Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jesus means it: Don't be a jackass

We're continuing today in our weekly "through the (chronological) Gospels", learning about Jesus from Jesus and outside the ideas and proclamations of what most loudly calls itself "Christianity".

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

And as always you'll find 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).

If you haven't read the last several blog posts where we've been talking about Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount", I encourage you to do so – to "catch up" on how very different Jesus' values are from how He's been too often portrayed. For example, we've seen that Jesus' purpose in His "Sermon on the Mount" was to teach us that if we don't do better in our spiritual / religious lives than the good church-goers, Bible-memorizers, and seminary graduates of Christianity and Judaism do, we're NOT going to heaven. Why? Because God requires something entirely different than the religion they create, maintain, and become expert at – and Jesus was there teaching all the Good Religious People of 2,000 years ago (and us!) just how different! Last week we looked at what Jesus says God requires of His (real) people in regards to getting mad at people, cheating on our spouses, and breaking up our committed relationships. Let's keep learning!

No swearing, please 

First, Jesus tells us the (truly) godly way of making oaths: not at all. Swearing or promising we'll do something, He lets us know, just invites the devil to speak for us. He says don't promise it – just do it!

Human society requires lots of oath-taking to "function". Our own is certainly one of the worst. We make contracts (oaths on paper) where we promise to pay or to give something in return for payment, or to work or to give money in exchange for work, for example. When we appear in court we make an oath to tell the truth and only the truth. Our political leaders make all sorts of oaths in our name, promising "justice" and "democracy" and "peace" to others around the world.

Yet our society is one of the most lying, cheating things that's ever existed. People don't pay up. Companies either don't deliver, or deliver substandard goods. People goof off at work. Companies cheat workers out of wages. People – even police officers – lie in court. No politician – from either "right" or "left" – ever does anything but lie (and that's their "best"). This all just gets worse and worse today, as it's now become "normal" and even legally "justified" for people and companies and nations (and even "churches" and "denominations") to make all sorts of promises and never ever intend to really, truly keep them. It's really not hard to see how Jesus can say all this promise-making comes from the devil!

As we've been going through the real Gospel, though, we've begun to see that God is more interested in what comes naturally from our hearts – and not in what promises we can spout off or how many contracts we can sign. If we follow Jesus, then, we don't make oaths and promises like the world does, because we aren't playing that devil-game any longer. Instead, we simply do what we've said we'll do, and we don't go what we've said we won't do, and all without having to flap our lips or sign and initial 47 pieces of paper. As Jesus-followers, we're just purely true to our word – just as He was.

What kinds of oaths or promises are in your life, either made by you or made by others (like politicians) "for" you? Sometimes we enter into such mutual-oaths to protect ourselves – to keep from getting ripped off by a company (for example) we already know is less than trustworthy. How is this the same or different than what Jesus is talking about here? What kinds of oaths and promises do you need to immediately stop making, because they don't come from your living a life where your "yes" simply means "yes", and your "no" simply means "no"? How will that change your life, how you see others, and how you commit to following Jesus? 

Don't be bad like bad people

Next Jesus seems in many translations to be telling us not to resist evil, to be docile and let evil run amok among us. This re-make of what He really said has been the "justification" for centuries for telling the poor, and women, and other oppressed people that they just have to sit and take it when their religious, political, and even family and other human authorities take advantage of them, savage them, treat them like dirt, and even murder them. We're told in such cases that "God" wants it that way, that this is all part of the "hierarchy" of power "He" has instituted. Sorry, but that couldn't be bigger B.S.
If you consider this "be docile toward evil" idea at all in the context of the real Jesus, it just doesn't make any sense. Jesus spent His whole ministry time resisting the evil of and refusing to bow obediently to any human authority - including religious human authority and Good Religious People (we'll talk in a minute about what He did or commanded us to do, instead). And He definitely meant for us to live like He did, making His life the one we model our own on.

What He really said, though, is revealed in the original Greek. There He doesn't say "Don't stand up to evil", but does say, "Don't get involved in violent rebellion, armed conflict, rioting, and the like". And those are two very different things!

So what Jesus actually tells us is to never strike back with violence when someone does you violence. But He doesn't just stop there. He goes on to give us some mental images of even more – images we must understand in the way that the people He was originally talking to would have understood them, in order to really get what He's telling us. Jesus said:
  • When someone hurts you to humiliate you (which is what a strike on the right cheek was, in that culture 2,000 years ago and today – it's a backhanded slap that men do to women, adults do to children, masters do to slaves, "superior" races do to "inferior" races, and so on), don't lay down and take it. Instead, stand up and offer up the other side, as if to say, "You failed to humiliate me with that one. Would you like to try again?"
  • When you are so dirt-poor that the only thing someone can take from you any more in a court of law is your shirt (for that's the only reason 2,000 years ago someone would be sued for their [literal] "tunic", which was the garment people there wore against their skin - and it did happen back then, believe it or not), don't just stand there and accept the thieving humiliation. Instead, take off your coat (which was the [literal] "cloak" or outer garment people wore) and stand there in your underwear in front of everyone in court that day, embarrassing the crap out of them by your nakedness (in that culture, the person SEEING the nakedness was the humiliated one, NOT the person who was naked), and say, "This should make you even more happy."
  • When some police or military person comes along and, because they see you as a weak nothing, makes you carry their heavy crap for a mile (for that's what the occupying Roman soldiers were allowed to do to the local people they oppressed), don't just accept that humiliation. Instead, proudly carry the crap they were too pathetic to carry for themselves for TWO miles.
  • When someone wants something from you, let them take or borrow it. Who will really look bad or be humiliated if they take advantage of you?

