Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Religious People torque Jesus off

Ok, another Thursday – time to get back into Jesus' Good News.

As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels to find the real Jesus, here.

And the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you).

So last week we started to look at how Jesus sees religious rules, but to get there we first had to see even more clearly how He sees religious people – and how they see Him. Let's go on from there into the next stories!

Out with the old, in with the new

People asked Jesus about fasting. Lots of religious groups (Christian and not) fast even today for various reasons. People back then wanted to know why John the Baptist's followers fasted, and the Good Religious People's followers fasted, but Jesus' followers didn't. Jesus gave them two pieces of information, in response.

For one thing, while He didn't say fasting was wrong, He did point out that the timing of their fasting was off. John the Baptist's followers and the Good Religious People's followers acted like it was time to mourn – but God Himself was standing right there with them, walking among them, talking face to face with them, and actively at work to save them at that moment! How in the world could anyone believe it was time to do anything but celebrate!

But He also gave them what we think of as one of the more famous parables – the one about old and new wineskins, and old and new cloth. In a nutshell, He said:
  • If you try to attach something new to something old, it's not only not going to work, it's also going to destroy your efforts at both.
  • Instead, keep the new with new, and you'll get the results you're after.

What's all this about? Well, when folks questioned Jesus about fasting, they were really asking Him why His people didn't follow the local religious rules their religious culture said would please God (and their own religious natures). Their heads were still stuck in the old way of religion (which in the case of fasting means religiously denying oneself pleasures and even basic sustenance to prove to God you or your people were worthy enough to be forgiven your sins and be thought more highly of).

But God was at that moment declaring a new way – a new way that can't be used or combined with the old religious way any more than oil can naturally be combined with water. And Jesus was telling them "Hey, it's time to let go that old religious stuff. Just toss is all away, because you can't have that old religious stuff and My new way, at the same time."

But Jesus also told them something else, didn't He? Yep. He also pointed out that most people, once they've tasted the old religious way, won't let go of it. They won't ever decide that the new is better than the old. It was a signpost warning to those willing to see it: "If you're still thinking the old religious way is better – look out!"

Jesus said that while He was on earth, His followers wouldn't fast – but that after He left and it was appropriate, they would. Since forgiveness through Jesus Christ requires nothing more than asking for it and trusting His ways, do you imagine a time or circumstances in your life when fasting might be appropriate? Why would it be then? What would you hope to accomplish? Would that accomplishment be part of the old religious way of getting yourself right with God (and therefore destructive to your spiritual nature), or part of Jesus' new way (and therefore healing and glorifying to God)?

Nearly all the "churches" of today (and the last nineteen centuries), and all the "Christian" religious organizations (denominations, etc) have been nothing more than trying to combine Jesus' new way with the old religious way Jesus cancelled and forbids. How has your own journey with Jesus been blocked or even abandoned because of these religious roadblocks? What can you start doing today that will get you back on track with Jesus' way?

The old religious ways are so tempting! And once we get caught in them, they are like meth to an addict. We never run out of excuses for why we "need" them, and B.S. about how "good" they are for us, and so on – even when we realize it's killing us and/or we hate it. In fact, most people today who want to find and follow the real Jesus have to spend more of their efforts ridding themselves of religious addiction than anything else. What are the ways you are still addicted to religious old ways – still thinking "The old is better" than Jesus' new way?

Only God gets to decide God's rules

Next we see the Good Religious People condemning Jesus' followers because they were breaking God's Sabbath rules against doing work – hungry, they were picking grain heads as they walked and eating them.

Did Jesus agree with the Good Religious People? He should have, right? Since He was sinless, and since He knew the religious laws of God better than anyone else, He should have zapped His followers right them and there, right?

Nope. Jesus answered the Good Religious People by pointing out a time even within their own religious history when people broke God's rules but were declared innocent because of the circumstances and their hearts. And that's something even their Good Religious People ancestors had missed, even though God said it outright to them again and again in the Old Testament: hearts count more than rules; people's needs come before rules.

In other words, God demands not only that His people's hearts be about mercy and not about religion, but also that they use their brains in figuring out when its ok to "break" God's rules in order to KEEP God's rules.

The Good Religious People had also missed something else Jesus pointed out:

GOD decides how and even when His rules will apply or be enforced – NOT Good Religious People.

