Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sinners, 1. Good Religious People, 0. Jesus wins again

We're continuing our trek through the (chronological) Gospels, learning about the real Jesus – and how different He is from how He's most often portrayed by Good Religious People and others.

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. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists  NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says his favorite site is here, because it also lists NRSV. If you have yet another that's your favorite, do send it to me. I will also list it here).

At this point in our journey, Luke and Matthew both tell us about someone (not only a pagan, but also a Roman army officer) who Good Religious Jews of the day would normally have had nothing to do with. Normally, they would have despised him with the same revulsion and hatred and superior feeling that many Good Religious People of today feel towards Gays. So why did the Good Religious Jews accept him? Luke tells us: because this Roman also loved who they were and gave money to build their meeting place. Many Gay-hating Good Religious People today are also happy to keep despising Gay people, even though they also continue being happy to take "tithes" and other offerings from the Gay pew-sitters who love them and continue handing over the bucks to pay for their "church". So, Good Religious People haven't changed a bit.

No matter – Jesus (who's already expressed Himself as someone not impressed by world-wealth or what it can build or do anyway) is going to show up to help this otherwise-hated man. What big thing happens then?

The otherwise-hated man demonstrates a faith in Jesus the likes of which Jesus hadn't seen in any of "God's People", ever. The otherwise-hated man says, "Sir, I understand authority, and I know that you have authority. I know that all you have to do is say the word and whatever you want to happen will happen, no matter where you are or where the problem is. So I'm not going to ask you to go out of your way to do this". Jesus, the bible tells us, is completely blown away. He makes happen what the otherwise-hated man wanted, and, just as the guy believed, even without having to physically be there to do it.

But Jesus did more. He also told the crowd of Good Religious Jews that many kinds of otherwise-hated people will come from every part of humanity, and will take their places at the same table as the founding fathers of the Jewish people in heaven – while Good Religious Jews rot in hell.
  • Are you one or another kind of "otherwise-hated" person to Good Religious People (Christian, Jewish, whatever)? What does it mean to you to know that Jesus – unlike Good Religious People – doesn't require that you love some "church" group or denomination, or that you fork over money in "love offerings" or "tithes" to be willing to help you out? 
  • How does your faith compare to the centurion in this story? Do you believe that rituals, or visits, or tithes, or anything else are required before Jesus can help you? 
  • Think about whether you are an "otherwise-hated" person, or someone who's been taught to hate "otherwise-hated" people – and then consider what Jesus said about "otherwise-hated" people making it to heaven, while despisers of "otherwise-hated" people are not making it to heaven. What should this mean to your life, today? 
  • What are the ways that "otherwise-hated" people are mistreated, born false witness about, and so on by Good Religious People today? How can you help these "otherwise-hated" people see past the false-Christ that Good Religious People wave around, and instead see the real Jesus, instead? 
  • Some people argue that the relationship between the centurion and his servant was a romantic and/or sexual one. The bible text really doesn't say either way, though historically slaves and their masters in that time and place often spent years as part of the same household and sometimes did develop an emotional and/or sexual bond beyond mere master/servant. Some would argue that Jesus wouldn't have helped if He'd known these two were romantically involved, but nothing in the Bible suggests that Jesus ever turned anyone away who actually asked Him for help. What should all this say to the lives of those who believe the centurion and his servant were romantically involved? What should all this say to the lives of those who believe they weren't so involved?

Next, John talks about another person that sometimes gets lumped in with the centurion above – but that inclusion doesn't fly if you actually take a look at what's going on in all three stories. In this one, we see another big wig – this time someone from the Jewish royal court – asking Jesus to heal his son. Just like for the centurion, Jesus heals the person without having to physically show up. What's the difference between the two stories, though?

Well, for one thing, Jesus points out something He points out several times to the Jews back then: unless God was doing supernatural things that blew their socks off, they refused to see Him in anything. The otherwise-hated centurion man didn't need to be wow'ed. He already had trust in Jesus before he even asked for the "signs and wonders". But the Good Religious People? Nope. Their words and attitudes always said to Jesus, "Give us the signs and wonders, and THEN we'll have faith". And that shows in this story, when, we're told, after the son was healed THEN the Jewish official and his household believed God was at work among them.
  • If you're already a Christian, consider: do you just rest in your trust and faith in God, or do you require God to demonstrate reasons for your trust and faith? Why? 
  • Jesus did go around Israel doing signs and wonders to prove who He was, so that people could believe He was God and know to take Him seriously. If you're not a Christian, have you explored the reality of Jesus' life and what He (truly) did and stood for? His first disciples actually gave up their safety and lives – not for some theology or church or for something someone told them to believe – but for the truth of all the signs and wonders they'd seen Jesus do. Please continue taking a look at the real Jesus, and at the people who knew Him firsthand. He and those He Himself chose to represent Him (not all the later "priests" and "pastors" and "ministers" and "popes", in other words) meant for YOU to know God, to know His overwhelmingly huge love for you, and to know His plan for the world and your place in it. Take a look!