Pretty different from the mainstream "Christian" interpretation, isn't it? But it's also very different from "Christian" practice, as well. For example, what was the response of our "Christian" nation and of so many "Christian" men and women to the 9/11 attacks? Did they (like I, to my great sorrow, did back then) rush to military solutions, like believing in or advocating war (to "protect" or "punish"), or joining the military to take part in inflicting the murder, torture, rape, destruction, and suffering that makes up war? (And don't bother with the "we're only peacekeepers" or "we're here to help the people" lines – the Romans and Communists and Nazis all said the same thing, and God's real peacekeepers don't show up with weapons.) If so, their actions (until repented of) were and are completely anti-Christ. What might a truly Christian response have been? Well, what if as a nation we'd made apologies for all the things our country had done to other nations to make them hate us? What if as a people we'd collected funds to rebuild the homes and lives of those we'd injured? What if as a people we'd said, "Yes, you struck us, but we will not strike back. We leave it to God to judge." Impossible in the world of today, you say? Only for those who aren't really following Jesus!

War is certainly the one we first think of, but there are many other ways to violate Jesus' direct command and get involved in violent conflict. Think, for example, of all the revolutions "for the people" we saw in the 20th century, that inevitably involved violent actions against the previous government but also always against the people who were being "helped". What about the riots we saw break out over certain inflammatory (and certainly unjust) court cases not so long ago? What about the death penalty? How has your life been impacted by your decision to be part of or support such violence against those who "deserved" it for whatever reason? Have you repented of your sin?
What about the few examples Jesus gave, of responding as a child of God to people who are treating us with evil? In no way did Jesus tell us to accept humiliation. In fact, He told those listening to Him that day that God expects them to believe in their own dignity (and to act on it without slipping into jerkdom), even when oppressive others do not. (As we continue through the Gospels, we'll see that that's just what Jesus did - believing in and acting on His own human dignity - when He was confronted by those who wanted to humiliate and hurt Him).

Just picture the Jewish audience listening to Him that day.
  • They were an oppressed people, humiliated under Roman rule. But Jesus told them they could stand tall against the oppressive attempts to humiliate them without becoming as evil as those who oppressed them. 
  • There were also women and other people oppressed even within the Jewish culture who were listening to Him that day, many of whom knew the humiliation of being slapped around. But Jesus told them they could stand proud of who they were despite others' powerful attempts to humiliate them
  • And there were poor people listening to Jesus that day, people who were used to more powerful people taking everything they had and still wanting more. But Jesus offered them turning the tables on those who humiliated them, embarrassing those who had shamed them.

How different is Jesus' way of dealing with power from what you have been taught is the "Christian" way? What new ways can you respond to the oppressors in your life, to reject (within yourself, if not outside in their world) the humiliation they try to cause you and to instead point out how embarrassed they should actually be?

Don't be a jackass to the jackasses

Jesus goes on, telling us that God's real people actually love their enemies, praying for them and doing good for them – just like God loves and goes good even for those who insist on being His enemies. Jesus tells us that if all we do is love people who are good to us, and hate people who mistreat us, we're no better than the people who help make oppression happen. And if we're only friendly with those like us, then we're no better than God-haters. So, Jesus tells us, don't just be human-good – be God-good!

What a painful one-more-way we as a "Christian" nation and as "Christian" people have been living completely anti-Christ. It amazes me how easily we convince ourselves that we can be in the military and even go to or support war or warriors and still be good (or even better) followers of Jesus (even though the Bible we claim to follow says only the people who actually do all of what Jesus says actually get into heaven). It amazes me how easily we let slide our despising the jerk who cuts us off in traffic, or the jackass who blocked our advancement at work, making as if our crappy behavior is "excused" or "doesn't count". Is it hard not to live as jerky as the jerks around us? You betcha! Do we have to do it anyway? You betcha!

One of the biggest teachers of my life regarding living like Jesus with and around our enemies, instead of like our natural jerky selves, has been Corrie ten Boom. To hear her speak (in old tapes – she's passed to the Lord some time ago now) or read her books, and know that this was a woman who had everything (including family) taken from her by the Nazis and their helpers, and who even watched beloved family and other folks tortured and murdered by the Nazis, and yet who – completely through the power of Jesus – was able to forgive and treat even her old camp guards well, is both amazing and humbling. Do check out her speeches (many of which can be found on the web for free as MP3s, like here for example) and books (most available in used and new book stores everywhere, still). Her life of struggle to forgive and her grown in Jesus in letting Him forgive for her is something we can all benefit greatly from. And even though she doesn't speak of these things directly, abused women and children, Gay folks, and other oppressed minorities can especially benefit from learning from an elder-sister who's been there how to forgive and even love the people who hate and cause them such misery.

What ways do you still need to work out being God-good, rather than human-good, to the people who make your life hard or miserable? Keeping in mind that Jesus never said humiliating yourself was what God wants, how will you keep your God-given dignity as a child of God AND still be at peace with and even friendly with those who mistreat you?

