Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you getting your just-Jesus bonus yet?

I'm doing a lot of extra Bible study this year (since the start of 2011, I mean.) Adding additional readings, additional topics of inquiry, and so on. And it's really blessing me – because I've begun reaping the harvest of many years of learning to take the Bible, but not what's culturally (or subculturally) pushed as "Christianity", seriously.

Sometimes that means gaining new insights into Jesus and what it means to be a human being in a messed up world. But sometimes it just means basking in the offered comfort of the truths I've already long since learned, or getting a new look at an old map so I can realize just how far off the Jesus-path I am, and how best to get back on it.

All this convinces me more and more all the time that Jesus wasn't kidding, about any of what He had to say or require -- or about any of the comforts and rewards He promised. And that means (among many other things), that He means for His message to make more sense and be more available to those who want Him more than they want human-based teachings that use Him.

Like, if you want Jesus, open your Bible and read with Holy Spirit eyes, preparing to lose even the "goodness" of your current spiritual understandings and political leanings. But if you just want something that looks like Jesus but is more about belonging to a fulfilling human social network, or about telling you how much you deserve even though you haven't even starting down the right road yet, or about showing off how important your religious doo-dads and titles and buildings and so on are (the ones that don't have to be part of the original version of discipleship because they're part of "holy tradition") – well, then, you can buy your carnival ticket over there.

Just because I've got to start somewhere, here are just a few of the insights and comforts and corrections I've gained over the years from the first stories (chronologically) of the New Testament – the ones where Jesus hadn't even shown up. Some of these insights came to my heart, but others came from the hearts of others who shared them with and therefore made them part of my growing-in-Jesus experience, as well. And indeed, that sharing with each other is what true Christian fellowship is all about: every person (not just the human-educated ones, or the dominant ones, or the ones who like the spotlight), regularly bringing and sharing what the Holy Spirit shared with them, so that everyone learns from everyone else.

Luke, the biggest threat to good religious values

Take a look at Luke, for example, and the start he gave to our understanding of the man Jesus Christ. Luke documented not only most of the first stories but also a good portion of the lived-lives of Jesus and those who learned firsthand from Him. But consider this even more: Luke was a despised outsider. Luke lived in a time when most who called themselves Jesus' followers hadn't really absorbed the Gospel they'd been sharing, and so were going around telling some people they couldn't be acceptable to God or part of God's family until they changed who they were and became like them. Sound familiar? Some who pushed this remake of the Gospel back then were quite aggressive about it, while others understood the truth but simply did nothing to help those who were being so spiritually attacked (we can read that in another of Luke's writings that we call "Acts", but also understand it from the letters to the Galatians and to Timothy and Titus, for example).

Luckily for Luke – and for Gays and Lesbians and all other people through the last twenty centuries – there were also people like Paul who were willing to push back with the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, willing to risk even their church fellowship and family to stand for God's truth (just as Jesus said we all must be willing to do).Those who call themselves "Christian" today but do not stand up for those other "Christians" try to remake and cut off are demonstrating a weak or false faith that needs a lot of work to be right with God.

Zechariah, one of the best examples of what religion has to offer

Zechariah was a good church man. He was also totally wrong in what He accepted about God. Oh, he did his religious duties. Those religious duties were a good portion of his entire identity, and made him one of the religious elite of the day. But when one of God's angels showed up to tell him he and Elizabeth, his wife, had been chosen to be more visible players than most in God's coming Good News, Zechariah completely disrespected the angel. Why? Well, as a good Jew, Zechariah would have certainly known that God gave a child even to the elderly Abraham and Sarah, so it wasn't like the angel was saying something unimaginable to him. No, the problem for Zechariah was that the angel's message revealed just how shallow Zechariah's faith really was. And instead of going "Oh crap!" and realizing how ridiculous his current perception of God's power was, Zechariah instead challenged the angel to make as much "sense" as Zechariah just knew he himself did. I can almost see him poking a finger in the angel's chest, saying, "You big dummy! You have no idea how God really works!"

Lucky for us, the angel was smart enough to shut Zechariah's mouth until the promised baby was born – making sure that he couldn't continue to share his "greater understanding" with his soon-pregnant wife. Perhaps we should in the same way shut our ears (since we rarely have the power to shut others' mouths) against those good church people who also fancy themselves among God's elite while trashing the whole idea that He can or should act outside what they imagine of Him!

Mary, the worthless, whoring piece of trash

The same angel went to see Mary, several months later. He gave her a similar message, but one even more spectacular: working through Mary, God was going to fulfill the promise He made to Eve (and to all women), thousands of years before: that through Eve's seed (so, the seed of women, not men, even though men always assume they're the center of everything) the Savior of the world would come. And so through Mary – someone disrespected and despised by both "God's Chosen People" and the pagans of her time, alike, for being poor, for being female, for being powerless and subjugated – through puny, disrespected her God was going to start the final stage of fixing everything that Eve and Adam (and all human beings) had previously broken.

