March 2012


lol on a candy heart

I’m amazed at how many Christians think that humor is inappropriate and that Jesus was mostly a man of sorrows. I read an online Relevant Magazine article by James Martin, S.J., entitled “Jesus Was Funnier Than We Think.”  I loved it, and so did many others, but some of the reader comments had me scratching my head.

One said that there’s nothing funny at all about Jesus, that humor and joy aren’t related. Others said that because there’s no Scripture that specifically states, “Jesus had a sense of humor,” it’s a stretch of truth to suppose that he did. Roman oppression was just too serious and Jesus had his hands full taking on the sins of the world. Apparently, he couldn’t even crack a smile.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Jesus did stand-up schtick, but he definitely did use tongue-in-cheek wit and sarcasm regularly. Some of it was aimed at the often-obtuse disciples, but most of it was aimed at the Pharisees.

Be of Good Cheer

I guess it all depends on one’s definition of funny and humorous, and how it relates to joy, laughter, and song. I’ve read of some Christians leaving a church that was too happy and not teaching the serious issues, which I can understand. We want a strong God who can relate to and handle the tough side of life. (more…)

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect is earned, not given.When this recently popped up on my Facebook news feed, it had almost 1,000 “likes.” It’s an easy-to-like saying that sounds wise, and I’m sure the intent is to discourage people from demanding respect, which almost always backfires.

But my first thought was that, for Christians, the character of a rich life is never about earning, it’s about the ability to give freely without the need for payback and without feeling cheated.

First, the command to love our neighbors as ourselves is really about respect rather than affection. Thank goodness, we don’t have to like people to respect them. Second, respect is a form of love, and love never demands; yet it never earns, either. Respect is also a form of grace; and grace is always given, never earned.

Common Wages

When it comes to giving and receiving, I think we tend to see it as obligation on the one hand, entitlement on the other. We live in a world where everybody owes and everyone pays. I call it wages mentality—in a word, earning.

The problem with my earning your respect is that I become dependent on you paying me what I’ve earned, what I’m entitled to. If you don’t pay, I’ll quickly see you as the “problem” and will become angry or frustrated. Then you’re in control of me rather than me being in control of myself.

When my satisfaction depends on you, I’ll go after you to collect what you owe, be it respect, an apology, whatever. And once I’m in that frame of mind, any love, grace, or respect evaporates like raindrops on hot summer pavement.

This is where the great lessons on grace come in. (more…)

Forever Books

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The publishing world is changing almost daily and it’s hard for everyone to keep up. For authors, this means more ways than ever to connect with readers.

It’s always said to “know your audience” and write what they want to read. But I think it’s smart to also know how that audience likes to read. I also suspect it’s related to age group, but I may be wrong.

A writer can create Pulitzer prize-winning content, but if he/she doesn’t get that content to their audience, what’s the point?

For my upcoming book, I plan to make it available in both print and digital formats, but I’m torn as to which way to start. Here’s your chance to let me know (anonymously) what you prefer. The results might just surprise me!

 

Colored Bullseye

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There’s a perception in the church that all people at all times continually “miss the mark” and will always miss it no matter what we do. Straight from the womb, we hear, humanity falls short of God’s perfection, glory, and virtue. There are no exceptions, ever, even after we come to Christ.

It’s based on a partial Scripture: “…there is no one righteous, no not one,” usually coupled with “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Rom. 3:10, 23) Some Christians quote these as if God has nothing else to say.

But, (A.) there’s at least one exception: John the Baptist. “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” (Luk. 1:17) And, (B.) nearly every verse on human wickedness is immediately followed or preceded by a contrasting verse of human virtue. The Psalms and Proverbs alone hold dozens of examples of the wicked doing such and such, but the righteous doing something else.

So if there were no one righteous ever, those Scriptures would be false. And wouldn’t it fly in the face of Abraham, Noah, David, Rahab, Job, Mary, Joseph, and others whom God describes as upright, blameless, or righteous?

