A Weak and Watered Down God Just Won’t Do

As followers of Jesus we are all called to enter the fray of life just like our Lord did. We are told to be ‘in’ the world without being ‘of’ the world. Jesus told his disciples they would be like sheep among wolves. We are to be immersed in the life of this world loving those that are closest to us and seeking to make changes in order that the poor, the widow, the oppressed and marginalized are loved and cared for and invited to live now in the Kingdom of God.

But we cannot approach this life with the weak and watered down version of God that some churches are offering. Our God is Almighty, Powerful, and able to do more than we can even think or imagine.  Some folks don’t even want to call God ‘Father’ anymore. They prefer more inclusive terms. I want a Father who is strong, who can defend me, who knows how to love and protect me. I want the same ‘Father’ whom Jesus called upon. I don’t mind other images of God but don’t take away my Father. The world knows little of the majestic and self giving nature of a good Father. Let us proclaim the Fatherhood of God as the model for all us fathers.

I hear folks uncomfortable with the notion of a crucified Christ, ordained for his cross by his heavenly Father. That seems too abusive they say. They don’t want to think of such cruelty, such weakness. But I want a Lord who was sent by his Father on a mission to rescue humanity, save us, redeem us and willing to give his life for us. Remember when General Eisenhower sent the troops into the hell of D-Day? He sent them fully aware that so many would give up their lives to rescue the world from Hitler.

I don’t was a self-help God preached by many today. This God is just hanging out along side of us showing us how to get back on the right track with just a little more money and personal power and right principles in our own lives. No, my God is righteous and knows that I am broken and demands that I come to Him on his terms through confidence in the blood that was shed for you and me. I want to know the God whose will I want to do, not one who wants to know what I think best. I want to enter through the narrow gate. It might even be a tight squeeze but it’s the right gate. I don’t want any old god who says that it doesn’t matter what you believe or whom you trust. That’s an idol and a devil from hell who would dissuade us from the one true heavenly Father.

I don’t want an accommodating god. I want to accommodate my life to the God in whom I live and breathe and who knows absolutely what is best for me. I want a God whose ethic for life and love challenges me. I do not want comfort unless comfort is found in seeking the will of my Heavenly Father.

We as followers of Jesus have a challenge ahead of us, to preach the Gospel and help others to know God’s love and His Kingdom. To care for the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the widow and orphan. To put an end to killing. And above all to learn the art of forgiveness, probably the greatest challenge and the most narrow gate in the Christian experience.

And to do that and more I want to go with an Almighty, All Loving, Father. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus. I fear it may be a great challenge and any less challenge would require a weaker God.

Listen, when those early Christians faced the lions, the gladiators, the stakes of fire and the crosses what God would they desire to know? They wanted a strong powerful loving Father who though may not rescue them from the fire and the sword would sure bust them out of the grave and bring them into his presence while he continues to create the new heavens and new earth within which they (we) will live forever. That’s my God, and my Lord. I think that was said by doubting Thomas when he met the risen Christ who also was busted out of his grave.

 

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THE ATTRACTION OF UNIVERSALISM

It is difficult for me to comprehend how humans can think to be more merciful than God with regards to the eternal destiny of each human soul. After all we are made in God’s image to love, and to forgive but it would seem that according to traditional Christian teaching there is a limit to God’s own loving nature and actions.

In 1990 I became a convinced Calvinist assured that God’s glory was somehow tied into the justice of electing some out of all the reprobates on earth. Otherwise, I reasoned, we should all end up in eternal torment if not for the limited atonement of Christ for certain people.

But as I read the entire Bible it appears more and more that God’s plan is to bless the entire world and those in it. It appears that God’s desire is to have mercy on all people, that Christ is the second Adam in whom all are made alive.

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself through his death. And the Bible states that God really desires all people to be ‘saved’.

In my own mind without doubt is the idea that God’s love and grace are universal. But is that grace finally successful? I believe it is. That’s my presupposition if you will, somewhat akin to the presupposition of a loving God as see through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

I will use a universalistic hermeneutic (way of interpreting the scriptures) as I study God’s word and writings that pertain to this subject. I want to make the case for believing that the new heaven and new earth will resolve all sin, injustice and sorrow to the glory of God.