And what was Mary's response to all this? She saw and shouted happy-joy because:
  • God's mercy has always been reserved for those who respect Him enough to live His ways – which leaves out most "good church people" of Mary's day and now. Good church people always consider themselves most deserving of His rewards, even when they live counter to what He says and act in their own best interest – but Mary knew otherwise (as we should, as well).
  • God's power does powerful things, including undoing and scattering the pathetic, self-serving power of the arrogant to nothing. We have things we're arrogant about, too – our spiritual beliefs, our technology, our intellectual advances. And those are also going to mean nothing, in no time at all. We're as smart as Mary when we recognize that as a good thing.
  • God's actions – including those He accomplished through Mary – are always focused on reversing the way human beings think things should go. And He did that even in creating the Savior of the world. How long had the arrogant, the powerful, the rich assumed they and they alone were deserving and capable of producing and proclaiming God's goodness in the world? How much do the arrogant, the powerful, and the rich do the same, even today? But God intentionally denied  and denies them their place (which is why they still use complex theological inventions even now to erase and cover that – for them – embarrassing truth). God instead gave (and gives) it to those who don't think more highly of themselves than they should, and who have no control of anything of any consequence, and who have no material wealth. Does it matter if the world doesn't recognize that, and won't until Jesus comes again? Not one little bit
  • God keeps His promises. God made big promises to Abraham and the Jews who followed him – and He kept them. Just as He kept His promise to Eve. Just as He keeps His promises to us.
Mary saw all of that – and so should we!

John the filthy church-rejecter

The John that we call "the Baptist" was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah, since he was no longer in a place to trash what God was going to do, and since he'd obviously learned his lesson, also did a happy-joy shout to God. He finally recognized the powerful way that God was acting in the world, making happen the things He said He'd do. And he was blown away at the more visible part his son would be playing in all that: actually being the prophet who announced and prepared people to get ready for the Messiah! And, yep, John the Baptist would later do all that – but never as a good church man.

Like his father, John was born to be a priest and part of the temple culture. Unlike his father, John went outside the reaches of the human makings of religion he'd been born into, and instead served God where God and His real work could still be found: in the desert, and on the ridiculed and despised outskirts of "normal" society. Once there, John never did anything the good church people could be proud of or agree with. Instead, he barked accusations at those arrogant, powerful, and rich good church people who broke God's way. John even called B.S. on the local political leader when he dumped on God's way -- even knowing that sooner or later, this would all cost him his life (and it did). And then what was his concern? Begging for mercy? Promising to never preach outside his denominational box ever again? Learning his lesson and never bothering authority figures every again? Nope. He just sent some guys to check in with God, to make sure he'd worked the right road

And wouldn't the world be a better place if we would allow ever a quarter as much courage in our own faith lives? .

So what do *I* see in these people, in what the Bible shares about Luke, Zechariah, Mary, John the Baptist (and about Eve)?

I see that God's real work goes on in our real, every-day, puny human lives. Does God work through the rich and powerful and arrogant? The Bible shows us that yes, He does – but they are simply the pawns on the chessboard, and the poor and oppressed and humble are always the queens and kings.

Remember, for example, that God also used the powerful Assyrians when it worked out like He wanted – but who are the Assyrians now? Where are their dynasty, wealth, and advances? They're in the trash heap, where they belonged all along. But the people they oppressed and used? God kept them and their spiritual and physical descendants going even to today. And He will until He's done with this part of history and brings us home.

Remember that God used Pharaoh (the richest, most powerful ruler of the day), and Pontius Pilate (who held life-and-death power over Jesus, through the most powerful empire to ever exist until the modern USA), and Caiaphas (the highest ranking good church man in an entire nation of good church people who believed he as pastor / priest / pope could make and keep them right with God) -- but they were all pawns, weren't they? They were never His actual focus. Despite their vaulted place of honor in the human world and in human history, they were just side notes in God's plan, not truly required for anything.

The whole of God's plan has always been about saving those who want to be saved. It's always been about reuniting God with those who want to be with Him, and who are willing to recognize His God-ways are better than our human-ways. (That's why the arrogant, and the powerful, and the rich so rarely make it to salvation. They aren't necessarily any more evil than the rest of us. But they won't give up their goodies, won't stop hoarding what elevates them at everyone else's expense, even when it's choking the spiritual life out of them.)

What God wants more than anything else is for you and me and all the rejects, weaklings, outsiders, weirdos, oppressed people, impoverished people, puny people, and despised people to "make it". Jesus didn't come to do anything with the good church people. He used them to teach the rest of us, but He knew they always consider themselves above being saved, and therefore can't be saved.

So, when we're ready to set aside all the good church stuff, and to pay more attention to Jesus than to good church people, then we're finally starting down the narrow Jesus-path. That's how we get our gate admission ticket: just want one, more than you want the fake carnival ticket. 

It's been a very long road for me to learn to set aside all the good church stuff. First step required being grossed out by it. Then I tried rejecting all God stuff, but that didn't work. Then I tried different versions of good church stuff, but that didn't work either. It always came down to just more junk that made me happy for a short time, and then left me empty and grossed out, all over again. I spent about 35 years figuring it out.

But now? I can't tell you how "clean" I feel, and how much sense Jesus makes, now that I'm hearing and following Him, and not some funky, self-serving image of Him projected by other human beings. I'm still making mistakes. I expect to my whole life. But even the mistakes got smaller, once I started going right to the Source.