Finally for today, we see Jesus once again totally not caring about the Good Religious Laws the Good Religious People lived for. He and the people with Him happened to cross paths with a funeral procession. The bible tells us that the woman mourning was a widow, and that the guy who died was her only son, so that we understand that his death meant she now had no material support in her life. Remember, the cultures back then were intensely male-dominated, so that women required a husband, father, son, or other related male supporting them and giving them a home – or they were probably going to end up in prostitution or begging, just to feed themselves (or just dying, from street-abuse, hunger, the elements, etc). The bible tells us that when Jesus saw her His heart went out to her, and He moved to act in her life.

There was a problem, though. In the Mosaic law the Jews followed, touching a dead person or their funeral stuff made you "ritually unclean". It meant you couldn't touch or do lots of things for a prescribed number of days and until after you'd done certain rituals. So normally people only touched their dead loved ones (there being no morticians in those days) – and no one else. Why have to go through all that for someone you didn't love?

But Jesus actually went up and touched the guy's coffin. The people carrying the coffin just stopped. I bet their mouths were hanging open while they stared at this weird guy who'd just come up and touched their dead relative out of the blue. And we have to consider what Jesus is doing here, too, because we just watched Him heal two people from far away. Certainly He could have healed the dead guy from a short distance away and then still kept the religious rules God gave the Jews through Moses centuries before.

But Jesus chose to touch him. Jesus chose to do exactly what all the Good Religious People of that day would NEVER have done. Once again, Jesus proved Himself completely outside of anything Good Religious People could even imagine.
  • In this miracle, we see Jesus' heart is all about the woman who's now going to be made defenseless in her human culture. He stepped into her life specifically to care for her – and that's the real miracle. Yet what happened to her that day, and what it would have meant to her life if she hadn't met Jesus that day, is usually just the backstory in Good Religious People story-telling, who want us to focus on the fact that Jesus raised someone from the dead here. Why do you think today's Good Religious People are more like the Jews back then, all-eyes on the "signs and wonders", instead of like Jesus, all-eyes on the person most at risk of oppression, suffering, humiliation, and even death? What should our own Christian focus be on, not only as we read the bible but also as we meet others who are culturally or otherwise vulnerable? 
  • Many Good Religious People today just LOVE LOVE LOVE "The Rules", going on and on about how they follow "God's rules". Yet Jesus never followed "God's rules" as Good Religious People portray or proclaim them. What does that say about Who we should be looking to for mentoring, lived-example, and teaching, and who we should not?

Next week we'll meet once again one of Jesus' most powerful followers: a man who did his own thing, had almost nothing, and who constantly torqued off the powerful people around him – but who God called one of the greatest human beings to ever live.

Until next week!

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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ARE you doing what Jesus says?

Ok – I'm still in job-transition, but I'm grabbing a short time here today to get out our next look at the real Jesus (outside how He's portrayed by what's most loudly called itself "Christianity" the last many centuries).

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).


Our next reading in the chronological Gospels lands us in a recounting by Luke of a similar "sermon" or speech that Jesus made ("in a level place"). Some say this is the same speech remembered differently, but most more likely guess that it was given at another time – and it certainly does cover some things Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" speech (given on a hill-rise of some kind) did not.

I won't go over what's repeated (though the passage isn't long, so please do read all of it to make sure you get the whole context). Let's talk about what's different or added in this speech.

First of all, Jesus is talking once again to a huge crowd – this one full of people who've come from all over to hear him, get healing, touch Him, and just check out the great power that was said to come from Him. And He tells them something that would have been considered even more strange and impossible in their day than it is in ours:
  • "When you're Mine and poor, hungry, hurting, and/or hated for My sake, you're going to get God's care and reward.
  • But if you're rich, never-hungry, content, and/or well-respected I count that you've already gotten your reward and don't deserve more from God."
Imagine Jesus speaking to a huge crowd of slave laborers in Asia, or of destitute, oppressed dirt farmers in Central America, or of famine victims in Africa, and telling them and the few rich people also listening that all the fat-cats living so well now are going to get squat when God institutes HIS way in this world, while the people like them are going to get everything: free run of God's kingdom, perfect satisfaction, never another reason to cry, and nothing but dignity as far as the eye can see.

It's just the human world that says that people who are poor or suffering or persecuted deserve it somehow. Even when we say we don't believe that, we nearly always do (we can tell because we continue to believe that if we are well-off it's because we did something to deserve it while a poor person didn't, or earned God's favor while a poor person didn't. We never manage to realize that in this world, one person gains more only on the suffering of someone else. Think of that next time you buy a cheap shirt made in China or gain from stocks in companies that lay off workers or poison the environment others have to live in).