In my mind the story of the Bible is not about the power of God but the love of God as revealed in Christ and known through the Trinity.

Your reflections and questions will be most appreciated.

 

 

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INSPIRED BY OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR DESIRE FOR A SAFER WORLD

I know that many people say that they don’t have the maturity to speak to political issues. Well, many have had the bad fortune of being killed within the system that has its flaws, many of those flaws aided by the lack of vision on the part of the political parties and leadership.

Young people are in many ways idealists believing they can make a difference and these tragic killings are driving them to desire and demand change. And I for one say that change is good. (I think our government Leader says that). I say that it’s good for our youth to find some purpose in life other than mere academics or what might be some other trivial pursuits.

Back in the days of Vietnam protests many of us were actually too immature to understand fully the dynamics of war and our country’s involvement. And to this day books are coming out trying to fathom just went wrong. To wait for all the answers is to be indecisive. I say ‘go with the impulse’.

All I remember as a young Christian in college was that I wanted to join a movement that cried out ‘no more deaths’.

We adults are so uptight about making money, surviving day-to-day, getting ahead and the like that we forget there are greater goals in life. When I see our young people and our communities coming together against some very large forces in this country I say ‘bravo’. I hope they keep going and keep leading us to find greater causes for our lives and the life of this nation. They are shaking up our existential crises. And that’s a good thing.

Some say they don’t have the ‘right’ to tell the adults how this country should be governed. I say, ‘they are the ones dying and have unfortunately earned the right that the adults have abrogated’.

I am not sure how many of these young people are believers but frankly I don’t care because as they put themselves out there for this nation and they are living in the way Jesus taught. NOT JUST TALKING or BELIEVING but DOING.

I grew as a Christian during Vietnam. I grew because I learned to step out of my and my country’s comfort zone. I learned to live more faithfully, if not idealistically, to my Lord who calls me to stand with the prophets and with Jesus. Jesus was scorned for his identification with those on the left (there’s a word to make some of you nervous). Jesus shook up the status quo and parted ways with the religious RIGHT because they were WRONG.

I am not sure what will come from all the outcries and marches of our young people but it seems that a whole lot of adult people are getting on that train. It’s the train of glory and it goes against the grain of the big money and power. I like that (even though I mixed a couple of metaphors).

By the way, I served in the military for one year (67-68) before being medically discharged. (It was a small thing but not as small as a bone spur).

 

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YOUNG PEOPLE. DEATH AND PROTEST.

So I am back from an hour’s walk, trying to let off steam. But it didn’t work so what I have to say must be from God (which then is hard to argue with, huh).

Anyway last night I was watching a FOX talk show. The initials of the person hosting are L.I. She was belittling the young people for their protests and mocking the adults who are listening to the advice of our youth as if they know more than we do.

But wait.

 

  1. The young people are the ones who are the victims and people at risk along with other adults. They are asking for more security and less lethal weapons among other things. What is that lady’s problem?
  2. Let’s see. Young people. What do they know? They are the future leaders of our nation. Even the First Lady applauded them.
  3. And not to take the Bible out of context but somewhere it says that little children shall lead the way to peace.
  4. And then there’s Daniel and his three friends in Babylon standing up for God and not bowing to idols. They were teenagers. And wait. Mary, the mother of Jesus was a teenager. What was God thinking? Oh, that’s right the lady last night didn’t mention God. Let’s not confuse the issue.
  5. And then she got on the case for the young people leading boycotts and marches. Wait for it. The teenagers led protest marches during the Civil Rights Days. Maybe we need more civil rights these days.
  6. And then there was Joan of Arc. Executed as a teen for her visions and leadership.
  7. Know the weapons these people are against? AR-15-style rifles have been used in recent mass shootings at in Aurora, Colo.; Santa Monica and San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Florida and now Parkland.
  8. Then I heard Paul Ryan say that congress won’t be discussing Gun Reform.
  9. And then there was Vietnam. Remember those protests and marches. And many young people helped to turn the tide against death and the lies told by our own government. Young people led the way because the old people were the ones lying and sending young people to their deaths.