We know that the Bible says liars break God's rules – but what about people in WWII who lied to hide Jews from the Nazis? What about people today who smuggle Bibles into countries whose governments forbid them, so that Christians there can learn and take comfort in Jesus' Good News? Can you imagine that God condemns someone who's hungry and steals food to feed themselves or their family? Can you imagine ways you perhaps have broken God's rules (either in the Old Testament or the New Testament) in your life – and yet truly God declares you innocent?

Good Religious People today are just as bad as they were 2,000 years ago, when it comes to making religious rules a higher priority than mercy – and then trumpeting to the world how "extra pleasing" they are (they think) to God. How in your own life have you put what you imagined as "God's rules" on a higher level than acting out of God's mercy? How have others done that to you?

Is it really YOU who makes Jesus mad?

Next we read a story of Jesus Himself actually, technically breaking one of God's rules – this time by healing a man with a bad hand on the Sabbath.

By this time we also see that the Good Religious People have had it with Him. They're now actually monitoring Jesus to see if they can catch Him breaking a religious law so they can get Him in big trouble with the religious authorities (who could have Jesus punished severely). Jesus knows what they're doing – and He does what He's going to do anyway. In fact, Jesus called the man up before everyone, so nothing He did was "secret" or hidden in any way. He then asks some teaching-questions to those present, giving the Good Religious People a chance to figure out the God-answer to their own accusation.

And when the Good Religious People refused to budge from their religious hearts, Jesus got mad at them. And not even just p.o.'d, like we'd be. Jesus also felt heart-distress because they were so stubborn, refusing God's salvation and clinging instead to their sin of religion. It BOTHERED Jesus that they were refusing to save themselves by opening up to God's truth. But their B.S. didn't stop Jesus or His demonstration not only of God's power to heal, but also God's power to define how His rules would be interpreted and when they would be enforced. Since they wouldn't come along with everyone else, Jesus kept right on going without them.

The Good Religious People's response? They went out and joined forces with the local political forces so they could plan out a way to kill Jesus.

If Jesus Himself broke one of "God's" rules, is it even God's rule anymore? How does that work in your life?

Good Religious People have never changed. They plotted and connived 2,000 years ago to punish and even kill those who either didn't live by their interpretation of God's rules, or who actively demonstrated how wrong they are in how they interpret God's rules – and they do so even today. How many women, poor people, Gays, and so on are turned out of "church" or forced into self-loathing by "Christians" who are "just following God's rules" and "protecting" the Gospel from the "heresy" of believing that God's place for women is equal to men, the poor will get into heaven far ahead of anyone with money, Gays aren't condemned by God, etc? If you have been a Good Religious Person in your life, how many Gay suicides has God added to your list of anti-Christ acts in your life? How much lost potential will God keep on your list of sins because you blocked women from doing what the Holy Spirit led them to do? Think God will forgive you of these sins too? Only when you sincerely repent of them – will you actually DO that?

Another thing that's never changed: it's Good Religious People who earn Jesus' anger, and not the basic sinners of the world. Will sinners who aren't Good Religious People also earn hell? Sure, if they've earned it by refusing God's way and persistently choosing evil instead. But it's the Good Religious People who torqued God off in the Old Testament, who torqued God off in the New Testament, and who torque God off even today. Why? Because they aren't just sinners – they're active agents for the devil, disguised as angels of God's light. They trick people into believing lies about who God is and what He wants, and they stand in His light, getting people to associate them with God even though they actually reject Him by their behavior and evil hearts. How have Good Religious People tricked you into believing incorrect things about God? What ways do you still need to remove their influence from your life?

Good Religious People today often hide behind "love" and "gentleness", pretending to be about Jesus when actually they're about their own religious ways. They convince themselves and others that they are "better than" the Good Religious People who preach hate and force – and yet they still act out of their own religious combination of Jesus' way (new wineskin) with the age-old human religion way (old wineskin) – and in shows in their lives of devotion to their "church" or denomination, or to certain human leaders, or even to ways of living that are nice but have little in common with the God-first values of Jesus. Who are the "Good" Good Religious People in your life? How are they twisting your vision toward their version of religion, and still away from Jesus?

See you next week!

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can always contact me (Lynne) at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jesus will leave Good Religious People behind

Wow! Thursday again already! Time for more of Jesus' Gospels, in our chronological trek through the Good News that's REALLY good news!

As always, our past Gospel studies can be found here under the "Gospels" tag.

Our scriptures to read for this study are located here.

This week, we'll be starting to look at what Jesus thought of religious rules and religious lifestyles. The Good Religious People who worship in "Christian" "churches" and spend their spiritual energies creating and feeding religious human organizations have spent nearly 2,000 years telling us that being a follower of and loving Jesus Christ means rules (even those who claim to only be about "love" and not rules still have rules like "you owe us coming to our 'church' and putting money in our till/collection plate"). But does Jesus go along with that? How or how not?