  • If you are already on this narrow Jesus-path -- even if you've just barely started, I can't begin to say how full and happy that makes my heart! I wish you God's best, and count you among my dearest spiritual siblings. 
  • If you are dissatisfied with what you've had of "church" and religion before, great! Start checking out just Jesus, and see how much better He is than the knock-off reproductions others have made of Him. Take it to heart and roll it around in your head: He just wants you to set aside all the "Christian" junk, just as He required the Chosen People 2,000 years ago to set aside all the "Jewish" junk, and just be about Jesus -- because He's there to demonstrate who God really is, in a way we could actually see and hear Him. Seek out those others who are also wanting just Jesus, and learn from them even as you share your learning with them. God's on your side!
And, as always, Jesus' message is very clear: 
Do your sincere best at doing what *I* say, and keep My love in your heart, no matter what -- and that makes you Mine.
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God means it for good

Ugh. Fighting springtime allergies right now, and by now they're trying to add in bronchitis. What a drag. But I'm taking (healthy) medicines, and getting extra rest, and thinking a lot about sickness and other kinds of suffering that creeps through this world.

What I've had the last few days is nothing. But it doesn't feel like nothing. It feels like my body isn't functioning correctly, even though in my mind I know my lungs and the rest are doing exactly what God programmed them to do, trying to isolate and get rid of what they see as harm or potential harm. But anyone who's had allergies knows the day-ruining groggy-head, and the sinus stuff, and the itching, and so on that's part of that. And it feels horrible. Anyone who's had the chest crap that follows sometimes, making it hard to breathe and sleep, knows how bad that feels, too.

Yet it's all nothing.

I have some awesome joys in my life. Truly awesome. But I've also had some huge pain. Nothing like some have had, to be sure. When I look at some people's lives, I'm amazed at how far suffering can go in this world – and how much of it human beings can survive through emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But many folks, when they hear about my life, say they're amazed at what I've suffered and survived, too.

And that reminds me, when I forget, not to disrespect one of the biggest teachers in my life.


Pain is certainly nothing we'd normally invite in. It's an enemy. It's an animal that sweats poison and spits fire. But if we accept God's help with pain, it can make us stronger even as it makes us gentler. It can teach us. It can open our hearts in ways we'd never known was possible.

Pain can actually make us better people.

Of course, pain makes many people worse. I grew up with and around people who let pain make them bitter, angry, selfish, violent, self-destructive, and intentionally ignorant of others' (even their children's) pain. In some cases, it made them drunks and drug users. In other cases, it made them religious legalists, or crazy people. And all of that was exactly what pain invited me to make of my life, as well. For many years I did – and for many years I smeared pain through others' lives, just like it had been splashed over mine.

I can name the day that I used to think God changed all that. I have to say "used to think" because by now I realize that God's hand was in my whole life, long, long before I ever realized it. He was there when I was:
  • a kid in a house of raging crazies, and He kept me from falling so far over the edge that I couldn't come back;
  • a teen full of rage and self-hate, and He kept me from blowing out my brains – or someone else's; 
  • a young adult arrogantly denying His existence, and calling Him every filthy name I could imagine and viciously belittling and attacking those who believed in Him because I hated Him so much, and He kept me from loving the darkness too much
  • an adult stupidly making myself a religious legalist, making up and following body, mind, and spiritual disciplines I mistakenly thought would give my life meaning, and perhaps take away my pain, and He kept me from selling myself to the devil.
Now I understand what I hurt too bad to get before: God has always been there even before my life started, seeing and working with potential I never knew I had, inviting me to be the better person I can always (still) learn to be. I know He's forever been in your life, too. That's just how He works.

But what about pain? Why is it here? Why do we have to feel it, deal with it, suffer under it?

I can't answer that – today. But I know some day soon we'll all know why. There won't be a question left for any of us, that day.

Until then, I just go with what I've learned – from the Bible, from the Holy Spirit, from my own learned life experience. Like,

Oftentimes we have pain because we've made crappy choices.

I've certainly made buckets of them, in my almost-50 years. I'm certain to make buckets more, before the Lord calls me home. Some of our bad choices we didn't make on purpose. I certainly didn't decide to be such a messed up young person that I was wanting to hurt people, for example. But I was responsible for the damage I did cause, anyway. We all are. We did it, we make up for it, we change (and change, and change, and change, as needed) and we move on. And hopefully we get ourselves pointed in that direction we'd actually like to go finally, instead of just floating along on some B.S. wind.

Pain is always a signal that something's wrong.

God programmed us to feel pain. And it wasn't a bad thing to do. Imagine being one of those rare people who can't feel pain, and now imagine resting your hand on a hot stove and not realizing it until you smell your own flesh on fire.

Pain means something needs to be different.
We need to move our hand, or see something differently, or escape a bad situation, or seek out healing, or grieve and then let go of a loss, or learn to help what we can and accept our own human limitations. Too often we blame the pain -- but the pain is just the obvious, stated. Pain tells us, "Whoa! Are you seeing this?" That's why drugging it with alcohol or meth or religion or bitterness doesn't fix anything: doing that just treats the symptom, and not what the symptom is trying to warn us about.