The world wants God to believe we deserve our well-off lifestyles, too.

But God isn't fooled. It takes Him no time at all to recognize that people not living the world's gravy train always end up worse off than when they started, treated like crap, trashed and bad-mouthed, but that those who play by human rules move up in the world – gain money (at other people's expense), stay well-fed (while others are hungry), laugh it up (while others cry).

And if the Bible tells us nothing else, it's that while God has been willing to tolerate, ignore, and even use human wealth when needed, He's never stopped concentrating His care and attention on the oppressed, the suffering, the abused, the abandoned, and so on (He even showed up on earth as one of the oppressed, suffering, abused, abandoned people!) And He's certainly never re-written His own standards or re-created His kingdom to match the tacky d├ęcor of the human whorehouse we call gleefully call "Everything we should strive for!".

God moves among and cares about the well-off, it's true. But – sorry, world! – it's those who are hurt, left behind, or used by those who are well-off that merit His greatest healing and reward in His kingdom.
  • The Bible tells us that it's always been the people doing things God's real way that pay the big price, suffer the most, and are persecuted (most often by the people only faking doing "God's" way). It also tells us that God cares about healing and fixing the problems and hurts caused by those who have more (money, power, prestige, hierarchy, etc), on the people who have less.  Why, then, do you think so many centuries of "Christianity" and "Judaism" have instead taught that the good-life (as defined by the world) is not only proof that God favors those who have over those who don't have, but that their great life lived now will simply continue into the next? Who has taught and protected that false teaching?

Next that's different here is Jesus' parable about the blind leading the blind. You will end up, He says, just like the one you take on as "teacher".

That was a big warning to those in the crowd that day who took all their understanding of God and what God wanted from them from the day's priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Good Religious People. As we've already covered in this study, those were exactly the self-proclaimed "experts" Jesus tells us we have to do BETTER than if we expect to get into heaven.

People, and our unending intent to fail rather than abandon anything we love in this world, just don't change, though. Most of those believing themselves "God's people" back then blindly followed the blind Good Religious People right into a hell-pit, becoming no better than their hell-bound but "expert" teachers. And most of today's "God's People" are just as blindly insisting on following their pastor, priest, Sunday school teacher, confessor, pope, denomination, seminary instructor, even family members into the same Good Religious People pit of hell-slime. They'll be the ones that get to the End and go, "Wait a minute! I thought this was the heaven-line! Why am I at the 'I never knew you' gate?"

Two things here.

First of all, Jesus tells us again how to tell who's really a real-Jesus follower, and who's just a pretender – a world-worshiper with a smiling Jesus-mask on. Look, He says, to what their hearts produce. We don't get grapes from thistle bushes. We don't get figs from sticker bushes. But we still expect to get real-Jesus from "church" and "pastor" and "priest" and "denomination"? We still insist that all it takes to prove one's real-Jesus loyalty is smiling sweetly when in public, giving time and money to the poor, and doing a lot "for the church" – even though Jesus said earlier that those things mean diddly when the heart is full of arrogance, greediness, envy, self-focus, ladder-climbing, domination, bullying, lying, cheating, oppression of others, sexual attacks and molestation, and more.

Jesus isn't fooled. Jesus isn't blind. We shouldn't be either!
  • In the Old Testament, God said that He was going to make Himself our teacher, and write His way directly into our hearts. Jesus and others in the New Testament go out of their way to make sure we understand that Good Religious People are the last ones we should turn to to figure out what God wants from us and our lives. What prevents you, right now, from making the real Jesus your first-and-foremost teacher? What human being, human institution, or human tradition (Good Religious or otherwise) have you allowed to blindly lead you along its own path and its own re-imagined version of "Jesus"?

Finally (for today), Jesus asked the crowd a question we ourselves should be asking of ourselves and each other every day:
"Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but don't do what I say?"
We know what will happen to those of us who only mouth "Christian" things but don't actually live real Christian lives, doing what Jesus (not the "church", not the "pastor", not the "denomination", not "tradition", not the "pope") said to do. Our whole spiritual foundation will sag in the end, washing out from under us and leaving us far, far from our eternal home with God.
  • Spend the next week, month, year asking yourself each morning and evening, "What didn't I do today that wasn't what Jesus said to do? What did He say to do that I ignored today?" Ask not only for His forgiveness, but also for Him to come into your heart and be your Teacher. Trust in Him to make your heart clean and new, as you allow the Holy Spirit to heal and guide you each day!

Have a great week! My week upcoming is still over-busy with the new job. I just finished my two-weeks notice on the last one (been working 60+ hour weeks), but now I'm in big-training on the new. I will aim for another post next Thursday, but may have to wiggle on that a few days back or forth, depending! May God grant me a settled schedule again soon! :-)

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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Out til next week

Just a quick note - I'm changing jobs, and right now working two jobs (training in the new one while I work off my two weeks' notice on the old one). Which means I'm totally trashed for time, and totally beat.