Some final thoughts for this week:
  • We've seen a lot of Jesus these last weeks, and the difference between what His values and teachings are, and what "The Church" only SAYS His values and teachings are, is huge. Yet "The Church", because of it's long history of "tradition" (as if doing something wrong for a long, long time makes it right), seminary education poisoning minds and hearts with denominational and theological conformity of religious thought, religious indoctrination of both children and adults into its own human-spawned ideas and ideals, and its interior (in "the church") and exterior (political) power around the world has a much larger voice in the world today than does Jesus. What ways can you make sure you hear (the real) Jesus, instead? How can you help others hear the real Jesus?
  • Jesus doesn't just say nice things we're supposed to nod our heads at before going back to living like the devil again. We're actually supposed to be changed by Him, our hearts and minds opened up and taught by God's Holy Spirit. Not so we conform to some religious ideas about cleaning up our lives, spouting off the right religious words, and wearing suits and dresses "to church" each Sunday – that's all that Good Religious Stuff that Jesus warns us will NOT get us into heaven. Instead, we're supposed to grow new hearts, to start seeing ourselves and the world like Jesus does, and to go out into and live in the world like He did. What does that say to your life, this week? What religious nonsense do you need to let go of this week? What real-Jesus living needs to start illuminating your day?

Have a great week! Next Thursday we're back again, continuing through the "Sermon on the Mount" and beyond.

This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anger, Adultery, Divorce - What was Jesus talking about?

Ok, back to our Thursday journey through the (chronological) Gospels, learning about Jesus FROM Jesus, and outside of what calls itself "Christianity" has spent 2,000 years remaking Him into!

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

And as always you'll find 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).

This week we're still in the "Sermon on the Mount". Last week Jesus introduced us to this "Sermon" by pointing out how different God's intentions for blessings and reward are from what we're taught to expect (especially as we're taught by Good Religious People). And we learned from Jesus that unless our hearts and lives are better than what all those good church-goers and Bible-memorizers and seminary-graduates accomplish, we're not going to get any better reward than they will – meaning we won't get into heaven at all! Do check out His intro, if you missed it last week. It will help get you set up for this week and the weeks to come.

Ok – Jesus jumps right in with contrasts, and begins telling us how we need to be different from Good Religious People if we truly want God to count us as among His (real) people. Couple of things to note before we start:
  • Don't forget as we go through the rest of His "Sermon" - even if your Bible makes it appear there's a break here somewhere, there really was not: Jesus just talked about how our God-following needs to be different from the false "God"-following that Good Religious People do, and now He's going to start telling us how different that must be,
  • As we go through these teachings, pay close attention! Don't write these things off or "explain" or "theologize" them away as Good Religious People most often do – doing so leaves us just as anti-Christ and smeared with religious dung as they are. But also don't fall into the opposite ditch, wallowing in religious shame and fear, wasting energy in fear when God wants you up and moving along. We all fall short of these things – but Jesus is offering here a new start, an offer of God's better way for our lives. Once again, He's not offering condemnation, but liberation from the world's way of injecting hell into our daily lives and calling it "normal" and even "godly". Wash the religion out of your ears and hear Jesus new all over again!
So, Jesus starts off talking about anger and disputes, saying:
It's been taught forever that if you murder someone, God will judge you. But I'm telling you God will judge you even if you just get angry at someone.  
 It's said that if you call someone empty-headed you're subject to Good Religious Authority. But I'm telling you that calling someone a fool means you're in danger of burning in hell.  
Therefore, if someone has a problem with you don't show up doing your religious duties before God before you've made things right with this other person. Don't let this problem keep going and going until finally you're standing before God Himself to answer for it.
Except for those who (either by birth or by culture or by profession) are sociopathic, it takes anger to get to murder, doesn't it? When we consider that, and also consider how through so much of the Old Testament God said over and over again that it's what comes out of our hearts that makes what we do actually His way or not His way (no matter how "religious" or "godly" we want it to look), what does it mean, then, that God doesn't even want us to get angry at people?

Sometimes when trying to avoid the Good Religious Trap of pretending to be "godly" while also being a jerk, we can fall into the ditch on the other side of the road and make a NEW Good Religious Trap by telling ourselves we can NEVER EVER get angry, or that if we do we're earning hell. But we know from other parts of the Bible that anger itself isn't always wrong (for example, when someone got angry at those calling themselves "God's People" while oppressing others - that wasn't wrong). The Bible lets us know that even God gets angry (and that would make sense, since we're made in God's image). We've even seen Jesus get angry in the parts of the Gospels we've already covered (when He was being confronted by the evil hypocrisy of Good Religious People). Which means that once again if we just take a face-value look at what Jesus is saying, we're going to get it wrong. That being the case, consider what He's said in the whole context (including even His "intro", starting back at Matthew 5:1), and come up with what His meaning is here. What does Jesus want you to understand about anger, disputes, hurting others, and God's place in all of that, in your life? What part of your heart or life needs to change?

