who wouldn't baptize with measly water, like John did, but with the Spirit of God Himself.
Thing is, there's a kind of natural "John the Baptist" going around the world these days. This modern-day "John the Baptist" is today's earthquakes and tsunamis and wars and so on and so forth (all of which are predicted by Jesus and others in the Bible), and it's trying to do the same work that John the Baptist was, 2,000 years ago:
  • Warn everyone that it's way past time to stop choosing evil and faking Jesus, and
  • Tell everyone to hold on because the real Jesus is just around the corner.
That's one Bible-tie-in between what happened 2,000 years ago and what's happening now. We need to make sure we don't miss the other, as well:

To get there, think: Was John the Baptist always successful at getting people to see how anti-God they were? Absolutely not. He failed more often that not (if he hadn't, then the whole country of Israel would have been on their knees waiting for Jesus, instead of ignoring and later torturing and murdering Him), and he was pretty much guaranteed to completely fail among – whom? Which group of people? Why, the "good religious people", of course!

So, what did John have to share with us about them (and about us, too, if we aren't careful!)? Well, through what he said we can know:
  • Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to publicly partake of God's forgiveness because they thought themselves more than worthy of getting that godly-goodness and avoiding the pains of hell – but all their "good religious people" airs were just garbage, producing nothing that God gives two cents about. And that meant their "repentance" was as much garbage as all their religious ways and acts, too.
  • The Pharisees and Sadducees both assumed that their religious cultural background alone was enough to make them good enough for God – but they didn't realize God was already ready to cut all-show-no-production religious people off, and intended to do so shortly (and He did, when Jesus died on the Cross and canceled anyone ever finding God's forgiveness through what religious things they could do, instead of relying on God alone, ever again).
  • John was giving people the chance to do a human ritual that would match (hopefully) the repentance in their hearts – but even that was going to mean absolutely nothing when the Real Deal showed up and cleaned house, sweeping away even those who seem to be good but actually store evil in their hearts.
And, if you think about it, this is all pretty much what we also see today. 

For one thing, today's Pharisees we call "Right Wing Christians" and today's Sadducees we call "Left Wing Christians", and both are first in line at the religious trough, going on and on about their traditions and church-genealogies, letting everyone else know how "godly" and "spiritual" and "Jesus-like" they are. 

Yet nearly all "Christians" are there because they want to avoid hell for themselves, or because they like the social club that cultural Christianity is, or because they like the politics of their "church" and the idea that God votes like they do.

But they're not there because they actually have it in their hearts to repent of being spiritual anti-Christs and carriers of the disease of "Religion" into the Christian fellowship.

In fact, they speak a lot about personal repentance, and like you I've witnessed the tears and wailing that goes with it (and which probably convinces them too, unfortunately). But what results is almost always either nothing, or a changed life (no more sleeping around, no more doing drugs, no more skipping church, becoming a church leader, etc) – but never a changed heart (turning away from pursuing wealth, treating everyone exactly the same, putting everyone ahead of oneself, loving even those who hurt them, making people see more of Jesus than oneself, doing things Jesus' way even when it totally costs, etc).

And the "John the Baptist" earthquakes/etc today are telling Christians (who supposedly know the scriptures and who are therefore supposed to be first to figure it out) that it's way past time to stop faking it.

Time to stop putting up religious human acts (that God never asked for) upon religious human altars (that God did away with thousands of years ago) and expecting God to be as giggly-proud of our ridiculous crap as we are.

Time to stop, because the next thing to happen – whether next month, next decade, or next century – is Jesus Christ coming back to earth to give us the consequences of our heart's reality, and not to pamper and reward our self-centered, spiritual self-delusions.

So, are all these earthquakes and things stuff to be afraid of?

Well, afraid of getting physically caught in them, yes. Afraid for those others who get caught in them, yes. But afraid of their message? No. Not if we're draining the religion-goo out of our hearts, letting the Holy Spirit rinse us clean, and then refilling our insides with just Jesus!

Remember the second part of John's message! Yes, we need to get our hearts true. But alsoknow that the One who loves you more than anything else in the universe is the next thing to come. 

And when He comes? 
  • Had some pains? Not any more!  
  • Had some tears? Never again! 
  • Been overwhelmed? All done with that.
Jesus is coming, my sisters, my brothers, my friends.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are you needing some new beginnings?

(For this week's post, I've checked out these scriptures)

Thinking this last week about beginnings. New beginnings, to be exact - how they not only refresh and encourage us, but also teach and guide us, when we'll let them. 

Human beings had a beginning, of course, when God created that one person. Then human beings had another new beginning, when He split that one person into two different persons. Human beings, in fact, have had a huge number of new beginnings, and a good number of those are listed in the Bible, from Adam and Eve to the End Times.

But I'm thinking there was one new beginning that not only topped all those, but remains and will always be THE new beginning. And I'm talking, of course, about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth – the entry of God Himself into the world of human beings.

We don't know every detail about Jesus' beginning in the world. The ancient people just didn't count all the details we'd like to pour over as all that important, so they didn't record them. They gave us what was important to them – and, it turns out, even if they don't give us all the drama we might like, the details they did share about Jesus' new beginning turn out to be important to us, as well. 