Pain is an opportunity to understand – and help – someone else's suffering, as well.

If you've ever paid any attention to your pain, you know how it likes to invite self-centeredness. Enough pain, and all we can think about is our hand, or our head, or our heart, or our messed up life. Even a little bit of pain, and all we want to think about is how bad it hurts, and "why won't it go away?"

But pain has a bigger lesson than that.

Everyone's got pain. But since pain is such a selfish ass, lots of people never get to know that someone else actually cares that they hurt, or can even imagine what their hurt must feel like. That means not only can pain be intensely isolating, but the added awareness that "I hurt, and nobody gives a *(#*%" just waters the fungus until our whole consciousness is rotten with it. That's when we start hurting ourselves or others with our words, our actions, our choices.

But what do you have, if you've had big pain? Well, you have first-hand knowledge. You've walked the territory. You're a Pain Tribe member. Given half a heart, you can even reach out – in a little way, or a big way – to someone else who's wearing the same badge, and even if you don't say a word, you can speak their language. And that's all it takes to drain (even just a little bit) of that extra "..and nobody gives a *(#*%" pain someone else is feeling.

The best part is, we don't have to be psychologists, or "clergy", or even have our own lives all together. We just need to have and be ourselves, and be willing to care about someone else who hurts in a way we can empathize with.

Pain can make us better people than people who've never had pain will ever be.

Those who make the most of their lives for themselves and others are those who've come through pain and turned it back on itself, so that their pain becomes a force for good in the world.

One example: one of my many deep pains in my earlier life was believing God hated me for being Gay. Feeling rejected, condemned, valueless, and unable to change made me crazy with grief and anger for many years. When I finally allowed God to heal me of that (something He'd been trying to do for my whole life, I realized later), that pain transformed into a deep passion for helping others who had also been lied to about what God thinks of them, and who also longed for that Jesus-connection they thought they couldn't have. Then, for several years (long before such things became common on the internet, as they are today) I ran a website that received over a hundred thousand visitors (both Gay and straight) who were looking for (or just stumbled upon) the info I'd put up about what the Bible really says about Gay people and God's loving acceptance of them just as they are. During that time, I also personally counseled almost a thousand people who needed or wanted more than a quick note and some Bible studies.

And what can I say about all that? That I did something great? NO WAY. I don't give half a cent for anything I did, or that anyone even remember my name (in fact, I'd prefer you forget me and just remember Jesus!) What I do want to shout about is how "Christians" prejudiced against Gay people meant my previous pain for bad – but God turned it into something good and healing. And, when Bible-based Gay healing resources became common on the internet, my passion moved on to helping others I could also relate to: people who aren't happy being atheists; people convinced they're garbage; people so emotionally damaged they can't believe their life can ever be happy, fun, and joy-filled; and more. And I know God is doing the same and more through the lives of other people whose pain He's made into something better. I know, because I've benefited and continue to benefit from what God's given them to do, say, and be, as well.

Does any of this mean I'm perfect, or have some great stuff to share that others can't live without? Absolutely not. I'm no hero. I'm no saint. I'm no Jesus.

What I am is another human being who, through accepting what Jesus Christ had to offer, has watched her life turn from dark, bleak hurricane to loved blue skies – and who's gotten oriented enough to be able to share directions to the good place I was helped to find, with others. I can't fix anything – and sometimes all I have is a willingness to sit with someone else's pain, and share a laugh, and offer a hand up.

But I can do that now. 

Because my pain made me strong. 

Because compared to Jesus, my pain is nothing.

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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to be (& stay) saved despite the Christians in your life

Whether they realize it or not, most Christians (and ex-Christians) have only ever truly understood being "saved" as conforming to their religious group's ideas and rituals and traditions. So, to themselves and to those who listen to them, "being saved" and the "proof" that you are saved means things like going to church every week, voting for or against certain things, accepting or not accepting certain people, using the group's lingo, swearing to hold to certain doctrines, and so on.

But none of those things to do or ways to be have anything to do with what the Bible – and therefore God – says being saved is.

And that means:

There are a lot of people out there assuming they've got spiritual box seats when actually they haven't even gotten into the stadium yet, AND...

There are a lot of people out there assuming they either can't or don't want to get in the game when actually God's already signed them up and handed them their uniform and gear.

So, just what does it really mean to "be saved"?

Being saved, according to the Bible, simply means choosing Jesus and Jesus' way and values in this world, instead of your own or someone or something else's.

How that choosing Jesus starts in people's lives can vary.
  • Some people get their Big-Real-Moment realizing that Jesus is God.
  • Some start off with a Big-Real-Moment realizing what a piece of self-centered piece of immoral doo they are compared to the awesome holiness of God.
  • Some get their Big-Real-Moment when they really figure out that Jesus actually rejects all the jerk "Christians" who claim to represent Him, because they're doing all those wrong things.
And those are all great. Thing is, though, to move on from the Big-Real-Moment and get to the Saved part requires we embrace all three of those. And that's where we're often encouraged (by ourselves, by our church, by our culture or subculture) to fail.