I've not abandoned this blog, and I will return next week as soon as I'm able, and then we'll continue with the real Jesus, going through the Gospels.

Take care until then!

Lynne
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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Q: How should we react to Gay-hating "Christians" & the trouble they cause?

Occasionally when answering an email I find it's of value to more than just the person I'm emailing with (others have asked or talked about similar things, in other words). When that happens, I like to share my part in that (leaving it to others to share their own parts, of course). That's what this extra post this week is (edited a bit for posting). I hope you also find something of value in it!
About how we should react and respond as Gay folks to religionists and their attacks on Gay people locally and in the news, etc. It's obviously of vital importance that we understand this, not only for our own faith, but also for the lives and faith of others (both Gay and straight, for many straight people are also turned off from Christ because they think they must to reject Him to reject what the religionists say and do against Gays and others).
I consider several things in that answer for myself.
First, I consider who their (the Gay-hating "Christians") counterparts were in the Bible, and what response Jesus and others had to them. I think of, for example, Matthew 23; Titus 1:16, 1:10-11, 3:9-11; Luke 6:39, 11:52, 17:1-2; Mark 7:6-8; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 1:6-7, 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:2-5; James 2:8-9; 1 John 2:9-11; Jeremiah 23:1-2; Romans 2:24, 16:17-18  (I just grabbed these few on the fly - obviously there are many more). It's clear that despite their belief that they represent God and know His ways better than any, they have failed completely and are rejected by Jesus until/if they reject their religion. So, it also comes to me that these people who cause such damage and hurt to Gay people require our prayer - not just as our enemies, but also as people who are in desperate need of REAL salvation. These are people who believe themselves safe from hell, but who are hell-bound if they do not allow the Lord to soften their hearts and recognize Him. Hell-bound because they think the Bible condemns Gays? Not necessarily. But certainly they are hell-bound because their attacks on Gays, bearing false witness, cutting them off from families and friends, pushing them toward suicide and drug abuse and Jesus-rejecting living, misrepresenting the Gospel, and more, ALL mark them as people on the wide path of false-Gospel destruction. They demonstrate NO real Holy-Spirit in their hearts.
Second, I consider how I can help in healing the spiritual, emotional, and even physical damage religionists cause - not only to Gay people, but also to straight people (including straight people who reject Jesus because they think that's the only way to reject religionists). Just as Jesus' disciples (and all God's people, even in the Old Testament) spent and even risked their lives to proclaim God's real message through the surrounding hurricane of false-Gospel all around them, so we are charged to proclaim (however fits our circumstances) God's real message, especially to those who will (might) listen and be healed. I know that many have been so damaged that it can literally take years for them to heal enough to finally even consider Jesus. But again we can see from the Bible that many times we only plant, while others in the future take in the harvest. We can still plant the tiny seeds, and leave it to God's tender love to water and care for them while we move on to other fields.
Third, I consider those whose hearts are not Jesus-rejecting, but who have been so long taught the man-made doctrine that says God rejects Gay people they have a difficult time letting it go. In this case, I study Peter before, during, and after Cornelius' house (Acts 10 & 11). The Jews then (even the Christian Jews) believed the Gentiles were rejected (and had scripture to "prove" it), and yet those who would hear it got to see God's acceptance of the Gentiles, and His warning not to reject what He'd pronounced clean. Those who will hear it can learn to let go of their human doctrine when they become willing to see God openly at work in the lives of people who become Holy-Spirit-filled Christians but remain just as Gay as they were before - just as Peter and the others became willing to see God openly at work in the lives of people who became Holy-Spirit-filled Christians but remained just as Gentile as they were before. It can be hard - and therefore take some time and effort - for folks to un-learn the rejection they've learned so long as "God's" truth. But it does happen - I've seen it :)
Finally, I consider the times we live in, and how much worse things will become (for Gays but also for anyone else caught in the glare of religionists' rebellion against Jesus) under the coming wrath of Satan. This is and will be more and more horrible, it's true. But think also of how much easier it will be (with those who have any inclination to Jesus in their hearts, even if it's just tiny and can't be seen except by God) to contrast the real Jesus against the fakery that claims to most represent Him and God's way! Most, it's true, will simply follow the False Prophet to come - and God will take care of them. For the rest, who are more and more disgusted with "church" and religions and "clergy" and the other human-created sin that puts itself so high on God's pedestal, how can we show them the real Jesus who ALSO rejects the same things they do? That's certainly what drove so much of the increase the early church - people sick and tired of the hateful and perverse religion around them (including the Judaism of that day) who saw a different way in Jesus: a way of justice, love, courage, and so on. So how can our own lives and our own words show the real Jesus?
 Comments? Or want to discuss this more? See my email a few lines below. God's peace!
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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Keep to the real-Jesus-lit path – the wolves don't go there

Ok, this is our last post about the "Sermon on the Mount", before we continue on with the rest of the (chronological) Gospels and the real Jesus (not the one "The Church" has always remade in its own image).