I had intended to cover several stories, but the first one here has a lot of info that's very foundational to understanding the real Jesus. So I will just do this one today, and the others next week.

So - First, we get to read what happened when Jesus called a man named Matthew (also called Levi) to follow him, and Matthew responded. Lots going on in this story!

The most obvious thing is that Matthew made his living by tax collecting. That meant he was a Jew who made other Jews cough up not only what big taxes their Roman occupiers required, but also what he decided to add on top of that for his "fee" (all of which was perfectly legal and standard practice in conquered nations under the Roman Empire). And he did get to decide to add whatever he liked on top. It's not hard to figure out why such tax collectors were always well off financially (something our culture, which says anything that's profitable is good, and anything highly profitable is better, even when it hurts others or causes damage).

But the Gospels tell us that Matthew walked away from all of that. Did he do so because he had a new political awakening or through Jesus now understood the oppressive nature of The System? Nope. He did so because his heart sensed something incredibly awesome in the man who simply said "Follow Me" – and Matthew followed his heart. Now, the Gospels don't say, but it's a good guess that Matthew was already at least somewhat unhappy in his current life. He was making good money, yes, and enjoying all the material goodies that always come from that, yes. But even today those of us who've made good money in our lives, but whose hearts have still (perhaps only secretly) sensed something big still missing, find an easier time responding to Jesus' call than those who are happy with what the world has to offer. We'll see Jesus comment on that more than once, in future studies.

If you're reading this blog, it's likely that your own heart isn't really happy with what the world (which includes the religious world) has to offer. Your heart may pretend to be satisfied to everyone else, but inside? Ugh! Not so good. Or it might even pretend to be satisfied to you too, but then you find you're never finally happy with things. Always have to have or try something new. New car. New house. New phone. New 'church'. New religion. Even new people. And on and on and on. And those things do seem to "work" for a time, don't they? But then that "unfilled" feeling comes back again. What a pain!

Thing is, all those things (including all those religious things) are just more creations of human hands. Even when they are "religious" they are still external to your heart. When those like Matthew sense God, though, that's finally the internal answer to their internal yearning.

In what ways have you worked in your life to fill your internal heart yearning with external things? What are ways you pay attention to or ignore your heart that would help you hear or block you from hearing Jesus' call to follow Him?

But what else is going on in this story? Well, we see more accusations and judgment against Jesus by Good Religious People. Why this time? Because Jesus was breaking one of the first big religious rules Good Religious People ever created (and have always loved to live by):
"Don't tarnish yourself (or your daily living or your family or your 'church' or whatever) with sinners and other people you're superior to (which includes anyone you hate)."
Matthew used his money and opened his home in celebration, welcoming Jesus into his life and introducing Him to a huge crowd of his friends and neighbors at a big dinner party – he invited and celebrated Jesus all within the realm of his every-day life. It's doubtful he knew it at the time, but Matthew was already spreading the Good News – being an evangelist – wasn't he?

What would the Good Religious People have done, though? Well, even if they had thought highly of Jesus (hah!), they would have hidden Him away in their own religious establishments and homes, "safe" from having the sin and nonconformity of those they were "superior" to rub itself in His / their lives. They would have "proved" how much respect and admiration they had for Him by making sure only people as "righteous" as they were had full access to Him – just like Good Religious People do even today, pretending they can lock up God's truth within their "churches" and denominations and magisteriums and elder councils, so God's truth is "safe" from other people (even other Good Religious People) who aren't like them. 

Should I even bother to ask which way of welcoming Jesus and caring for and about the Gospel is not only the way Jesus wants it, but also the way that actually works (meaning, it actually spreads Jesus' Good News and not just one or another brand of religious human ideas about Jesus' Good News?) Once again, despite the assertions and traditions of even highly educated and scholarly Good Religious People, the Bible itself tells us the real answer!

But I will ask this: what ways have you messed up, trying to keep Jesus and the Gospel "safe" from the taint of sinners and even your own every-day living? And if you thought yourself doing "better" than that in "your" street and related ministries because you don't use the traditional "church" doo-dads and words and such, how often do you check to make sure you aren't just pushing out old ways of keeping the Gospel your own until folks believe the way you do or understand "enough" for you, and so on? How do you make sure you aren't selling the same old religious crap with a pride-filled, modern "hipster" sheen on it, like the "Emergent", "House Church", and related "movements" of today? 