For example, despite the doctrine of a lot of the "newer" (though actually just re-do's of the ancient Greek re-writes of Jesus) post-modern churches today, being a saved Christian really does require understanding that Jesus is God, and that He meant us to take what He said seriously. So, for example, a church can and should be "inclusive" or "non-exclusive", it's true. But we're supposed to be all-inclusive of people, not ideas. Claiming to be a "Christian" or "Christian church" who holds equally to Christian, secular, atheist, pagan, etc., philosophies is like claiming to be a tree that's also a cow, and a star, and a thought, and a rock, and (etc). It only works if we've put what we can imagine inside our head ahead of what's really reality around us. And it's never as "welcoming" or "protective" or "loving" as post-modern doctrine insists it is. It still leaves people hurt, still leaves people out, and still turns more people off the real Jesus than on to Him – because it's still really not about Jesus. So, no go.

But when knowing Jesus is God means you take Him and everything He said to do and understand seriously, then you've "got" this part down pat.

Another invitation to fail comes in making an idol out of how pathetic we are compared to God. We've all had a snoot-full of "conservative" and other "Christians" and "Christian churches" who go on and on and on to make sure we feel like the biggest waste of time on the planet (because it makes us emotionally vulnerable and compliant). These "Christian" folks push self-hate like Roman priests push magic wheat wafers: "Eat this, or go to hell." And in truth, it's in reaction to this kind of B.S. that the post-modern folks came up with their counter-idea of "No one goes to hell." Problem is, believing that hanging out on the left side of a pool of spit is better than the old way of hanging out on the right side of a pool of spit just doesn't get you dry. And getting dry means getting out of the dang pool. It means realizing that yes, compared to God we're worse than trash (the Bible says our best good deeds are like used toilet paper to the real goodness of God), and it means realizing that yes, if we spend our whole lives only ever INSISTING on keeping and enjoying evil in our deepest hearts then yes, it really means we don't get heaven (thank God). But just as much it also means realizing that God sees right past all that when we give Him an opportunity to do so. It means realizing that because He loves us beyond our ability to comprehend it, and because He's gone all the way to death and beyond to make sure (if we're willing) we get to spend a tearless, painless eternity with Him, our piece-of-crapness in the "Good Person" department is NOT the foundation of our identity – being God's beloved friend and child is.

When you can be fully aware of how morally insufficient you are even on your best "Good Person" day, and that just means you understand full well that you aren't God, and that just means you rely on God to take care of the God-level stuff, then you've mastered this part.

The final fail is in not figuring out the difference between Jesus, and those who claim to represent Jesus. Lots of people walk away from churches and Christianity each day because the stench of it all finally closes their lungs down. Spiritually, but also emotionally and morally, they just can't breathe, and they take that as a sign that Jesus is nuts, following Jesus is a fool's game (or a demon trick), and if you want to actually be something positive in this world then you can't be a Christian. Thing is, though, all the things we get so hurt by, and disgusted by, and angry at are documented again and again in the Bible as the exact same things God gets hurt by, and disgusted by, and angry at. God's Bible tells us that from start to finish always-always-always the majority of those who claim to be about Him will just be that in name only, trying to surf on His power and glory without actually getting in His water. The Bible tells us that. It also tells us that only that minority actually doing and living like Jesus says will be rewarded – never the majority that's already claiming its "reward". We've been indoctrinated and propagandized for so long by the false-majority – who can look right at something orange and through sheer repetition and blocking and disrespecting alternative views make everyone swear it's green – that if we truly want Jesus we really have to work at flushing our thinking processes of their imagined world.

When you can look across the whole of "Christendom" in all its false glory and simply recognize the thistles that God said He wasn't going to yank out until the End because He wants to make sure nothing good accidently gets pulled out with them (in other words, He's giving everyone every last second of their lives to choose good instead of evil, before He finally says, "Ok. Game Over") – when you can be a true follower of Jesus, wandering along His narrow path through the jungle of false-Christianity, all despite the horrid example of all the "good church people" around you – then you've not just learned this, but you're also ready to even help others on this part.

How do we know our salvation is real?

It's only hard to know when our salvation is real when we're still using false-Christian propaganda to test it. They say we just have to keep going to their church, or say certain prayer words, or eat their crackers every week, or hold to their doctrine (even if their doctrine is "Pretend we don't have doctrines"), and that means we're "saved". But that's nothing even close to what Jesus and those in the Bible say.

Take a look through your New Testament (time to get your anti-propaganda goggles out, if you haven't already).
  • Notice that Jesus says we test for results in people's hearts, to know if they're really about Him or not
  • Notice that those who cling most tightly to their religious ideas, buildings, titles, and traditions are those who are most likely to earn that failing grade they spend their whole lives trying to stamp onto others
  • See, for example, that the Bible says that people who are really saved, and really about Jesus, over time become less and less interested in the world's ways of jealousy, fighting, cliquishness, destructive "fun", lustful living, and idolizing material things
  • Notice that the Bible says people with Jesus really in their hearts over time become more and more loving (even to enemies), joyful (even in the face of despair), peace-filled (even when their fellows call for blood), patient (even when it's not deserved), kind (even to those who are mean), good (even when it would accomplish more to be bad), faithful to God (even when the world trashes Him), gentle (even when they could just mash the thing and be done), and self-controlled (even though temptations to hurt, clique, destroy, take, idolize, and more fly through their hearts).
The Bible also says that over time people with Jesus in their hearts learn more and more of God's Word, and they take even more of what He really said (instead of the propaganda reinterpreting what He said) to heart.