Jesus then said:
You've been taught not to have sex with another person when you're married. But I'm telling you that even just checking someone out is the same as having sex with them – in your heart. Get rid of the things that lead you to doing wrong, even if it hurts or costs you. It's better to lose that little thing than to end up in hell.
Using Jesus' standard, our modern culture – and a great part of our economy – in the western world absolutely runs on the "eye-candy" and sexual obsession that God calls "adultery" (and more). And to get away from it and the constant temptation to examine others through the lens of (and therefore misuse) our sexual drives, we have to take active steps. Depending on who we are and what our personal temptations may be, sometimes that means not watching certain (or even any) television programs, movies, or stars. Sometimes it means changing the kinds of things we read. Sometimes it means we have to avoid being around certain people in our local lives. And sometimes it means we need to give ourselves a real solid kick in the spiritual butt so we stop screwing around with thinking it's ok to screw around. None of these things are "fun", and in some cases they can make us look "weird" to others who still want to enjoy letting the media and their own sin-nature run their sexuality on a slow burn (and more) most of the week. Yet Jesus tells us it's better to deal today with getting rid of some stupid physical or emotional impulse that's causing us to ignore and work against God's way than to deal later with the huge consequences of having kept our heart on a path to hell. Are there things you need to get rid of or do differently, to get the adultery out of your heart and life so there's room for Jesus there, instead? What keeps you from getting rid of those things right now, today?

Nowhere in this did Jesus say that sex itself was wrong or shameful – though that's how many Good Religious People interpret it. Jesus just said we need to keep our sexual nature – and the heart that runs it – within bounds that keep us from causing harm to ourselves and others (and therefore keeps us from harming our relationship with God, as well). What ways have you been taught to interpret this scripture as meaning your own sexual feelings are wrong? How do you need to understand them differently, in light of what Jesus actually said?

In past centuries, some Good Religious People took this scripture literally, and actually cut out their own eyes or sex organs so they wouldn't sin – or so they thought. Earlier in our Gospel study we already heard Jesus say that God prefers that people break His religious laws to take care of their physical bodies' needs, if that's what it takes. Does it even make sense, then, to say that God wants us to actually harm our physical bodies in some way? Did those who took these scriptures literally even understand what Jesus said – that it's what's in your heart that determines what happens in your life and body? After all, even a married person without eyes or sex organs can still imagine someone else lustfully or want to sleep with them – and that's exactly what Jesus said is just as adulterous as actually having sex outside of marriage. So did these Good Religious People who mutilated themselves actually accomplish anything at all? If others admired them for their extra "devotion", did they actually admire something God is actually impressed with?

Jesus then said: 
You've been taught that it's ok to divorce, as long as you go through the correct legal channels. But I'm telling you that unless your spouse is whoring around on you, divorcing him/her makes him/her and you an adulterer. It also makes anyone who marries your ex-spouse an adulterer.

It was common among the men Jesus was speaking to here 2,000 years ago to divorce any wife that got too "old" for their tastes, or who didn't quietly put up with their crap, or who just didn't make them happy in some other way (women in that place and time weren't allowed to do the same to their husbands). What that meant, though, was that even though these men had made a covenant with another person before God, they were trashing that covenant whenever it suited their egos or their lusts – and God does NOT like covenant breaking for any reason (read about the nation of Israel and its covenant breaking in the Old Testament, if you'd like to confirm that). Their divorces produced even more harm, though, because in that place and time if a woman didn't have her birth family to move back in with, she would end up living on the streets – and then she'd have to beg and probably prostitute herself to stay alive. But another thing we learn through the Old Testament (when we stop reading it with Good Religious People's eyes, that is) is God's unrelenting command that His people take care of and not exploit or oppress those who are weaker in some way or another – and that included women. So Jesus was telling the men in the crowd that day (and all of us since) that God counts our covenants still active even when we do not, and God expects us to take care of the people we promised to take care of - even if we don't feel like doing so anymore. How is our modern culture, with its easy-divorce and almost pathological self-interest, the same as the culture Jesus was speaking to? How is it different? Jesus taught nothing to others that we shouldn't also learn from. What should we today learn from what Jesus taught? How should your own life and heart change?

Some final things to consider this week: 
  • With what you've seen of Jesus in our Gospel study even so far, and how you've seen His (and therefore God's) thoughts about and actions toward both "good" and "bad" people, who do you think God condemned: the wife 2,000 years ago who was "divorced" by her husband and had to prostitute herself to buy food and shelter, or the husband who divorced her legally, kept all God's written laws, and performed all the required worship activities? Whose prayers do you think God heard? Who do you think ended up in heaven?
  • In all you've read today, what is the biggest thing that Good Religious People back then and even today get most wrong or miss most? 
  • What changes can you make starting right now in how you view yourself, others, the world, and God to make sure that you are doing what Jesus said by being better than Good Religious People – so you are actually a real follower of Jesus Christ, and not just another pretender?

Next week we'll continue our journey through the "Sermon on the Mount", and through the chronological Gospels. See you then!

This article written by Lynne at You can contact Lynne at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is Gayness part of God's plan (or even evolution)?

It's not Thursday, but I do have something extra to share this week. It's part of a response to someone's question about homosexuality and its place within God's original plan and the natural world. Without including any parts that are personal, here is part of that response, shared with you:


The question of whether or not homosexuality is part of God's original plan is still part of a mindset that only recognizes part of the question. And even though many Gay people and their straight allies shy away from religion and lean toward Darwinist science as if it were "safer", the same prejudiced way of viewing the world exists in Darwinist science.
"Christianity" says that God only created heterosexuality, because that's what Adam and Eve were and He told them to go off and create new human beings through sexual reproduction, so any sex that doesn't mimic that isn't "godly".
 "Science" says that since the reproduction is required to keep a species going, then only sex that allows reproduction (even if we're using human-created chemicals to prevent reproduction at the same time), is "natural".
Same bias. Same lack of looking at the issue any way but one way, because one has been taught there is no other way to see this issue and so doesn't or won't look further.

