Thursday, November 24, 2016

This Election Was A Victory For...

This election wasn't a victory for White Supremacy, misogynists, or racial bigots. It was a victory for the rule of law and the Constitution, for actual inclusion based on acceptance rather than hate, for valuing of human life, even up to birth, the reduction in federal over-reach into our lives. It was a victory for Liberty for all Americans.

This election wasn't a victory for White Supremacy, misogynists, or racial bigots. If you are a White Supremacist, a Gay-hater, a woman-hater, or race bigot, this election result says nothing about you or your quite disgusting self-love. You and your relatively small group of miscreants remain hateful and despicable misfits on the fringe of our great society.

This election wasn't a victory for White Supremacy, misogynists, or racial bigots. The people you love to hate are human beings and as such, the image of God enfleshed. You insult all of us by expressing your juvenile hate and you look as stupid as the people who are rioting in California and Oregon. Quit believing your own press; that press is only quoting the Democrat and Administration’s disinformation; they thrive on hate and racial division. Your petty little groups do not represent Republicans, conservatives, White people, men, or any valid religious group. Get over yourselves.

This election wasn't a victory for White Supremacy, misogynists, or racial bigots. If this is you, grow up. Quit acting like the juveniles being orchestrated and manipulated by the Left. Both they and you are embarrassments to America. Your isolated behaviors, enlarged and emotionally presented by the racists in the American government and Democrat party is what fueled half the country voting for a demonstrably corrupt, oppressive, and racist use of federal power and agencies, embodied in the Democrat candidate.

This election wasn't a victory for White Supremacy, misogynists, or racial bigots. The results of this election are a victory for rule of law and the Constitution, for actual inclusion of all people, for valuing human life even before birth, and the reduction of federal over-reach into our lives.

It was a victory for true Liberty for all Americans.

Forgiveness

The redemption of the world through Jesus of Nazareth is called a new covenant by Jesus, and most believe it is the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31. Even though it is called a new covenant, the text reads more like a re-newed covenant, rather than a new one entirely. God will forgive their iniquity and they will be His people; they will all know God and not need others to teach them the word of God because it will be written on their hearts. This, as has been observed by others does not describe a new covenant, but what God has always wanted for humans and those who would be his followers – that they would be His people, living most fully as the images of God they were made to be.

God has been so committed to the welfare of people that He has not allowed Man's faithlessness to frustrate the plan He has for a planet populated by those who would live as cosmic lovers, living as Jesus modelled. 

In God's pursuit of his desire to bless His images with a world of lovers, He has repeatedly sought His people to restore them to Himself. This effort of God's is reminiscent of a parent's desire for their children who have left home and lived similarly to the Prodigal Son. The parents let the child live as they wish for a while and then they go to find that child or reach out to the child through friends, family, and today, social media. All the parent wants is to find the child and bring them home. Images of reunions with running, hugs, and tears spring to mind. What doesn't come to mind is a listing of things the child has to do before they can come home; the parent just wants them home again. There are expectations - the child is expected to behave, to use more mature decision making, and to not be disrespectful, but these are not demanded before the hugs and tears. As we watch this unfolding scene, we understand that the parent has already forgiven the child – has let go of the hurt they may have felt before.  

If we can appreciate this dynamic, we can better understand God's approach to sinful people and the salvation "process." Forgiveness is already available; God has already made himself ready to simply accept you, if you want to come home. No begging, no justifying yourself, no wondering whether God will accept you. God stands ready for you to come home; all you have to do is come home. Are there things expected of you? Well yes there are, but God doesn't require them prior to opening the door for you. What are those things? Well, they are to submit to the goodness of God, to agree to live as the image of God on the earth, to acknowledge God as the provider of all good. 

These are not new things; these are not "new" but are the same things God has expected of people throughout history. The newness of the New Covenant are not Man's response, but the universality of the offer and the perfect sacrifice of Jesus as the final and most complete sacrifice. 

Want to come home? 

Come on! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Election

Eight years ago – actually for six or eight years before that – I had the same emotional reaction to that election as apparently some of you are experiencing to this one. That was painful, very painful and its affects have lingered, and at times returned over the better part of the past decade or more. 

I am pleased with the outcome of this election, but I am not overjoyed.

What we have witnessed over the past twenty years or more is a direct assault on liberty in the form of expanded federal power, the extension of federal requirements into our lives, and the complete corruption of the federal government including the court system. It has been made blatant under the current President in almost every way imaginable.

·         He has used the IRS to oppress and intimidate political and religious opponents.