Notice that it never matters who someone is, or who they dress, talk, fellowship, or anything else. More and more, others around them can tell them apart from non-Christians, and can identify that they don't play the world's games or climb the world's ladders but work instead to clean up their own act first and then also help all those around them.

That's how Jesus and the first Christians determined whether someone was saved or not. Worked for them. Works for us.

Final things to think about:

The way of Jesus isn't actually that hard. It's our unwillingness to take it seriously that makes it hard.

Like, for example, Jesus said to:
  • Love and not hurt those who hurt us, 
  • Not add to or take away from God's simple way, 
  • Not put people or things between us and God, 
  • Not stick ourselves with material wealth. 
And we all could easily do all that – except that most of the time we don't really want to. We'd rather create and belong to "churches" and theologies and denominations and teachers that work overtime to justify how we can still "follow" Jesus even while going in the opposite direction from Him, how we can "obey" His commands while actually breaking them, and how we can get to heaven even though the whole of our lives has been to make sure we didn't deserve it.

And that's all just more of our crappy sin-nature. All that faked "Jesus" stuff that we mix with the idols of our day (our politics, our theology, our material wealth, even our "church", and more). We create or hold to fake-Jesus stuff and it only proves once again how much we suck at being as good as we think we are.

So the hard part of salvation is our making it hard.

Be saved.
  • Let Jesus be and handle the God-part. You take care of the broken human part. It will always be what you do best.
  • Let Jesus know you're aware of what a shmuck you really are, but then fold that awareness into an even bigger awareness of how valued, loved, and wanted you are anyway by the most Awesome Being of the Universe. Let your brokenness be the salve you take around to help others heal.
  • Find and stick with the real Jesus. No human being, idea, program, church, or tradition has ever represented Him well enough to earn anyone's loyalty. Find and fellowship with and learn from others who are also looking for and standing with the real Jesus. 
The real Jesus is all that's going to really fill and satisfy your heart. And Jesus' simple way is all that's required for your salvation.
Until next week –

In His love,


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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are you gonna follow that church leader all the way to hell?

Church leadership just keeps coming up again and again in my circle these days. No doubt because it's church leaders (or, at least those human beings count as church leaders, whether God does or not) who determine where most Christians will go in their spiritual walk. It's church leaders who describe and draw the boundaries for the various paths most Christians will follow.

And it's sorta-kinda supposed to be that way. According to the Bible, a "church leader" (also described as an "elder" and such, in the New Testament) is supposed to be someone like your football coach, or your older sister, or someone else who, yes, is also just another sinful human being like you are, but who also has real-world experience and knowledge in living as a true follower of Jesus Christ. A church leader's shared experience and wisdom, offered with corrective love and hope, is supposed to keep us all continually re-pointed back to Jesus Christ (while everything else in the world keeps trying to point us away). Their function within the Body of Christ is to help keep themselves, each other, and all their "younger siblings" on that narrow Jesus-path until Jesus comes again. 

But anyone truly paying attention to what's happened to the "Christian Church" in the last 1,900 years or so can see how quickly "church leadership" degenerated after those who'd learned firsthand from Jesus Himself died (and so were no longer around to call B.S. on nonsense) – and how "church leadership" stayed degenerated even into today. Despite the Bible's direction, even today almost all "church leaders" are only truly about Jesus Christ (and making the sacrifices and going through the trials following Him demands) when doing so does not conflict with or counter the human-created religious traditions, cultural norms, social expectations, attendance counts, and job and ego security understood as "core" of the religious organization or group they belong to. And that's just as true of "fundamentalist" churches as it is of "progressive" ones. Just as true of "evangelical" churches as it is of "emergent" ones. Just as true of "modern" churches as it is of "post-modern" ones.

We're so proud of ourselves, and we remember always to praise God -- right after we get done thinking so highly of ourselves for how much "better" we've made the religion of "Jesus" in the last 2,000 years.

And all that means if we just go along with whatever "old" or "new" church fad that tickles our fancy, or better addresses our politics or our emotional needs, then we're just wandering around a cheap carnival fun house that has Jesus' face painted on the front and some hymnals scattered around the back.

And that's because most practicing and preparing-to-become "church leaders" today have a "calling" from their own ego, or from a severe misunderstanding of Jesus' truth -- and not actually from the Holy Spirit.

For true church leaders, though, who aren't simply memorizing (and benefiting themselves from) human-crap-of-death that was based on human-crap-of-death which was itself based on human-crap-of-death all the way back to the human-crap-of-death the first disciples named as anti-Jesus, what's really God-required for church leaders to be and do is right there in the Bible. Right there for our understanding to soak in, once we pump the spiritual bilge water from our hearts and minds.

Take a look at Acts 20, for example. I'm starting at verse 17 (end about verse 35). Then look over Titus 1, reading from about Titus 1:5 to about Titus 2:1 (my text below will follow those sequences, if you want to follow along in your own Bible). Compare Paul's Holy Spirit-led, real world experience and wisdom-sharing about what church leaders are to truly do, know, and be – and then compare that to what we see today in "church leaders", whether those "church leaders" are on television or radio or internet, or in local pulpits, megachurches, "creative" churches, "house" churches, and so on.