Ok – what else is there in this story? One more big thing – in fact, possibly the biggest thing on this story.

What's funny (but not in a ha-ha way) is that Good Religious People like to see this last thing as if it was a good thing for them – instead of a huge condemnation of them that should send them shuddering in tears, crashing to their knees, begging God to forgive this huge sin.

But that's actually Jesus' whole point, spoken (as if often was) straight to the people who would always refuse to hear it, for the benefit of the sinners and rejects who would realize and take comfort from what He was saying.

So let's look at it. All three Gospel writers tell it basically the same, though Matthew (yes, the same Matthew who had been a tax collector) remembered an extra line so I'll re-quote his here (see the scripturesfor today again, to see what little difference there really is between the three):
Jesus to the Good Religious People: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Now, to the standard religious ear – and to the ear of those who've been taught to interpret the Bible according to standard religious human ideas of the Bible – that's pretty straightforward. They think it means God sees righteous people (and that means Good Religious People, of course) as spiritually healthy and not needing fixing – but those sinner people (meaning everyone else) need to get their sick act together and start also being Good Religious People for God!

Is that right? Not on your life!

One thing to know about Jesus is that He often said things that force us to think outside the world and religious boxes to "get" His truth. Why? Because we all live in a huge fog of human ideas of all kinds (religious, but also scientific, cultural, family, etc etc etc) all around us all the time, from birth to death, and it's very rare that we ever realize these things are just human ideas unless something occurs that snaps us out of that brain-fog and into alertness and clarity of heart-vision. That's why simply taking the Bible literally (instead of taking the Bible's MEANING literally) is always a huge disaster (and a real treat to the devil). If we don't get His real meaning, we're like people who hear a joke but instead of "getting" it we take it seriously. Just to make the point, consider this example – if I tell this joke, which person actually "gets" my intended meaning?

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road halfway?
A: She wanted to lay it on the line.
  • Person A: (laughter – or possibly laughing and booing :-) )
  • Person B: "Well, it's very dangerous for any animal to be allowed to get into any road. If there was a lot of traffic she would lay her life on the line, for sure, but not for any good cause! Someone should make that chicken's owner be more responsible! And you know that chickens often just lay their eggs wherever they happen to be, so of course there's going to be a big egg mess if they're let out into the road like that. That also creates a health hazard, having that all food all over the road, rotting in the sun..." (and so on)
Obviously both people are processing the joke's information through their brains – but only Person A truly understood what was communicated. Person B might even be someone who's spent years getting several PhDs in chickology – but truly, Person B hasn't understood a darn thing.

That's exactly how it is with Good Religious People who sincerely believe they "get" His intended meaning better than anyone else – when actually they understand little to nothing (while even someone uneducated and illiterate could "get" it and laugh along with the Lord.)

So back to what Jesus said about the healthy and the sick and so on. The Good Religious People who were cranking on Him obviously imagined themselves the cream of God's crop and as the only people God had anything to do with or would call. But to their attitude Jesus answered:
  • Those who are "healthy" like Good Religious People are don't have any sense of their need for God. Only "sick" sinners need God.
  • Good Religious People need to spend their study time on a new lesson: God wants the good that comes from a heart, and not participation in religious rituals (even ones He previously said people should do).
  • Jesus isn't for people who are already "righteous" like Good Religious People – they don't believe they need His cleaning up for heaven. But He is for "sinners" who do need and want a clean-up, making sure they're ready for heaven.
This is a message Jesus delivers to Good Religious People time and time again (sometimes even very bluntly) in the Gospels. So, what's Jesus' real meaning here? And is it likely the Good Religious People He spoke to "got" it?

Obviously everyone is actually a sinner - including Good Religious People. Most of the Bible is documented evidence of just how sinful everyone - often especially but still always Good Religious People - are. But even outside the Bible, to know this all we have to do is look at the likes of the so-called "Family Research Council" and Roman Church to see how hideously, painfully sinful Good Religious People are.