·         He has refused to enforce law and has used the intimidation of the FBI and the Justice Department to silence opposition and free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association.

·         He has used the tax code as a threat to those who don’t want to make their personal health decisions in accordance with federal preferences.

·         He has initiated, fanned, and failed to intervene against racial, sexual, and social unrest. Rather than bringing unity, he has repeatedly encouraged division, hate, and violence on our streets. 

The rhetoric and behavior of the President and federal agencies have never been about liberty, really. We have witnessed the greatest expansion of elitist federal power and at the same time, intentional attacks against any social system that might pose a threat to that federal power. We have witnessed ongoing separation of parents from their children, we have seen assaults against religious institutions, and individual privacy, we have seen the use of law made arbitrary and unpredictable.

We have seen the elevation of emotion as a primary driving force and the use of mob and violent action to oppress and delegitimize societal norms and even the application of law. We have degenerated from a society of free expression of ideas to one in which we now provide safe places for weak-minded college students. The country – or large enough segments of it – is simply emotionally unstable.

The intent of all this is to make the federal government not the servant of Liberty and a free people, but to remove every social support except the federal government. The intent is simply to create as much dependence – actual and emotional – on the federal government as possible.

But he hasn’t done this alone, and in fact he is simply the most recent symptom and result of what the Democrat party has engendered since the 1990’s. Have all the Democrat players been intentional in their complicit participation in this assault on the country? No and many of them are good people at heart. Even so, their behaviors and rhetoric have served to propel the destruction of liberty at a faster and faster pace. Whether it is Pelosi’s insipid “you have to pass it to see what’s in it,” or Reid’s complete ignorance of the world and political reality, they have simply served to facilitate in their own ignorant and yet dangerous ways, the further weakening of liberty.

They have repeatedly used personal attacks against their political opponents, ridiculing, name calling, and insulting as a form of statesmanship. In this way they have engendered the acceptability of emotion as a policy setting standard, and ridicule for government policy, rather than reason. And so we have college women demanding that others pay for their birth control because lord knows, it wouldn’t be fair to expect her to either pay for her own, or control the behavior of her own body. Emotion is used as a tool for distraction, blaming a video for the deaths of an entire diplomatic station even while knowing those deaths were preventable. Emotion has served as the vehicle to attack the fabric of society. The President doesn’t care about wedding cakes, birth control, Gay rights, the plight of migrants, or bathroom use; nor does the federal government have a legitimate interest in most of those. Rather, these are simply points of destabilization of society – against sexual norms, faith practice, social stability, and personal privacy.

It has been a classic destabilization assault on liberty, and one that has been very painful to experience on an almost daily basis – because it has been so plain.

I am pleased with the outcome of this election, but not overjoyed.

The Democrat party nominated a woman who is as corrupt and oppressively mean as the current President, dismissing her enabling of sexual predation, selling government access, directing mob violence, releasing highly classified information directly related to the security of the country, insulting and demeaning uniformed and protective staff who cannot respond to her. She lives, operates, and expects her staff to treat her as the clear tyrant she is. She had two selling points: she would continue the assault on liberty by continuing the extension of the federal government, taking more of your money, and the continuing destabilization of society. Except with her, the further destabilization would be through negligence because not only does she have no governing experience, she is and can only be interested in herself. Unlike the current President whose behavior has been an intentional assault on liberty, she just doesn’t care. Her second selling point: she’s a woman. Even in an atmosphere where being a woman is accepted as simply personal choice, this was her other main selling point as President.

The WikiLeaks emails revealed just how corrupt the Democrat party as a whole, the DNC and the candidate’s own campaign staff not was, is. They are disappointed, even emotionally hurt today, but that has not and will not change their character of ego-centered behavior fueled by emotional entitlement and vindictiveness.

The greatest evidence of the extent of the current President’s effectiveness in his attempts at destabilization is that most of the voters in this election voted for the Democrat candidate, and we have violent protests across the country because she wasn’t elected. Protests and violence prompted by and fueled not by reason, but emotion, in complete disregard for law or others.

We have lived with a President who is demonstrably a violent racist who is not above using the power of the federal government to intimidate and oppress anyone and everyone; destroying the liberty of an entire nation if at all possible. Even in the face of this, most of my neighbors voted for more of the same.

The cancer of emotionalism, growing dependence on the federal government, destabilization of society, and the destruction of liberty has not been excised. It has been slowed but it still festers and remains a palpable danger and threat. 