But there are obvious flaws in "God only wants straight people because Adam and Eve were straight", and there are obvious flaws in "Beings exist to reproduce to increase their species, and any who don't aren't natural".

For example, God obviously created Adam and Eve of one "race" (or mix of same), whether we'd now call that "African" or "Asian" or "European" or whatever. So by the same mainstream "Christian" logic that means if God's original people were African (for example), or even some mix of "races" (say, for example, of all races), then all Asians, Europeans, etc. are just as "ungodly", "unnatural", "against God's plan", etc as Gay people are said to be. And since God said to go forth and multiply, that means He wanted just that original race to increase - but not all the races that showed up with later generations.

Now, to prove God doesn't condemn or think poorly of all but one race we'd simply point to those parts of the Bible that indicate that God loves all human beings, and we'd point to those parts of the Bible and to the record of normal, moral, godly behavioral history by people of other races (understanding that all people of all races have the same sin nature, but that that sin nature in no way means a whole race is bad), and point out that there's nothing REALLY there to indicate that God condemns certain races. But to do so we'd FIRST have to get past our mental block and prejudiced (even if loving) heart and be willing to see God's Big Picture. God would have to heal us of our human-only ways of viewing other people.

Well, the same issue exists for those among us who still need to be healed of not seeing the world through God's eyes (rather than their own nearly-blind human ones) regarding Gay people. There's nothing in the Bible that truly condemns the Gay people we see around us in the world today. And there's nothing in the historical record to indicate that Gay people have been any more OR less normal, moral, or godly in their behavior (there's nothing Gay people are said to do, for example, that straight people don't also do. Like people point to immoral things that go on during Gay Pride events, for example - but by the same logic straight people are all immoral based on what goes on during Mardi Gras). While we still see those things there, we are no different than those who see God-ordained moral differences between the races ("Gays live immoral lives" is no different than "Black men are in violent gangs", and no different than "Mexicans are illegal aliens", because it takes the few examples that "match" our prejudice and proclaims them over the top of all Gay people, and over all Black men, over all Mexicans, etc). In such a case, we just haven't yet accepted Holy Spirit teaching that would help us understand we've learned to live a very wrong - and, because it bears false witness against God Himself and against our Gay neighbors, very ungodly and unbiblical - way of being in God's world. And living in that ungodly way of living, we simply help maintain the illusions that block us (and our children, etc) from seeing that Gay people - when allowed to be who they are, rather than living under the horrors of homophobic oppression and even tyranny, are only different from straight people in who their hearts bond with and who their lives meld with.

And what's called "science" today (which I list in quote marks because real science uses various ways of thinking and examining the natural world to eliminate human prejudices - not "prove" them) is just as wrong-thinking as religion - despite those who move to its quarter, thinking they will escape the biases of religion. Because to argue that only reproductive sexual behavior has a healthy, normal place in the natural world completely ignores or writes off all the NON-reproductive sexual behavior that goes on in every species on the planet - including the human species all the time. I'm reminded of a "scientist" I read once who'd spent years studying a certain kind of male wild sheep, watching the rams at times having sex with each other (so not just with the females), but never writing about it or including it in his "work". When asked why, he sputtered, "Because I just couldn't accept that there would be f*ggot* rams!" So, all those years, instead of being a REAL scientist and saying, "I see this same-sex behavior going on in this species - what purpose does it serve these rams and the sheep population?", he just published reports that made it appear that his prejudices were correct: rams are always heterosexual, except for a tiny few instances where there are "deviants". And that's no more real science than anti-Gay theology is real Jesus-following.

If we were really looking at God's natural world, we'd see the miracle of God's "programming" for natural balance everywhere - and we'd even see the many quite natural and healthy variations from what we'd expect to see that seem to have no real "purpose" at all.

For example, based on our scientific observations (which wouldn't have to be at odds with our spiritual understandings), we'd realize that many species have homosexuality programmed into their genetics, so that when populations or crowding starts to get beyond a certain limit (also set within their God-given "programming"), homosexuality increases within that species, in that area - and we'd realize what a marvelous and perfectly natural way of preventing starvation, disease, and therefore even species-death in that area homosexuality really can be. And then we'd have to wonder at our own human cultures, which force people God-programmed to be Gay into straight marriages and more reproduction, and which therefore act COUNTER to the natural world God created.

We'd also full examine and admit that many "higher" species in the world do not just have sex to reproduce. We'd have to admit that oftentimes for such species, sex is just for fun, or for status, or for life-mate-bonding, or even for overall community bonding. Then we'd realize what a marvelous thing, this God-programmed way to feel good within ourselves and to share that good with another, is - just as good as our being able to enjoy listening to a baby giggling, or enjoy seeing a sunset, or enjoy tasting a warm apple pie, or enjoy touching a soft puppy, or enjoy smelling a pine forest. None of those things are required for our Darwinian survival - they're just "for fun". They're just something that uses a part of our natural bodies that COULD be used for a survival function, and ALSO using them for something "just because". And then we could thank God for giving us natural parts of our created bodies that are positive, enjoyable, healthy, and "just for fun", because they are part of what helps make it possible to still thrive in a world otherwise so full of human negatives, horribles, unhealthies, and "because you have to's". 


"See" you again Thursday, when we'll continue our chronological walk through the Gospels, using them to understand the REAL Jesus mainstream "Christianity" (in all its forms) doesn't allow us to see.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good Religious People still use training wheels. Do you?