But Good Religious People have various ways of convincing themselves (if not us) that even though they are "technically" sinners they are actually really righteous. So the Good Religious People of 2,000 years ago would go make sacrifices at the temple to "prove" how "repentant" (but really "righteous") they were, and through the centuries other Good Religious People have done their own version of that. Today evangelicals, for example, like to feel secure in the idea that they are heaven-bound by the blood of Jesus no matter what they do, and roman catholics like to feel secure in the idea that if they kneel before another human being and repeat assigned rote prayers they are heaven-bound - even when both groups wrap their lives and hearts around slaughtering other "evil" people in war, spiritually abusing Gays and woman, protecting "clergy" even when they sexually assault children and deceive "their" flock, and twisting the Gospel to match their own spiritual wickedness. Even though Jesus and the Bible says it's only the heart that allows the real Holy Spirit (not the one the devil fakes so well) to shine through into one's every-day living that's going to heaven – and that Holy-Spirit heart only happens after a sincere (and repeated) desire to flush the selfish and materialistic and power-based crap from one's heart so there's room for Jesus' way, instead.

So, what happens if someone's so sick they think they don't need medicine, and they refuse the healer's help? And what happens if someone does that for so long the healer doesn't bother with them anymore, since there are others who need healing who do want to get well?

Jesus' point to the Good Religious People that day was basically this: "You think you don't need God, so you don't get God. You think you know what God wants, but you need to rethink your entire approach because you're totally off base. I'm not here for you who want that version of God or Messiah who fits within the human religion you've created - I'm only here for people who really want (real) Me and good even a trillionth as much as I want them."

And that's what should have staggered the Good Religious People that day: God so close – standing right there! – and yet walking away from them. And that, my friends, is called "hell".

So what about you? How have you missed Jesus' intended meaning in your life? When was that because you had been taught to miss it, and when was it because you just preferred to miss it (we all have lots of both!) What liberation and freedom comes to you and your life when you start to really "get" Jesus' message? Are you freed finally from being a Good Religious Person? Or freed from the ungodly mind- and heart-traps Good Religious People lay for everyone else? Perhaps freed from both?

Good Religious People tell us constantly how in danger of hell-fire the rest of us are. I still remember seeing a Good Religious Man standing outside a Gay Pride event in downtown Portland in 1980, carrying a huge sign that said, "Turn or burn!". Now, truly, I'm sure there were many Gay people there that day who needed to turn their hearts away from evil and towards God – just as there were many straight people in the big outdoor market next door who needed to do the same (in other words, their sexual orientation had nothing to do with it). But according to the Bible who was truly most in jeopardy of hell-fire that day – the Gay "sinners" who still might hear the real Jesus (if they only stopped listening to Good Religious People), or the "righteous" man who screamed judgment at them?

Jesus already knew the Good Religious People there that day weren't really going to listen to Him (only a tiny few ever did), but the "sinners" and other "rejects" around Him also got to hear what Jesus (and therefore God, once they later realized Jesus was God) actually thought about the so-called "righteousness" of the Good Religious People. They got to see how completely unimpressed He was with them, and how small He considered the chances of the "righteous" to get God, while He obviously believed wholeheartedly in how spiritually productive "sinners" could be. What does it mean to your life to know that Jesus not only spends nearly all His time with "sinners" and "rejects", but also makes sure they can see He's not part of the Good Religious People crowd or their way of thinking?

Just how far is the real Jesus of the Bible from the human-created religious "Jesus" you were taught or perhaps even hear about from Good Religious People today? Do you have (or begin to get) the idea of just how far apart those two really are? Can you sense yet just how much the real Jesus wants to be part of your every-day life, celebrating with you as much as He cries with you, without needing or even wanting any taint of the "religious" to be part of your relationship with Him? What would make that even better or easier for you to see and "get", and what can you do to open yourself up to Jesus' gift that way?

Until next week!

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can always contact me (Lynne) at

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Does God think you're worth being healed?

It's Thursday again. Must be time for another blog post! Since it also means taking another new look at Jesus, I can't wait :-)

We're continuing our chronological trip through the Gospels (our past posts/studies/reflections are here).

The scriptures for today can be found here.

This week we're looking at some of Jesus' healing miracles. What did it mean when Jesus healed people, and what kinds of people were "worthy" being healed? And what does Jesus' healing 2,000 years ago mean to you and your needs, today?

The first person we see needing healed doesn't even ask for it, himself. Instead, it's the stupid demon making the guy's life a living hell that can't resist poking at Jesus, trying to cause Him some problem in the crowd by mouthing off.

What's Jesus response? He tells the demon to shut up and get out of the guy – something the demon doesn't like at all and submits to (with lots of demon-drama). The people around watching all this are amazed that not only does Jesus provide teaching authority like they've never seen before from their religious leaders, but He also has complete authority over those of the spirit world.