 

GO FOR IT YOUNG PEOPLE. TEENS. PARENTS OF CHILDREN. YOU MARCH, VOTE, WALK OUT. WHATEVER IT TAKES. I FOR ONE WILL SUPPORT YOU. GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU.

george (living in the New Babylon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ENOUGH!

Let’s see. So far our leader has blamed mental health, the democrats, the F.B.I, and other folks and groups I am sure, for the sorrowful tragedy in Parkland. It seems that whenever possible he deflects all blame away from himself and ignores the issue of too many guns, particularly assault style weapons. I hear that he is willing to consider better background checks. God only knows what that might mean considering that our leader and many of our congress people are in league (I wanted to say in bed but that sounded rude) with the NRA.

Personally I am a Christian which doesn’t make me better than anyone but it does make me part of a community. Christians never ever live outside a community. And in the community of faith, peace and love in Christ there is no place for personal gun rights to take precedence over human life. No place. This is not a Christian nation as evidenced by the fruit of the trees around us. (See Matthew 7)

And talk about mental health. We are a nation of people with an insane desire for power, security and privacy at the price of young human lives. Enough!

I was naively thinking the other day; if we took the money from that possible foolish WALL, we could probably fund better security for every school in America. Maybe we could have a buy back for every assault weapon, AR-15 types. I would personally donate $500. to anyone who would give theirs back.

I am frustrated because those children could be mine, or my grandchildren at this point in life, and our nation and particularly our Christian communities need to say ‘never again’.

As I write this I am thinking that our leaders will DO NOTHING AGAIN. And I pray to God that I am wrong.

May God have mercy upon these young lives and may God judge us if we continue to do nothing, starting with me.

george

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Parkland, Florida. Wednesday February 14, 2018

Remember how Jesus took the little children into his arms and blessed them? I believe that the same eternal Jesus is holding these children whose lives were shattered by gunfire on Wednesday. The question is not as some Christians phrase it, ‘Did they know Jesus?’ The question is ‘Does Jesus know them?’ The resounding answer from the heart of God is ‘Yes’.

And as much as these children are loved by their families, Jesus loves them even more. While God allows more freedom and destructive free will than we can understand, we can know that from the horror and sorrow of Jesus’ own death, he gently and often quietly moves into our horrors and sorrows. And as the one who took in himself our infirmities and sorrows he bears the pain with these children and their families as well as their friends.

And recall how Mary, the mother of God, ached at the death of her own child. Yes, the myriads of heaven’s angels, saints and the Holy Trinity through their prayers and presence are with those now whose grief is unbearable.

The Good Shepherd has found his sheep and none are lost. Because he lives, they too live.

But for now there are mournful tears in heaven.

 

 

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WHAT CAN WE DO?

I lead a men’s Bible Study at our Church in Colorado. The other night we were discussion the 23rd Psalm and how God provides for us as our shepherd. The question arose concerning places in the world where it does not seem that God is providing the same way for them as for us in this first world country.

We wondered aloud why that is, and talked some about human responsibility, one for the other. And then I came across a piece in this month’s Sojourner’s Magazine, a Christian monthly about Christian responsibility with regards to justice issues. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“We live in a country where 250,000 people die from poverty each year. According to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, more that 45% of black children are poor; 54% of African Americans make less than a living wage. Here we are, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and we have 400 families in this country that make $95,000 an hour while we are locking people up who simply want $15 an hour and a union.” P.19 (Rev. Dr. William Barber II)*

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t make money if they can. I am addressing the concern in our group wondering how it is that we are being good stewards of God’s provisions when there is much poverty in this first world nation of ours.

The country is so big that I am not sure churches can by themselves make the appropriate assistance. So maybe it’s our responsibility as Christian citizens to elect people who can do more for the ‘least of these’. Just sayin’.