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).


Judge, and you'll be judged – right?

This week, our scripture tells us Jesus tells us not to judge unless we want to be judged by the same standard. And this has got to be one of the most reworked passages in the Bible, by both "conservatives" and "liberals/progressives" alike.

Most of us have been the butt of conservative judgment. Our hair is wrong, or our sexual orientation is wrong, or who we vote for is wrong, or our refusal to support war is wrong, or – oh, we could just name just about anything and it would fall into some version of conservative "Christian" judgment. And since Jesus says if we judge we get judged by the same standard, can't you just see conservatives arriving before God's judgment seat, and hearing God say to them, "Sorry – you're going to hell because you wore your hair short. Sorry – you're going to hell because you never stopped being straight. Sorry – you're going to hell because you voted republican. Sorry – you're..." That's how ridiculous God wants us to understand our deciding if someone else merits hell or not really is. WE don't get to decide who truly merits hell and who doesn't – and thank God for that! All we have to do to understand what a mercy that is, is to look around us at our current "justice" system. Rest assured, when Jesus comes back, the angels will NOT be beating people up because of their race, or lying to get them convicted to score political points for having a "tough-on-crime" record, and Jesus will certainly not be sending people to the gas chamber because His lunch isn't sitting well and it's making Him crabby.

So, NO judging!

But we also have to be careful about going too far the other way – which is the mistake liberal and progressive "Christians" love just as much to make. In the Bible, we're told not to decide who gets to heaven and who doesn't, but elsewhere in the Bible (including in a passage we're going to talk about in a moment) we're warned we are required to discern, figure out, and learn what's (really) godly versus what isn't, and to act on what we've figured out. What's the difference, then, between judging and discerning?

It's like this:
  • If you are The Judge, you decide someone's guilt, and you send them to punishment. You're the final-say, and everyone acts on what you say with no questions asked.
  • If you're The Discerner, you take a look-see at the things someone's heart leads them to do or say, and you decide if those things match having the Holy Spirit in one's heart or not. If they don't match, then you don't do or say those things yourself, and if the circumstances make sense to do so, you find a Holy-Spirit-inspired way to say, "That's just not right!" That's what the Old Testament prophets did, and that's what the New Testament disciples did. But we always eave it to God to make the final-say about everyone (including you!)
So, for example, we can easily discern that going to war is wrong, because in no case has war been caused or justified by Holy-Spirit-led hearts, and in no case has it ever produced anything but evil in the lives of those who commit it and those who suffer the consequences of having war made upon them. And if our hearts are Holy-Spirit-led, we'll also know that we can't go along with proclamations that some or another war is "for God" or "justified" scripturally. But should we decide that those who commit the sin of war should burn in hell forever? No way! Only God gets to decide that, because only God will know, in the end, if that war-sin was repented of.

So, recognize the sin, and act or speak against it (or just turn away from participating in it or pretending it's "ok") – but don't ever decide that those committing the sin should go to hell.
  • Jesus points out that we are too often in love with pointing out other people's little sins, while ignoring our own huge sins – but He doesn't tell us to ignore other people's sins. Instead, He tells us to clean up our own act first, and then go out to help others clean up theirs. So consider "Christians" who believe the mistranslations and out-of-context interpretations of the Bible that (claim) God condemns Gay people. These "Christians" (other) sins include child molestation (and protecting child molesters instead of children), spouse abuse, war, cheating the poor, oppressing those who are weaker than they are, teaching a false-Gospel, making people think poorly of Jesus, and more. So discern: are they acting from Holy-Spirit-led hearts, since they don't really bother cleaning up their own act before going out to supposedly clean up others? Are they people we should even be listening to, if we're wanting to hear and follow the real Jesus?
  • Jesus also tells us not to hand over our good stuff to those who will only treat it like trash or even hurt us with it. If you are Gay, then, do you hand over how you understand yourself and your relationship with God to those who treat you like trash or who use your sexual orientation to hurt you? If you are straight, do you hand over how you feel about yourself and who you're supposed to be in Jesus Christ to those who twist your want to follow Christ faithfully into what benefits their own version of religious "Christianity"? What can you start doing today to change that?

Ask! Seek! Knock! (No! Really!)

Jesus then tells us then a bit about our relationship with God. He tells us that God knows how to take care of us, and not hurt us, even better than the most loving parent does. When we ask, Jesus says, God gives us what we need. When we go looking, God makes sure we find. When we ask to be with Him, He opens the door.