Is there a demon – either an actual demon, or some part of yourself that acts like one – making your life a living hell? Have you submitted it to human authorities and gotten no relief? If others witnessed Jesus commanding such demons to leave people alone, why should anyone else assume He's powerless over the demon driving them crazy or ruining their life? Why should you?

Next we see Jesus and His disciples going to Simon's (Peter's) house, where they find his mother-in-law so sick with a fever she can't get up to provide the hospitality their culture required be provided to all guests and visitors. But all Jesus had to do was touch her hand and tell the fever to buzz off – and not only did the fever leave, but she felt so good she could get up and work the house and tend to her guests as she wanted to.

Are you imagining Jesus' healing takes some huge effort all the time? What would it take for your healing to happen, today?

We read that after that, a lot of people started coming to Jesus, and He healed those who were sick and threw more stupid demons out of people – all with a word or some other simple effort on His part. People begged Him to stay around, but He told them He had other places to share the good news about God's Kingdom with, as well.

The Bible here also shares one of the biggest reasons Jesus was doing all the healing in that place and time: to demonstrate that He had the qualifications to be the Messiah, the Saving-One promised by God to the people of Israel and then to the world. He was letting those Jews who would hear it know that He was the One who would take all our ills and weaknesses upon Himself, to bear what we can't bear, to accomplish what we can't accomplish.

The Jews of that day needed proof that Jesus had these supernatural qualifications, to prove He was the real thing – and not just another human pretender-Messiah. So we can't fault them for requiring proof from Him. But as we'll see later, many demanded "proof" just for their own selfish benefit, or didn't want to believe so they demanded so much "proof" it was ridiculous. In what legitimate ways do you require proof of Jesus? In what ways do you over-require so much you just shut Him out on purpose?

Next we see a man with leprosy coming to Jesus. We have to remember that in that time, place, and culture, in order to safeguard the community from his disease this man would have been a complete outcast – outcast even among other outcasts, in fact, by law. People who had leprosy were required to remain apart even from family and friends. Only by showing themselves to a priest, who was the only one who could examine them and pronounce them "clean" of the disease, would they ever be allowed to go back into the community. And after healing him, showing himself to the priest and doing the rest of his legal duties to get back into the community was what Jesus told him to do.

Another thing to note here: We often remember the guy with leprosy saying to Jesus: "If You are willing, You can make me clean." And lot's of folks remember Jesus' first words back to the man ("I'm willing. Be clean!"), but those words are not what the Bible says was Jesus first response to him! No, Jesus' first response to the man was compassion. He felt for the guy and his suffering.

Is there something – a sickness or addiction or other problem – that makes you outcast among your family, friends, and/or community and causes you suffering? Learn from this scripture that Jesus is fully aware of the legalities we may have to submit ourselves to in order to be allowed back in with our peers again – and He tells us to take care of those. But also learn that Jesus' feeling toward you – even when you're at your worst – isn't disgust, or wariness, or judgment. It's compassion. So, whatever your current condition, what keeps you from seeing and feeling His compassion for you?

Next we see one of the more famous healing stories. Lots of folks like to imagine what it must have looked like when several friends of a paralyzed man made a huge hole in someone else's roof to get him through the crowd and to Jesus! We can also marvel, seeing that Jesus healed the paralyzed man based on his friends' faith – and not his own. But Jesus response to the paralyzed guy was different than what we've seen before. This time Jesus' healing words were, "Your sins are forgiven."

We also see another response to Jesus – one completely different than the marveling of the regular folks. This other response was one of condemnation, judgment, and intellectual arrogance. And it came from the Good Religious People who'd also gathered around.

The Good Religious People in this scripture were among those intensively educated in everything religious – in the scriptures, in history, and in God's way. Yet while the uneducated folks figured out there was something beyond special going on here, all these highly educated people could do was poo-poo and condemn Jesus. They were saying, "Who does this guy think He is? God???"

And of course in one way, they were right: Jesus IS God. That's what His power was demonstrating, right before the eyes of any who would see it. But the Good Religious People didn't need to see God's demonstration. They already had the facts. They'd been through the finest seminaries. They'd memorized all the scripture. They'd followed all the religious rules to the letter. They, in other words, didn't believe they needed God to show them God, because (so they believed) they already had that covered!

But Jesus called them on their perfectly shoddy educations and failed reasoning skills, didn't He? He called their thinking evil, and indeed it was, since it blocked them (and anyone who listened to them) from seeing and hearing God's real truth. And then, just so He could cancel their excuse for not believing His power, He gave them yet another even more powerful invitation to see God standing right in front of them: He told this totally paralyzed guy to just get up, take his things, and go home. We can only imagine how crazy-amazed the crowd must have been!