How do the little hungry children say the 23rd Psalm in the evening? I am not even answering the question I am posing. (Is that a rhetorical device?) I am just asking, ‘What can we do as God’s people?’ What can I do?

And, I am still waiting, as of this writing, for Nebuchadnezzar to say something of sympathy for women who are sexually abused. That’s just me, a Christian citizen, speaking for myself.

 

*Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival.

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WE WON’T BOW

In the Book of Acts the religious leaders are persecuting Jesus’ disciples. In Acts 4:29 they are praying they call out to God, “Please take note of the leaders’ threats against us’. They are praying with the implicit request that God punish these leaders. And they also ask for a boldness to continue to speak the truth about Jesus.

And so this is what I am doing, writing and praying right now. I believe that our ‘leader’ is threatening so many who want to live in faithfulness to God as revealed in God’s Word. I believe the character of God is not remotely being understood and lived out by our leader and his political allies.

The Bible speaks of humility, compassion, repentance, and care for the ‘least of these.’ Instead all I hear is boasting, arrogance, pride, self-serving political maneuvering and the making of an idol called ‘Make America Great Again.”

Greatness in the eyes of God is only achieved by compassion and faithfulness to the one and only God. Faithfulness is expressed by a desire to follow Christ and to love our neighbor. Here’s what God desires, according to God’s word: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) And I am so weary of our leader’s rhetoric, which has little or nothing to do with the above.

I know that Paul says Christians are to be submissive to the governing authorities. But Paul is discouraging open armed rebellion against Caesar. He is not saying we are to obey when the leaders are doing wrong to the good folks. (See Romans 13) Some Christians have wrongly interpreted this to mean that whatever the ‘mis-leader’ says, goes. Jesus said that we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. He might have been referring to tax money but if I am not mistaken our money says that ‘in God we trust.’ Not the leader or any of his idols. Christian people say that better employment rates, more money and power is the way of the faithful American. And being pro-life. How about all life? Not just those precious lives in the womb but the ones who are trying to live on any side of the border.

There is an insidious evil to what I see going on and while I do not wish to return evil for evil I want to take my stand in the face of an idolatrous leader and say like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ‘We won’t bow to your idols.’ And I pray to find ways to express my protest against leadership that would spend millions on parades, armaments, and walls while people in this world are starving to death wondering why.

I do not hear Jesus saying at the end of time, ‘Well done good and faithful servants. You were the most powerful, richest, and safest people on the face of the earth.’ That’s not in the Bible that I read.

I pray that God will take note of the threats of this leadership towards the poor, the abused, as well as decency and morality. I heard just today that the leader expressed sympathy and well wishes for the man who was fired or resigned for his alleged (some proven true) abuse of former spouses. May God take note of this as well.

So instead of Romans 13 about submission to authorities let’s take a look at Psalm 109, a particular favorite of mine. It is usually attributed to David and in verses 7-8 has the following: (the parenthetical is mine).

“When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days (in office) be few and may another take his place of leadership.”

Now you may think me judgmental or even hypocritical since I deal with my own sins but I choose to lay my words before God and let God be my judge in these matters. But I cannot and will not bow to the idol of ‘make America great again.’ And I cannot follow a leader who proclaims that all human rights are given by the Creator alone (see prayer breakfast speech of Feb. 8th) when his regard for those human rights are minimal at best.

Two weeks ago I was in Haiti. Our leader called it a ‘shithole’. I had to stand before a congregation of Haitian believers, human beings who deserve respect and dignity, and apologize for the leader.

And where are the cahoneys of other leadership in our government who won’t stand and say no to the ‘leader’? Political power is an idol to which they bow.

In a time when Israel worshiped God and practiced idolatry they looked for “the day of the Lord” when God’s rule would defeat their enemies and bring peace and prosperity to the nation. But God told the idolatrous people that they had wronged God by treating the poor unjustly even as the nation’s leaders shouted their loud praises to God. And so Amos the prophet brings God’s message to the people: (from Amos 5:21-24)

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

 

No. Lord God, please take note of this mess and my complicity in it. And let your people speak with boldness about the cause and compassion of Christ. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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