Ok – Thursday again! Time for more time in the Gospels, learning what the REAL Jesus is all about. This week we're going to get into what's been called "The Sermon on the Mount" – Jesus' longest recorded teaching (done in one place, that is). It's really good stuff :)

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

And as always you'll find 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).

If you live on planet Earth you've no doubt heard "Christians" talk about being "different" from the rest of the world, because the Bible tells us God wants that of all His people. Unfortunately, there's something else the Bible tells us (in both Old and New Testaments):
Almost all of those who claim to be God's People don't and never will truly hold to and live His values – and therefore are not actually His People at all, but imposters He rejects today and will punish in the End (right alongside those who outright love evil). 
When we stop seeing what calls itself "Christianity" through Good Religious Eyes, it's incredibly easy to see how far from Jesus nearly all those who claim to be His followers actually are – and therefore how they actually serve in the anti-Christ, and not Christ-, camp. Good Religious People like to claim this is because they are simply sinners like the rest, and we do know that of course they can't be perfect – but that actually has nothing to do with someone's individual sins or sin nature. Instead, it has everything to do with not clearing one's own worldly-values from one's heart and mind, and holding to and living Jesus' (and therefore God's) values, instead.

Being and becoming a (real) Christian is about learning to see and live in the world the way God does – and not in the way other human beings (past and present, religious and secular) have taught us to see and live it.

Jesus gives us a huge introduction to God's way in the "Sermon on the Mount". (A great exercise, by the way, is to read all of it (including that part we're going to cover today) again and again and again, and ask yourself new each time: how is my life, my attitudes, my way of seeing myself and others, my expectations of success in my life, and my understanding of the future still more shaped by always-limited human ways, rather than God's ways and His greater perspective?)

Jesus begins His talk to the Jewish audience that day by listing those God blesses. As always, remember as you read through these scriptures (and indeed all of scripture) what religious and cultural filter His listeners that day would have heard Him through and how that would have affected how (or whether) they heard Him. The Jews Jesus was speaking to that day, of course, still lived through and under the "Mosaic Law" (the laws God gave Moses to give to the Jewish people to follow), as well as other similar religious rules their Good Religious Leaders had added to the Mosaic Law to make it even "better" than God's original law.

The Good Religious Culture of the Jews listening to Jesus that day had, for the last many-hundred years, taught them that God blesses and rewards those who follow all their Good Religious Rules to the letter. If you'd asked, they would have said:
"Want God to count you as one of His People? Then here are the thousand rules (more than 600 of them just from Moses) that you need to obsess on and worry over and make rituals out of, in your life. Do them right, and you can feel proud and sure of being one of God's People."
But Jesus (and therefore God) had an entirely different take on who God blesses and rewards.

Jesus said:
  • It's those who feel least deserving of it who actually get into heaven (NOT those who feel most deserving because they "do" the Good Religious Rules really well).
  • It's those who know the pain of deep loss that get God's healing attention (NOT those whose lives are "good times").
  • It's those outside of power and position who will end up with everything (NOT those who use power and position to get what they want).
  • It's those who crave God's way at work in the world who are going to be satisfied (NOT those who crave God rewarding human ways at work in the world).
  • It's those who give compassionate forgiveness to those who don't deserve it who themselves receive God's compassionate forgiveness even though they don't deserve it (NOT those who apply human "justice" and punish those they know deserve it).
  • It's those whose hearts are filled with God whose eyes will also see Him (NOT those whose hearts are filled with Good Religious Observance).
  • It's those who wage peace who are God's children (NOT those who engage in or support war).
  • It's those who are insulted, attacked, and/or slandered for doing things Jesus' (real) way who will receive the same heavenly reward God's Old Testament prophets earned (NOT those who go to seminary and pontificate to others in front of the "alter").
Truly, the biggest stumbling block to being a real follower of Jesus Christ is still being convinced (and even refusing to be un-convinced) that crappy and creepy human ways of seeing and being in the world, painted in Good Religious colors, are the same as God's ways of seeing and being in the world. Jesus tells us they are not!

But the word-picture Jesus paints of the kind of person that earns God's blessing sounds exactly like what God called on the Jewish people to be in the Old Testament (even though they failed miserably and nearly always on purpose), and sounds exactly like what God calls on Christian people to be since the New Testament (even though most also fail miserably and nearly always on purpose).

How far is your own life from being that person Jesus described as so blessed by God? Talk to God about it – not in any formal religious way, but in a way that speaks your real heart to and with Him. He's on your side – let Him be! He doesn't want your adherence to dead rules - He wants your sincere heart, in its current condition!

Jesus next gives us two images to help us picture our lives as His followers and whether we're actually, truly accomplishing His purpose:
  • Are we salt that tastes like salt – or salt that tastes like dust and grit and dirt and so worthless?
  • Are we light that actually illuminates the world around us – or "light" that's hidden away, leaving everywhere else in darkness?
In other words, are our hearts and lives actually, truly "Jesus-flavor"? Or are they so mixed in with other crap that we're of no real value to God?

Are we truly a tool God can use to illuminate the world around us, helping people to see the real Jesus? Or are we a "light" only to ourselves and our Good Religious Communities, so the world we can touch is still in darkness?

See, unlike what we're taught by Good Religious People and their human organizations ("denominations", "churches", etc) our purpose as Jesus-followers is not to demonstrate the "goodness" of our "godly" religion that claims to benefit God - and thereby get more people into our "church".