But this isn't about getting fancy cars and huge homes - despite what the God-is-a-vending-machine crowd would like you to believe. It actually relates to what Jesus has talked about previously: God wants us to be perfectly-good to everyone, just like He's perfectly-good to us – giving even though we don't deserve it, helping us find Him even when we don't deserve it, opening all of heaven to us, even though we don't deserve it. Our being just as loving and patient and healing as God, Jesus says, sums up the entire meaning and intent of the Old Covenant Law. It sums up God's entire way! 
  • The Bible (including the New Testament) tells us that God's (real) People have often gone hungry, or been without cover for their bodies, or been beaten and even killed for standing for or being about God's real way, and so on - so we know that Jesus isn't talking here about having a cushy, easy, materially wealthy life with all the friends, family, and happiness we could ever want. No, that's the fake-dream modern western society (especially but not only in the USA) promotes as The Only Truth. And it's an illusion that has destroyed and disturbed many people's faith in God, when He doesn't "deliver" like Pizza Hut, Walmart, or Mercedes Benz. How has the illusion of material-goodness-as-part-of-God's-plan-for-this-world impacted your own life? How can you untie that knot, so it's not messing with your relationship with God any longer?

Keep to the real-Jesus-lit path – the wolves don't go there

In the next passage of scripture, Jesus warns us there's a wide path of living, so easy to find and so easy to stay on. It leads to a wide gate anyone can get through easily, but it's worked by people who claim to represent God and do His work, but whose actions and living only call and help people through a false-Gospel life leading to ultimate destruction and pain. We can tell we're on this path when our inner selves and the hearts of the people we fellowship with are about messing around sexually, making things as or more important than God, hating others, being jealous, being envious, being me-first, being drunk or drugged, creating or belonging to in-groups, and so on (check out this scripture, for example).

Jesus tells us a lot of Good Religious People are going to walk this wide path, get through the wide gate, and then realize they're in hell. Then they'll protest to Jesus, "How can I be here? All my life I prayed long and loud for You. I fed people in Your Name. I told people about You night and day. I even did miracles for You. Don't You know me?" And Jesus – who was never fooled by their false "Christianity" and their Jesus-on-the-outside-Satan-on-the-inside lives – will simply say, "Nope. Never was fooled by your religious evil. Go where you belong – where you chose to end up!"

But Jesus also says there's a narrow path, one that leads to a narrow gate. And on the other side of the narrow gate is eternity with God and all the good things that God is. Few people choose to go down this narrow road. But we'll know we're on it when our inner lives and hearts bear real-Jesus-fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (again, check this scripture out). Those are the things we should see in the hearts of those human beings we fellowship with, too, because those things mean they are on the narrow path, too – they, too, are actually doing what Jesus says to do!

And doing what Jesus says to do means we're on a strong foundation – one that no storm of this world or any other world can blow, drown, or shove us off of. But not doing what Jesus says? Not doing what Jesus says gives us no foundation at all, and it's going to take almost nothing at all to wipe us out completely.
  • It's not hard to recognize the world in the description of the wide path. It's also not hard to see how paths of hate, God-rejecting, and so on can only lead to hell. What we're taught not to recognize, though, is how much a part of the same wide path Good Religious Living is, as well. But we really only need to be willing to see it – to discern the wrong of Good Religious People who are just as likely to molest children, cheat on their spouses, abuse the poor and minorities, commit war, etc., as those Good Religious People look down on as "sinners" - and all because they have their idea of "What the best Jesus would be" in their hearts, and not the real Jesus. What part of your life is still caught in the thinking of Good Religious People, believing that the "wide path" isn't chock-full of Good Religious People on their way to hell? What do you need to discern further, to clear your heart of their influence?
  • Being on the "narrow path" requires no "church" membership or attendance, no religious programs, no tithing, no kneeling on alters, no seminary training, no crackers or wine/grape juice, no "clergy", no "denominations", nothing. But it does require that we set those things aside and open our hearts to Jesus, allowing the real Holy Spirit to heal, guide, and teach us more and more, each day. Does your life prove you are on the wide path, or the narrow path, today? What will you need to let go of to get to the real Jesus?

Some final thoughts this week:

Jesus' entire "Sermon on the Mount" has been about telling us not only what Good Religious People think they do right but actually do completely wrong – but also how God requires us to do better than they do, if we want to choose heaven instead of their hell. In just this "Sermon on the Mount" alone, Jesus has talked about:
  • who and what God really values,
  • who truly gets rewarded by God,
  • who really follows God's way,
  • how we should handle our anger,
  • how we should keep our commitments to those who depend on us,
  • where we should keep our sexual impulses,
  • what keeping our word should mean,
  • how we should treat those who hurt us and those who are different than we are,
  • which religious works or good deeds God rewards – and which He doesn't,
  • how to pray so God knows we mean it,
  • who we should forgive and why,
  • what we should value – and not value – of the things in this world,
  • the either-or choice we must make between loving God or loving the world,
  • why we should trust God to get us what we really need,
  • why we shouldn't act as God in deciding the eternal fate of others,
  • why we should be more concerned with our own sin than others' sins,
  • how we shouldn't make ourselves or our faith vulnerable to people who will only disrespect or hurt one or both,
  • how we should trust God to answer our call to Him, and how He will help us find Him and life with Him forever,
  • how dangerous it is to go the world's way (including the Good Religious Way), instead of Jesus' way,
  • how worthless it is to assume that doing God's work means we're earning God's reward,
  • why only Jesus is a proper foundation for our lives, if we intend to weather every storm.
The Bible tells us that the crowds listening to His "Sermon" that day were completely blown away by Jesus, because they could tell He was the real-deal – and not just another pretty sack of crapola, like their Good Religious Leaders were. They could feel the power of His truth all the way to their insides. No spouting off memorized religious education and scripture verses from this Guy!