I'm just going to grab here at the most obvious examples:

Paul says he served Jesus not only with humility, but also through all the tears and trials that came via evil plottings of "good religious people".
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" today are actually the self-satisfied "good religious people" doing the evil plotting or working against those that don't conform to their own ego-boundaries or human-inspired doctrines, instead of being those grieved and suffering because of trying to be about Jesus in spite of them? 
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders.
Paul says he never shrank from publicly testifying to everyone about (1) the need to repent to God from evil choices, (2) to keep faith in Jesus Christ, and (3) the good news of God's love even for those who've never deserved it for one millisecond. 
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" ignore the need for us all to repent because telling people they're making evil choices "turns people off" (and therefore lowers the ministry's follower numbers and/or tithes) or just doesn't match how they've imagined "love" to be? Which church leaders push people to keep faith in their own particular human denominational/doctrinal/etc interpretation of Jesus Christ, as if that were the same as Jesus Christ?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says he's innocent of causing anyone else to end up in hell, because he's taught God's whole intent and not just picked and chosen what he liked and ignored the rest. 
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" – of "right" or "left", "evangelical" or "emergent", "modern" or "post-modern" – only pick and choose what they emphasize about God (like, for example, teaching that God is about hating sin without also showing from their lives God's boundless love for all humankind, or teaching that God is about nothing but love without also showing from their lives God's triumphant justice and rejection of evil?).
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says church leaders need to be on guard for themselves, each other, and for everyone God has seen fit to make them an elder-sibling over, to make sure they properly shepherd what God shed His own blood for to buy us back from destruction.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" claim to "guard the flock" but actually help fleece the flock of dollars and adoration that belong only to God, while enforcing human rules, human traditions, and human ideas as if they were from God?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says that after he's dead, evil-minded people are going to emerge from inside churches, and are going to be ripping up and ripping off those people within them, teaching things that pervert the real Good News of Jesus Christ, and getting people to leave real fellowships and follow them instead.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" (past and present) are doing just this, while using Bible quotes and church law and appeals to tradition to "justify" it, so that people even  believe this kind of "Christianity" is "normal" and "healthy" and "godly"?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says church leaders therefore must be on the alert, expecting these anti-Jesus wolves to show up, and tearfully warning each other of even possible slipups.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" simply "go along to get along", not "rocking the boat" in their fellowship, church, denomination, or world so things still have the appearance of being godly and cozy, even when people are being taught a false way to salvation, when children are being raped, when women are stuck in battering relationships, when the poor and oppressed are suffering, when people are being convinced God hates them, when people are being convinced that human-add-ons are requirements of the Gospel, and so on? 
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says that God Himself is able to build up church leaders, to give them what they need to be sanctified and true.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" rely on themselves, their denominational position, their theological education, their religious doo-dads, or something else besides God to "prove" them holy-living godly church leaders who should be followed or even "obeyed"?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
Paul says as a church leader he never had a thought about gaining others' money and such, and that with his own hands he took care of his own needs and the needs of the other ministers working with him. He says that by working hard like this, church leaders can and must help those who are weak, remembering always that Jesus Himself said that it's better to give than receive.
Discernment opportunity: Which "church leaders" have made or hope to make a good career out of ministry, especially in "administration" of buildings, programs, "ministry teams", college courses, and denominational politics, as if anything like that means diddly compared to the simple Jesus-acts of personally getting someone in need a meal, hugging someone covered in filth, or teaching lost people about the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Doesn't matter how "good" or "spiritual" or "religious" they are -- they do not have their hearts on the real Jesus -- and therefore don't qualify as God-chosen church leaders
(Now I'm working my way through Titus 1):

Many churches (especially but not only "right-wing" ones) like to believe they've satisfied the requirements for church leadership -- but what they actually do is pick as "church leaders" people who satisfy worldly standards (like picking business people to "run" the church and its "finances"), and/or by picking church leaders who conform to their own human doctrines, traditions, cliques, biases, and politics -- but don't conform to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was given by Jesus Christ.


How many "church leaders" are said to be "above reproach", but by their ugly and/or empty hearts and their "church over Jesus" belief systems they've brought tremendous shame on the Body of Christ? Well, that means they are not "above reproach" at all!

When "good religious people" are said to be in "rebellion" in the New Testament, it means they are in rebellion against God's way of doing things. So how many "church leaders" even just today are easily accused of being in "rebellion", since they put more value on religious deeds and doo-dads that only make show (even though they don't fool God, of course)? How many run "churches" and teach things in complete opposition to things Jesus taught, yet still count what they're doing as "according to God's will"? These are people in rebellion!

Do we even need to cover "prosperity preachers", "televangelists", but also all other "church leaders" who've managed to make a huge living at representing the God who said that those who have good things in this world won't get squat in the next, and who said you simply cannot have your mind and heart on God and money at the same time? These are people fond of "sordid gain", and who are stewards of their own interests, not Gods!