Why do you imagine that the healing this paralyzed guy needed came from Jesus' words that he'd been forgiven? How have sins paralyzed you, in your past and present?

For the last 1,900 years and even today, Good Religious People have been telling the rest of us that Jesus has condemnation for us sinners, but only praise and glory for them. Is that what we actually see here in the scripture? Good Religious People also believe that because of their religious education, memorization of the Bible and instant-spouting of verses, and strict following all their religious rules means they not only know more about God and what He wants, but that they alone are qualified to teach everyone else about God and what He wants. Is that what we actually see here in the Bible?

Some other points to consider this week, from this week's scriptures:
  • There is no power in the spiritual or natural world that God doesn't have absolute authority over, but He has various reasons for waiting to exercise that authority at different times, and for different reasons. For example, Jesus did a lot of healing miracles 2,000 years ago, because that's what was needed at that time, to those people, to get them jump-started into realizing the Kingdom of God had not only arrived, but it was sitting right in front of them sharing dinner.
  • We are so incredibly different from God, yet He goes out of His way to communicate with us in ways we can understand – and in ways that test our willingness to see the truth instead of our own false visions. That's why Good Religious People most often fail at what's easy for everyone else: Good Religious People won't let go of their egos and doo-dads.
  • Because of Good Religious People, many people today have turned away from the real Jesus – yet the Bible and Jesus Himself shows us that Good Religious People do not in any way, shape, or form represent or stand for or truly understand the real Jesus. 

What other ideas or realizations came to you from these scriptures this week?

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

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is Jesus on your side?

Amazing – but my work life is actually settling down so I can start to write more again. I'm very pleased about that! :)

Before we get continuing on with our walk through the Gospels again today, I have some notes to pass along:

First, the whole purpose here is to explore: If we rip off the blinders and gauze and mud "churches" and religious traditions have taught us to see Jesus and ourselves through – just who the heck is Jesus, and why is knowing the real Him so important (and liberating, and comforting, and refreshing) to our lives?

Second, I have been and will continue to go through the Gospels chronologically, so that's why you see clumpings of scriptures from all four texts as we go.

And third, do read the scriptures referenced each time, or you're not going to "get" what you're after here (which is God's Word, and not just my words about God's Word). I never reference more than a short bit at a time, and I give a link to an online bible you can easily change to whatever translation you'd like to read it in.

[Today's scriptures are here]

Ok – on to it...

Last week we looked at how Jesus interacted with some of the people around Him. This week, let's continue that but also look at some of how others viewed Jesus, and how Jesus saw Himself.

When the disciples returned from getting food, they found Jesus actually talking (and normally, respectfully, with personal interest) with a woman despised by Good Religious People and pagans alike (heck, even her own people rejected her, which we can know because she came to the well alone in the heat of the day, and not in the cool of the day with the other women). We can only guess at the life choices and/or misfortunes that left the "Woman at the Well" outside of "proper society", what with her past five husbands and current "living in sin" (unmarried). Perhaps she or her family just choose real losers for her? Or perhaps something in her personality (like not liking being treated like dirt, which is what women of the time were trained to accept without question, or even just being hard to live with herself, or...?) caused her to end up in a merry-go-round of relationships. In any case, we'd have to think in our modern day of the revulsion most people would have for a down-and-out prostitute, to get any sense of how the disciples and others of her day would have felt about this woman. Then add her religious and racial background on top of that, and it's pretty safe to say "amazement" (or "surprise", etc) was an understatement to what the disciples thought finding Jesus not only standing there talking to her, but also with the same dignity and open care that He gave to "good" and "normal" people like themselves. 

No matter who people think you are, or how others judge or categorize you, Jesus has always and will always approach you as if you were the "cream of the crop". Despite what human religion has most often taught, Jesus will always recognize you do indeed have brains and can and should use them, and He'll always want that interactive relationship that can only exist between those who care for and respect each other. How does that change or affect how you should or do see yourself and the relationship you can and should have with Jesus?

The "Woman at the Well" was truly the first Gospel evangelist. Having been blessed with an opportunity to speak face to face with God Himself and see His plan at work in the world, she couldn't wait to share the Good News. The result? Many others of her people heard about Jesus, learned the truth of who He is (and therefore learned past the human religious ideas about "Messiah" they'd been taught before), and came to trust in Him. Then their experience with Jesus became their own, and no longer just through what the woman had to share with them. Their salvation truly became real.