Are you feeling the power of Jesus' truth today? Are you at least beginning to recognize the huge difference between Jesus and the Good Religious People who have for so many centuries claimed falsely to know and represent Him (just as He said they would)?

Are you asking? Are you seeking? Are you ready to find? God is. Right now. Start, or start all over again. It's time!


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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't even camp near Good Religious People City

Assuming my internet connection stays up (it's been going up and down all week), today we're moving further into our weekly "through the (chronological) Gospels" series. We're still learning about Jesus from Jesus, rather than through the interpretation of what calls itself "The Church" today.

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).


So – what's Jesus been talking about the last several posts? He's been telling us (and the people 2,000 years ago) about how Good Religious People (including the church-goers, the bible-memorizers, the seminary graduates, and "clergy") are not going to make it to heaven – and neither are we if we don't do BETTER than they do.

Does Jesus have even more to say on how we can actually do better than people who are already so expert at being Good Religious People? You bet He does!

Do good always to impress God – never to impress other people (including yourself)

First Jesus talks about the problem of doing good things so other people can see you did them. Good Religious People (from the "Right" and the "Left" and everything in between) simply overflow in doing good things everyone else gets to see them doing, don't they? Whether it's preaching the Gospel to other lands (or to a television/radio/internet audience), or feeding hungry people, or caring for the sick, or being "nice" to people, or even menacing "sinners" at Gay Pride events or running voter campaigns of misrepresentation and lies (in other words, bearing false witness against their Gay neighbors) to block legal protection of Gay families – no matter what it is, we all get to witness the "good deeds" of what most loudly calls itself "Christianity", and in all its finery and glory, don't we?

And if we aren't sufficiently impressed (and fewer and fewer of us "sinners" are, quite naturally), Good Religious People are always impressing each other, and even giving and getting rewards of praise, good feeling, promotion, titles, clergydom, money/salary, etc. from and for each other. "All for the glory of God!" – or so they say.

Thing is, though, Jesus says right here in the Bible that all "Christians" claim to believe in and follow that if anyone but God knows you're doing these good things, then it's really YOU getting credit / reward for them, and not just God.

I know, I know – Good Religious People believe they’re doing good for God (even when they do all those evil, ugly, anti-Christ things), and they teach others to believe the same. They say things like, "God's just using us as His instrument!", and "I'm just being the Hand / Heart (or other body part) in the Body of Christ!" (funny how no one ever lays claim to being what the Bible calls the "weaker" or "less honorable" body parts), and more.
  • Then why is it the only way to get those good things done is for Good Religious People to be sharing His limelight? 
  • How does it happen that when other people SHOULD be praising only God for food, shelter, kind words, care for their sick bodies, and so on, they're actually praising God for Good Religious People or their "Church"? 
  • How is it even possible that doing good works turns people in gratitude or praise to the Roman church, or the Lutheran church, or the Presbyterians or Methodists or Non-Denominationals or Baptists or Emerging people or (name any other "denomination" or "kind" of "Christian"), but not directly and only to Jesus Christ, with no more thought to the Christian who's simply doing what Jesus said to do?

In another part of the Bible we'll cover later, Jesus warns us to make sure we aren't deceived by people who claim to come on Jesus' behalf, but then also claim to be Christ.

When we do anything that gives us any part of the reward or praise or honor or title or other good or elevated thing that only Jesus Christ deserves, then 
  • We are claiming to be as deserving as He is.
  • We are claiming to be His equal.
  • We are claiming to be Christ.
In such case we are acting as one of the "many anti-Christs who have appeared". And even the possibility we might be should scare the dickens out of those claiming to be "Christian", sending real Christians to their knees, repenting ever having done so (even if only because they didn't understand better, before).