Rather, the good deeds Jesus says we are to do so others praise God aren't "good religious deeds" – they are the real-heart-for-God deeds that will naturally spill out of our lives once we are the blessed person Jesus spoke about just a moment ago.

How have you seen the difference between the "good deeds" of religion and "church" and such, and the good deeds that come from people with Jesus really in their heart? What's been the difference in your own life?

Finally for today, Jesus tells His Jewish listeners that He's not come "to abolish the Law or the Prophets", but to "fulfill" them. Good Religious People have kittens all over themselves trying to twist that to "prove" He means that some or part of the old Mosaic Law (or some other Good Religious Rules) apply to Christians. Don't be fooled! Other parts of the New Testament (Galatians and James, as just two examples of many) say otherwise (so this is yet another time when we're screwed if we listen uncritically to "Bible Experts" and other Good Religious People about what the Bible means).

So what was Jesus saying?

One of the biggest (real) messages of the Old Testament is that when God gave rules, He meant them to be applied from the heart-out (as in, what's the intended meaning or purpose or goal?) – but people inevitably apply them from the religion-in (as in, what's the literal interpretation I can apply to my own or others' lives, whether it actually accomplishes what God meant it to or not?).

Yes, God gave rules in the past – but they weren't given just so He could make us live by rules. Instead, their whole purpose was to teach His People about holiness, and righteousness, and goodness, and justice, and mercy, and so on. They were intended to mold people's hearts and minds, so they would grow into spiritual adults. In that way, they were just like the rules we give to little kids, rules like "Don't run near the swimming pool!"

When we're children, we understand such rules in black-or-white concrete (even when we aren't following them). But when we grow up, we understand, for example, that the rule wasn't really about not running near the swimming pool at all, but about being aware and safe around water and slippery surfaces. The adults in our kid-lives didn't tell us to not run near the pool just because they liked making us follow their rules. Instead, they hoped to keep us alive long enough that we could reach adulthood and then be old enough to understand the meaning and purpose of the rule (safety) so well we could even understand when it might actually be necessary to break the rule (like, if a little kid is drowning or someone's bleeding to death) in order to attain an even greater safety result (like, get them out of the water or put a tourniquet around someone's leg). When we grow up enough to "get" and apply the real meaning behind the rule, it's at that point that we've "fulfilled" the rule about not running near swimming pools, because we've accomplished its purpose.

And that's what Jesus is saying to the Jewish people here:
"When you were spiritual children, you were given a lot of rules – but you've not yet grown up enough to understand more than just the literal black-or-white concrete meaning / purpose. But with My arrival, that all changes. Now you need to start learning to be grown-ups.

In fact, we could even say that Jesus came to be the First Real Adult, spiritually. To be our model, out prompt, our teacher.

That's all why trying to make what Jesus said here mean "There are still old Mosaic Laws you still have to adhere to" doesn't work. It would be like going back to telling adults "Don't run near the pool! Never touch the car keys! You can't leave the table until you've eaten all your broccoli! Don't use your bike without your training wheels!" Ridiculous, because now it's completely out of context!

And Jesus let's us know this by His finish of this part, when He tells us that unless we do better than the people who follow the literal rules obsessively and perfectly, we will not please God and will not go to heaven.

But how can we do BETTER than the people who are already perfect at it? By learning to do what they can't or won't do: grow up spiritually and start applying the actual meaning and purpose of God's way to our lives.

Jesus says: Time to kick off those training wheels! Time to RIDE!

We usually think of "right-wing" legalists as being the childish literal-rule followers who miss God's meaning, but others are just as guilty. For example, ever been told you have to "tithe" to your "church" (part of the Old Covenant)? What are the ways religious rules were made part of your life? What ways have they blocked or hindered your understanding of the real Jesus?

What are the ways you still need to spiritually grow up?

See you next week, when we'll continue through the "Sermon on the Mount"!

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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jesus IS exciting - when you aren't seeing Him thru religious eyes

Ok – Thursday is here. Time for more discovery of the real Jesus, as revealed in the Bible – and more discovery of how different He is from how mainstream "Christianity" is ALL its cultural remakes has taught us to understand Him.

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

And you'll find 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).

Last week, our Bible read took us through more examples of what Jesus really thinks of Good Religious People and their rules and rule-following. And we also learned who Jesus really gets mad at – and how it's always the Good Religious People, and never "regular" sinners (even though that's exactly opposite what Good Religious People have always taught the rest of us).

Today we're at the start of Jesus' greater teaching time – the times when huge numbers of people were following Him and eager to hear what He had to say about the real way to please God and how to be part of His team. Go read today's Scriptures, then come back here to continue!

Jesus was exciting - before the Good Religious People got hold of His image

By now Jesus has gotten pretty popular. Huge numbers of people from all over really wide geographical area are seeking Him out, because they'd heard about the healing and other miracles He'd performed. Can you imagine the excitement they must have felt? Today, of course, we've suffered under 1,900 years of fake-Jesus miracles and false-teachings shoved in our faces and down our throats, so we're justifiably cynical (and safer being cynical, emotionally and spiritually). But these were Jewish folks who's ancestors had seen God in action in their lives, but who hadn't seen God do anything in their world for about 400 years. No prophets. No miracles. No sign of the promised Messiah. Nothing.

And then there's this guy who's doing all they've been waiting for – and more!