Nearly all "Christians" today and in centuries past have believed they have a true relationship with Jesus, when actually all they have is the word of other human beings about Jesus. They pray to Him, do good works for Him, and even tell others about Him – but they still only know Him through their human "intermediaries" otherwise known as pastors, priests, popes, denominations, traditions, seminaries, theologies, and more. 

Where is your relationship with Jesus only second-hand – and therefore second-rate? Where do you need to grow beyond trusting in God through your trust in other human beings?

Jesus told people to repent – but there are a good number of "Christians" today who announce that God accepts us without change. Is that true? No!

Now, it is true that our nature and personality are ours, gifts from God – but we must hone and mature them out of the narcissism of spiritual childhood to do right by Jesus. We must also turn away or repent from those parts of ourselves that are not properly part of who we are, that are simply choices we make to satisfy our weaknesses and lusts. Choices we make to use/abuse chemical substances (from marijuana to prescription drugs), and habits of thinking (from religion to politics), and so on – all work to hedge or turn off some part of our full engagement with God's reality, and our full awareness of God's plan at work in the world.

When Jesus talked about repenting, He meant to turn back from our own ways of being for this world and turn towards God's way of being to this world. Repenting is NOT about seeing ourselves as pieces of garbage, but about no longer choosing garbage for our hearts, for our lives. 

The Bible says that those who were previously living in spiritual darkness back then got to see a great light that shown on those living under the shadow of death. Where is the spiritual darkness still in your life? What is the threat of death in your life? What does it mean to your life that God has gone to so much trouble to make sure you have a Jesus-lighted way out of both those things?

When God's handing out "stuff" we want or appreciate, we're usually liking Him, aren't we? Jesus did all sorts of miracles back then, and the Good Religious People were by and large impressed. He was doing the kinds of things God had used to prove Himself to their ancestors, and look – here they were going to get in on the goodies, as well! Cool!

But then some Good Religious People started to reject Jesus. What happened? Well, first He let them know that He wasn't just some new human prophet come to entertain them with tricks, tell them to clean up their acts, but then not really change a darn thing. He let them know that God Himself was sitting there among them now, having placed Himself into the world specifically to turn it upside and make it once again about great stuff for the poor, imprisoned, disabled, and oppressed.

Now, first the Good Religious People hearing Him thought that was pretty keen, didn't they? But the second thing Jesus did was the worst thing you can do to a Good Religious Person: He cut right through their religious bull.

Jesus already knew these Good Religious People would reject Him – and indeed, since they were living lives about "Good Religion" and not about God, they had already rejected Him. So He told them that just like years before (in Old Testament) when God had done great stuff for people that Good Religious People rejected and looked down on – but wouldn't do the same great stuff for the Good Religious People – in the same way He was going to do great Jesus-stuff for the people Good Religious People still reject and look down on, but still wasn't going to do a dang thing for Good Religious People.

What was the result? Did the Good Religious People feel guilty about their jerkdom and pledge to do better? Did they feel horrorstricken, finding out that despite all their previous good feelings about how "godly" they were that actually they'd done/believed nothing of any real value to or with any real respect to God?

Nope. They tried to kill Him (and this was only the first time). 

Where are you in this story? Are you among the poor, the imprisoned, the disabled, or the oppressed that Jesus is promising great things to and for – only perhaps since you've only been listening to Good Religious People before you didn't understand what He really does mean TO and FOR YOU

Or perhaps you're among the Good Religious People today who do all the "godly" things but are still so far from God He'd have to be God to even know your name? Keep in mind that God doesn't reject Good Religious People. Rather, again and again and again they reject Him by keeping evil and sludge in their hearts while waving around their religious doo-dads. But God's not going to force you to be true. The Bible says He WILL let you walk your religious parade all the way to hell if you think that's better for your life. So, do better - repent / turn around! 

Or perhaps today you're both an oppressed person, and a Good Religious Person, needing to process the lessons God means for both?

One thing that remained true for Jesus throughout His time on earth 2,000 years ago: when people listened to Him, they recognized that He had wisdom and presence like no human being had ever had. They recognized that there was something sorely missing from their human religious teachers and guides that Jesus had in abundance. Those who would hear Him were drawn to Jesus like people who'd been stuck in the desert for years, tired of sucking on pebbles and pretending their own spit is good water, and then one day finally finding an unending cool, clear, clean stream of real water.

What have you missed in your life by relying only on what other religious human beings could teach you about Jesus? What does Jesus offer to your life, today? 

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