Paul wrote someone qualified to be a church leader will "[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching" passed down from Jesus to His first disciples, so the church leader is "able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict [it]." How many "church leaders" of the past nineteen centuries have even pretended to stick only with the simple Good News of Jesus Christ, as taught and commanded by God Himself, and not instead added and/or adored the human accretions layered on top of it like muddy dirt and filth on gold? How many church leaders – "right" or "left", "evangelical" or "emergent" or "catholic", "modern" or "post-modern" – won't correct or chew themselves or each other out when they're following or teaching human-crap-of-death, refusing to stand up at all costs to themselves, "their" ministry, "their" church, and so on to counter those who twist Jesus Christ and His message into their own human-shaped pretzel? These are not people faithful to God's Word.

How many "church leaders" of any brand won't even acknowledge that church people who don't do things God's way, who spout their own nonsense, who deceive people, or who obsess on only parts of the Bible message are – Paul says – supposed to be made to shut the %)#@*% up? How many "church leaders" just continue to absorb (or seek) all the bennies promised to their human church position and assignments, doing right by themselves while ignoring, passing off, or justifying the loss of all those turned away from the Gospel or otherwise hurt by "the Church" (no doubt they are "prayerfully working on the problem from within" -- for years, decades, centuries...)? These are not servants of Jesus Christ.

How many "church leaders" won't severely accuse destructive, anti-Jesus "Christians" (even though that would give them an opportunity to get their spiritual heads on right and stop hurting other people and blaspheming God)? More, how many won't call wrong wrong because they don't want to risk the political poo-storm it would cause to stir up the sleeping demons in their "church"? How many won't do this because "God is love" and therefore they are going to demonstrate "God's love" by letting the devil destroy people's lives and faith? These people reject God's way.

How many "church leaders" – instead of knowing and standing up for Jesus and doing what He said to do – actually themselves "profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed"?

As always, it all comes down to this:

Whether we count ourselves as "church leaders", or as followers of "church leaders": do we take Jesus and (real) His teachings (as given us through His first disciples) seriously, or don't we?

The fact that the vast majority of those calling themselves "Christian" do NOT take Jesus seriously is demonstrated continually in our support of politicians (republican, democrat, whatever -- all the same), religious figures (protestant, catholic, emergent, whatever -- all the same), business leaders and their various economic systems (all the same), and others (all the same) who start or continue or don't act against war, torture, oppression of the poor and minorities, falsification of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and other demonic practices.

And we learn to be "good Christians" who defy Jesus Christ to His face and happily do the exact opposite of what He says (while still expecting His praise, of course), from following and learning from "church leaders" who may be very nice people who want to love and serve the Lord but who just don't qualify according to the simple standards set out for us by God in His Bible. 

So, what's the Jesus-deal? 

The deal is: take Jesus as seriously as He takes you. And only follow and learn from those other human beings whose lives and faith lead and point you only to Him. 
  • Remember, as you look for real "elder-siblings" to help you out, that they may or may not be found in actual church buildings (or even in "house churches", etc), because these days few such places have enough Jesus left in them to do anything but (at best) wear people out spiritually, and the real Body of Christ is found everywhere. Keep an eye and heart out in all the places such folks might be found: online, at your work, in a Bible study, and so on. God's been amazing in all the places He's dropped "elder-siblings" into my life. 
  • Remember that nothing in the Bible says being an "elder-sibling" is supposed to be some kind of ritualized or formal relationship. That's how human beings like to do things -- not like Jesus did or does things. Look for friendships and fellowships, not someone with a title or collar or organizational position. Most of the time, it won't even be recognized as an "elder-sibling" thing at all, but as simply a neighbor-thing, or a friend-thing, or whatever. Lots of the best "elder-siblings" are found amongst the "least of these" in the world, because they've actually gone through real trials (often at the hands and hearts of the "good religous people" in their lives), and they've learned through Jesus Christ how to deal with and be better despite such things. 
  • Remember that if you yourself are a "church leader", you also need God-chosen church leaders to keep YOU on the right path, because you're just as human as everyone else, and you also will for the rest of your life need to learn from and listen to only those who actually match what the Bible says qualifies someone to be an "elder-sibling". This ridiculous and shameful ego thing of pretending to be so "holy" you (unlike everyone else) no longer desperately need strong counsel and a good butt-kicking more days than not is exactly what makes so-called "ministers" into drunks, drug addicts, perverts, ego-maniacs, spiritual-masturbators, wealth-chasers, and God-trashers. If you aren't willing to be the truly humble person first in line each day for godly correction and teaching, then do the rest of the world a favor and "minister" instead in a Church of Satan, where you will at least be honest about who you're really serving. 
  • Finally, always remember that having (real) "elder-siblings" in your life is a very nice thing to have, and can sometimes keep us from doing a face-plant into the thorn bushes along the narrow path -- but elder-siblings aren't required for our salvation. Only Jesus is required for that. He'll provide all the other stuff as we're willing to look and to accept them, and as He determines we need them. But in any case, He's our ultimate safety, only real Teacher, and only true Elder (pastor, priest, etc).  
Until next week -- God continue to bless and keep you, and to grow you, and to open your mind and heart in all the ways that make Him more and more your only Source, each day!

In God's love,


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