Some today feel that because there are no miracles today as were seen 2,000 years ago, that either means those miracles didn't exist at all (even back then), or, God is no longer active in our lives today. However, to believe either is to miss the reason for God acting in the world through so many miracles back then: they were signs the Jews would demand (as God had told them to demand, in the Old Testament) to PROVE that something more than a human huckster or a lying Good Religious Person was at work here. That was a place and time for miracles back then because it was THE place and time for them.

Today, though, while we do see miracles (when we're willing to), they have a different "function" or "meaning" in our lives and in God's scheme of things than they would have then. God no longer proves Himself at work in the world through miracles like people saw 2,000 years ago. Today, He proves Himself at work through His Holy Spirit, at work in people's hearts and lives. He does still bless us with healing and other miracles sometimes today (I've certainly received them!). But the time to "Wow!" us with them, as if we were children at a circus and not now grown-ups, is long past.

How has God blessed your life with miracles? How has He acted in your heart to prove Himself at work in the world and interested in your life as part of His plan?

Jesus is the biggest miracle we'll ever receive

Matthew reminds us that what Jesus was doing was all part of what God had promised the Jews hundreds of years before (though God had also promised Jesus to the whole human race, through Eve, at the beginning of the human race, as well). God intended to comfort them in their hard times back then as they dealt with the consequences of their evil actions and rejection of God's good, so He gave them a description of what they would see when their Messiah showed up:
  • Though many Good Religious People 2,000 years ago would eventually accuse Him of being "ungodly", Jesus was God's servant, loved by God, giving God great delight.
  • Jesus, full of God's Spirit, would proclaim justice to everyone – but God's kind of justice, and not the easily corruptible and always faulty human kind of "justice". This would be a justice those who want real justice could actually count on, no matter what!
  • Despite the militant warrior so many Jews dreamed their Messiah would be 2,000 years ago (just like so many "Christians" do today), they'd recognize Jesus because He'd be soft spoken, refusing to fight or argue or scrap to accomplish His way.
  • They'd also see that Jesus was gentle – until it was time to do the final making-things-right in the End Times – which would be when He established God's justice for all.
Have Good Religious People ever accused you or someone you loved of being "ungodly"? Since they were so wrong about God they even accused God Himself in Jesus of being "ungodly" (and since Good Religious People haven't changed how they fail, even in 2,000 years), do you still bother with their ideas about who is good enough for God and who isn't? Why?

We're often promised "justice" by politicians (on the "Left" and "Right"), by the legal system, by the police, and so on. And that "justice" always – always! – fails. "Justice" never materializes when the voting is done. The poor, racial and sexual minorities, and other oppressed people are punished for stealing $100 while the well-off steal millions and aren't even prosecuted. Racial minorities and nonconformists are attacked and threatened by those who are supposed to protect them. But God's justice is different. God's justice isn't bribable, doesn't turn on ego, isn't run by sociopathy. God's justice judges by the heart – and not by what someone looks like, or how much money they have, or what neighborhood they live in. What are some ways you need God's justice in your life? What ways can you imagine the world when Jesus returns to make God's justice "The Law of the Land"?

Jesus arranges for 1st-hand witnesses to what He wants us to know

Jesus had a lot of followers, beside the huge crowds following Him. But out of those He chose twelve to be His special representatives – to learn first hand from Him and be the major actors in spreading His message to the world. They were to be the people others went to to make sure what someone was saying Jesus said was indeed something Jesus had actually said. As we'll see later in the Gospels, at no time did that mean these were the only people appointed to take Jesus' message to the world, or even that these people were leaders of any kind. It just meant we were given a reference to come back to. A way to double-check - and boy-howdy, have we needed a way to double-check the last 2,000 years!

Jesus was doing something else here, as well. Remember in our reading how Jesus has been building over and remaking the past human religion into something new and like God wants (the "new wineskin" we're to use instead of the old)? Well, the old religion was founded upon twelve physical brothers, and people belonged to God or didn't belong to God based on whether they were physically descended from one of those brothers. Jesus, however, created a new start - twelve new people who weren't related physically (except for the two brothers James and John, but their siblingship was completely immaterial), but spiritually.

So, in Jesus' new way, people belong to God or not based on what's in their hearts, and no longer on what's in their DNA. So whether we were born into one of the tribes of the man named Israel, or born into one of the thousands upon thousands of other peoples throughout history and over the planet, we all have equal standing before and equal belonging to God, through Jesus.

Once they were fully trained in Jesus' way and full of the Holy Spirit (which didn't happen until after Pentecost, after Jesus was resurrected)), none of the apostles ever allowed anyone to hold them in any high regard, or to treat them special, or do anything else but consider them as first hand witnesses to Jesus who had wisdom to share. What, then, can we understand about "apostles" (and "pastors", and "prophets", etc) today (and in the last 1,900 years) who allow or even seek out special honors, titles, chairs, podiums, speaking privileges, control over others' lives, etc? Why should we listen to or trust/follow those who claim the role (or who have "earned" it through seminary or "laying on of hands") but who by their day-to-day lives prove they haven't actually absorbed Jesus' REAL way and are blocking the Holy Spirit from their own lives?

Next week, we'll start what's been called "The Sermon on the Mount" – the longest, continuous teaching of Jesus about God's REAL way. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it outside of how nearly all "churches" teach us to understand it, I think you'll be (mostly pleasantly :) surprised.

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