So, how do we do this right, since doing it the Good Religious People way is such a complete, ridiculous, and hell-bound fail? Jesus gives us several examples:
  • Give to those in need – yes! But only in ways so only God can see your hand or heart at work. Then you're actually working for God, and not your own glory!
  • Pray – yes! But don't do it where others can take note of how great a pray-er you are. Instead, go where it's truly only you and God, and just share your heart, asking for your basic needs and for God's way to be done always here on Planet Earth too.
  • Forgive – yes! But don't just forgive those who deserve forgiveness. Each time you forgive someone who doesn't even begin to deserve it, you remind yourself how God forgives you even when you don't deserve it either.
  • Fast – yes! But don't let others see or hear how crappy you feel so they know how "dutiful" you are in your religious devotions to God. Instead, keep your smile bright and share what you're feeling just between you and God. It's the only way to make your suffering mean anything real at all.

In other words, do all your good stuff in ways that don't reward you here, now. Otherwise, it's like selling your winning lottery ticket to some guy on the corner who gives you three dollars, because you can't stand waiting for the real million-dollar payout next year.

Instead, make everything you do count for God, and let it all be something that boosts your relationship with Him. That's why God called you to be a Christian in the first place!
  • What are some of the ways you've seen "Christians" do good things in ways that others could praise "The Church" or some other manifestation of themselves, instead of only God? Are there ways you've done similar things?
  • What ways do you take rewards today, instead of waiting for the reward from God in the future? Do others know you give money to the needy, for example? Do you write off your "charitable contributions" to the IRS to get a break on your taxes?
  • The Bible often tells us that God's real people are humble – and it means really humble (not in that fake, irritating, arrogant-humble way we see from most "Christians"). What does it mean to your life to be humble? How does that change how you present yourself – and God – to the people around you?
  • We're not often taught by Good Religious People that the Bible warns there are already lots of anti-Christs running around (usually they either want us to focus on the one Big Kahuna AntiChrist still coming, or they want to pretend there are no such things). The Bible warns us that anti-Christs do all sorts of things – including coming in Jesus' Name but then taking all or part of His glory to themselves, thereby deceiving people into worshiping or believing things that are about devil or human being, instead of about God. Who in your life has been an anti-Christ? Have you removed their influence from your heart and mind? Have you ever been an anti-Christ yourself? How? How can you live differently, so you're not thumbing your nose at God any longer?

You just know you're going to camp where you put your gear

Next Jesus talks about where we put our hearts and focus. He tells us not to bother worrying after or storing up things on earth, because there's nothing here we won't lose for some reason or another (death, theft, rot, etc). If we keep our focus on these kinds of "earthly" things, it's like wearing scratched up eyeglasses that have a completely-wrong prescription: we're going to be stumbling down stairs and crashing into the coffee table, our inner vision as scrambled as our outer one.

He also warns us that we simply can't serve God and money-stuff at the same time. Isn't humanly possible. And while all so many "Christians" say (with their lives, if not their mouths) that it's not so, Jesus tells us that truthfully if we love God we'll hate money, and if we devote ourselves to money we'll trash God – so why not just leave all our needs to God and rely on whatever He provides? Doing anything else makes us believe that what we're going to put on or in our bodies deserves more of our attention than what we're going to do for God, and how much we're going to trust Him. In other words, doing more than simply trusting God in whatever He provides makes a "Christian" no different than a God-rejecter.
  • Worrying over the things of this world is epidemic – especially these days! As we get closer to the End Times, and things get more and more dicey in our global and local world, it's going to get even worse, as the devil pushes more and more of his agenda onto the rest of us (and too many people go happily along with him). What prevents you from simply being happy with whatever you have, and spending your heart and mind energy on Jesus and the people around you, instead of on paying bills for things you don't really need, or worrying after things you do need?
  • What does it mean to your own life, when Jesus says to let today's worries (and not tomorrow's) be on your mind each day, letting each day be trouble enough on its own?

Final thoughts for the week
  • Jesus is painting quite a picture of just how different from the rest of the world – including the Good Religious Christian (and Jewish) World – we have to be, to get into heaven. In every case so far, He's said our hearts have to be in order – and not our religious duties. What are the ways you still cling to religious duty (because you fear not doing so, or even because you like it)? What ways are you still claiming to come in Jesus' Name, while actually not doing or living the ways He said you should?
  • For all their talk of being so very "literal" in following the Bible, conservative, evangelical, and related "kinds" of "Christians" obviously do not really believe the Bible at all. If they did, they wouldn't only quote or live the parts their human neurosis likes best (like the parts they think condemn Gays and keep women a lower part of Creation), while ignoring or reimagining those parts they don't want to be there (like not serving money, and not being outwardly religious so others can see, and not supporting war, and not hurting back, and – and – and – and!). How has your understanding of God and what He wants from your life been twisted by "literalists" who prove by their hearts and lives that they themselves don’t actually believe in the Bible? What things can you do to shed their neurosis from your own spirituality?

Next week we'll finish the "Sermon on the Mount", going over what Jesus says about judging others, wasting your time on people who'll only hurt you, expecting good things from God, and putting His words to real practice in your every-day life.

See you then!

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This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.