We can’t use partial verses as the whole truth; and we shouldn’t confuse the words righteous or perfect with “flawless.” That only delivers shame-perpetuating bad news and produces all sorts of treasure-stealing accusations. There’s better news! (more…)

Sunburst over Earth

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In Part 1, we discovered that the kingdom of heaven “at hand” can be defined as the range of God’s effective will; and the Greek term tou ouranou  means “air” or “atmosphere.” Heaven is the presence of God in our immediate surroundings.

In Part 2, we learned that heaven has “compartments” and that heaven and Earth are distinct, but connected. The kingdom isn’t strictly a dwelling place; it’s a dwelling community and system—on this side of death’s door and beyond.

“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luk. 17:20-21) Again, Jesus means “in your midst,” among you.

As Jesus illustrated in one parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Mat. 13:33) The kingdom is progressively expanding—not larger or stronger, but fuller of citizens as it works its way through mankind. But it isn’t literal yeast, just as its opposite “yeast of the Pharisees” also isn’t literal yeast.

Likewise, heaven isn’t merely a literal, far-off city with streets of gold located on the re-made Earth. Yet it isn’t strictly an ethereal, non-physical thing, either. Neither is heaven just a symbol, or an eternal, boring church service, or a limited place of sinless perfection.

Solid Hope and Assistance

We need hope and a glorious hereafter to look forward to, of course. But Jesus knows we also need a present hope and solid solutions for today. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mat. 6:34) (more…)

Sunburst over Earth

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In Part 1, we discovered that the kingdom of heaven is more than a location, more than somewhere we go when we die. The kingdom is the range of God’s effective will; and a consistent translation of the Greek term tou ouranou means “air” or “atmosphere.”

 Thus, Jesus’ good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand means that God’s heavenly kingdom is available to anyone who seeks to live within it—not just after they die, but while they live everyday life.

The idea that heaven is a multi-faceted system and that at least some of it is familiar rather than completely foreign brings an awesome new perspective. Heaven, or, “the heavens,” has something like compartments, regions, or dimensions—call them what you will. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” We enter by being “born” into it, i.e., choosing to step in.

This perspective is crucial because most people, religious or not, see heaven as a solitary thing, and accessible only in the afterlife. We’ve singled out perhaps the “seventh heaven” to define a place of flawless perfection where evil doesn’t exist, where God dwells, and where His will is instantly carried out. While that’s true, it’s the only aspect of heaven we’re familiar with today.

But, Paul, for example, describes being caught up to the “third heaven” where he heard things he’s not allowed to tell (2Cor. 12:2-4). He says twice that he’s not sure if he was there bodily or spiritually. He doesn’t explain what the third heaven is, perhaps because his early readers already understood it. And the environment must have been familiar enough or Paul wouldn’t have been confused as to whether he was there physically or spiritually.

The “first heaven” is as near as the air we breathe. It’s where God mingles with man and Earth in our region of His beloved creation. We perceive Him with our physical senses—sight, hearing, and touch—precisely because He wants us to perceive Him. So He shares His kingdom right where we are so we can interact with Him in the land of the living. (more…)

Sunburst over Earth

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What did Jesus mean when he said that the kingdom of heaven is “at hand”? I always thought he meant “out there, but coming soon.” I assumed it was meant as a threat for sinners and an insider’s promise for those on the spiritual A-list.

But it was actually meant to encourage sinners and put religious peacocks in their place. That’s why it was (and is) such good news.

Those who considered themselves spiritually elite—namely, the Pharisees, chief priests, and religious “experts”—were far from God. Whereas they wouldn’t associate with “unclean” sinners lest they defile themselves, Jesus not only associated with them, but physically touched them. The folks that religious elitists had labeled as outsiders were the very people with whom Jesus walked, dined, conversed, and lived.

So his context of heaven at hand was really a divine myth-buster, as I’ll attempt to show in this series of posts. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” holds multiple surprises today just as it did in the first century!

Kingdoms Clarified

We normally think of kingdoms as political realms or state entities having a physical location, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom. While this is partially true, a kingdom is actually a system; and it may or may not have physical boundaries. (more…)

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