Consider, for example, the new beginning of Jesus' conception. There's lots of stuff for us there, but one huge detail is that God made sure Jesus wasn't conceived from any sexual act. The Bible gives us a number of reasons and outright hints as to why (and it wasn't because sex is automatically bad).

Like, thousands of years earlier, God promised Eve that He would fix what she was first to break by bringing about The Fixer of the World through her. Eve, human being that she was, had to be feeling like crap right about then, having just been confronted with the consequences of letting herself be convinced it was actually ok to do the exact opposite of the simple thing God have told them to do (a sin human beings – especially religious human beings, and both female and male – have been continuing to commit with great joy and self-congratulation ever since). What would your reaction be, knowing you just shattered all the goodness of creation - but at least God would let you help make up for and fix it later? That had to be a comfort – especially for all women later, when men started the lie that only evil could come from women. Women who knew the truth of Scripture could answer back, "Huh! You trying to say Jesus Christ is evil?"

Which brings up another related detail regarding why God didn't use sex to bring Jesus into the world.  Can you imagine the ego rush that would have resulted if even one male – already convinced by his culture that he's better than females and children and animals and the natural world because he can dominate them – could tell everyone else that HE brought the Savior of the world into the world? God loves men as much as women, of course, and as part of Eve's punishment He did let men dominate women (until, that is, Jesus came and undid the curse-punishment of the Fall – something else oppressive male-worshiping theologies gloss right over). But God also obviously knew what kind of ego goes with the ability to dominate others, and He made sure that NO man could EVER boast that he had ANYthing to do with creating the Savior of the world. It was the only way to make sure God got the credit for saving us, but it also meant God gave #1 priority to being first-hand involved in a new beginning with all of us, and in a way that no human being (not even the ones dominating the others) could ever mess up.

And don't know about you, but the fact that God can punish us for totally screwing things up - and still trust and love us enough to invite us to be an active part of our solution - means there is no end of new beginnings for me, and you, and everyone else who'll just agree to let Him.

So, what about the new beginning of Jesus' birth? That's a new beginning story we get from the institutional-church every winter, so we might be tempted to run right over it when we get to that part of the Bible in our own study. But there are more new beginning details to be enjoyed here, as well – more joy even than we're usually offered by the "official" version.

For example, reading these stories did you catch that it was people (like the shepherds) looked down on by good-religious-people and people (like the magicians) banned from good-religious-people-spheres  who not only got the message that the Son of God was here, but who also showed up to recognize and celebrate Him as God and spread the word to all their reject and outsider friends? And what were the "good religious people" doing right then? Well, they were either ignoring the whole event (even through they had all the scholarship and education that should have made them first in line to welcome Him), or they were plotting to kill Him and everyone who might be Him off so they could keep their worldly place (something good-religious-people still do today, but usually with more subtlety and fewer swords). Jesus Himself would later describe a grand party God has planned – that all those He'd originally invited snubbed Him over. Jesus, it seemed, had seen and heard all that before - and those of us who've become so grossed out by the human "church" can take great comfort in that.

It also, to me, says everything about whose plans are really important in this world: 
  • the human ones, where certain people are drawn "in" and certain people are kept "out" based on what doctrine (or anti-doctrine) they obsess on, and what social clique their outward person (looks, wealth, race, sexual orientation, etc) shows; or 
  • the Jesus ones, where hearts matter more than mouths, and where getting a new beginning depends not one bit of a whit on anything human or "religious".
What about some new beginning in Jesus' blood line? Well, how much have we pondered that Matthew, one of Jesus' first disciples, proudly counted among Jesus' ancestors:
  • Tamar, a Hebrew woman who pretended to be a prostitute to trick her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she could gain a child, 
  • Rahab, a pagan prostitute who went over to God's side, and 
  • Ruth, a pagan woman so destitute she had to pick up leavings from other people's harvest fields. 
All three of these women got a new beginning when they reached out and did what they needed to do to get it. And it pleased God to make them part of Jesus Christ, even though by good-religious-people standards all three would be soundly rejected by "Christianity" (though some would allow them "in" once they'd remade themselves into good-religious-people look-alikes, so "the church" could feel righteous about the power of "its" "mission"). All of which should encourage those who still fear not being accepted or a part of a human "church". God chooses, and God elects - despite what good-religious-people decide.

There are many other new beginnings to see and understand, in these first stories and scriptures about Jesus coming into the world. When we'll let ourselves stop and sit with the scriptures for a time, they tell us buckets about who God is, what He wants us to understand about His values, and whose side He's on in this world.

They also offer us example upon example of how God truly is a God of endless new beginnings - certainly willing and able to make something good from whatever's bad in our lives, to open a new start where we find only dead end. 

Does that mean we'll have no pain, no loss, no sorrow here, when we follow Him? Nope. But we see that even in the first stories of Jesus, as well. The gift we're given is not forever life in Brainless La-La Land, but a life lived as all God's people have lived: with goods and bads, ups and downs, all with the Holy Spirit forever at and on our side, until Jesus comes again with His angels to take us Home.

And that will be the final new beginning we've all been waiting for.

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at