I am pleased with the outcome of this election, but not overjoyed.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Jonah

Jonah. You know the story,
Jonah is called by YHWH
Jonah flees from that call
Jonah is in the depths
Jonah calls for mercy
Jonah is spit onto dry land

Now, the parallel
All people are called by YHWH
Nineveh abandons YHWH
Nineveh is ripe for destruction
Nineveh calls for mercy
Nineveh is spared

Jonah doesn’t get this parallel; he cannot see that the mercy he celebrated for himself is available to all. In fact, he doesn’t want it to be. YHWH explains the parallel using a vine, a worm, and Jonah’s anger. It is another parallel.
YHWH creates a vine
The vine is destroyed by the worm
Jonah is angry and ready to die.

The parallel
YHWH creates a people
The people are destroyed by the Destroyer
YHWH is angry and ready to give life.

The difference in the story that Jonah again does not understand is that while Jonah will remain angry, YHWH has shown mercy to him and the Ninevites based on their coming to their senses – or repenting and returning to YHWH.

We find then that Jonah, having sought the mercy of God and having received it, is confounded when his God extends the same sort of mercy to others.

It is curious that Jonah was retained in the Jewish canon seeing as it is, a somewhat embarrassing story. Being classified as a prophecy and appearing in the midst of the Book of the Twelve, it tells the story of a people who are not the people of God and yet who both listen to YHWH and are spared by his mercy from the destruction he had purposed on them.

The book of Jonah and the Ninevites then stand as witnesses against Israel in her impending destruction. YHWH has already heard from both Moses and Ezekiel that YHWH would relent if his people would repent and return to him. This, Israel has steadfastly refused to do even though as Paul says, she has been favored with the oracles of God. Israel refuses but this Pagan town listens and is spared. Will not Israel, if she were to repent and return to her God, be more readily shown mercy?
The answer must be a resounding yes!

And yet she will not.


Jonah then is the epitome of Israel’s stiff-necked and recalcitrant existence before YHWH. Having gotten herself in trouble, having cried for mercy and received it, she continues in her rebellion toward her God and her contempt toward others. While called to be like her God, she runs from him and cannot find either mercy or repentance in herself.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Am I In The Place of God?

Late in Genesis chapter 50, there is an exchange between Joseph and his brothers. Before we can get the impact of this exchange, we need to grasp what has gone before. Joseph was Israel's favorite kid because we're told, he was a child of Israel's old age. Israel it seems dotes on the kid to the apparent exclusion of the older brothers. He even gives him a coat (of many colors, or one with long sleeves, although the many colors version is much more picturesque). It seems Joe can't leave well enough alone - we're told that his brothers can't even speak peaceably to him. Joseph gets a reputation for dreams and he has one about sheafs being gathered. You know the story, all the brothers' sheaves bow down around Joe's upright sheaf. Joseph volunteers the interpretation - his brothers will be subject to him.

You can imagine the response this receives from the brothers.

Some time later, Joseph is sent out to his brothers and they see "this dreamer" coming toward them. At first, they want to kill him and blame it on a wild animal. Reuben doesn't want to kill him and comes up with the idea of putting Joe into a pit rather than kill him - with the intent of Reuben coming back later to rescue Joe from the pit. Everybody's happy with that until Judah speaks up and says essentially, "what's in it for us?" Let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and make a little profit. We might still put blood on the famous coat and keep with our story about the wild animal devouring Joe.

So this is what they do - they sell Joseph to a passing caravan of traders of sorts, and stay with putting blood on the coat and the wild animal story. 

Israel is distraught and the brothers try to console him.

As we can tell, not only are these brothers considerably mean - they have taken the prized coat off of Joseph, thrown him into a pit, and finally sold him off into slavery; and then took the coat as evidence for their father that his favorite child was dead - but then they play at consolation. They know Joseph's not dead and yet they let Israel go through the torment of believing he is. These are not stellar fellows.

Then follows some famous stories about Joseph. There are Potiphar's wife, the dream interpretation in jail, and the interpretation of the coming famine. Joseph is promoted to second in the kingdom and responsible for preparing for the coming famine. He will end up storing a considerable amount of food to carry the nation over the seven years of famine. He does this well.

Eventually, Israel dies and the brothers return to Joseph to tell him. They like the Prodigal Son, want some mercy, and like that son they label themselves Joe's servants. They don't dare now claim superiority over this younger brother. They are afraid of what Joseph might do to them and so they carry a message presumed from Israel that Joseph should be gracious to his brothers.

This brings us to the last few lines of chapter 50. Joseph essentially says, don't worry, I'm not God and I forgive you. I'll take care of you and yours because while you meant to harm me, God has worked your deeds to the benefit of many people; many people have been saved.

We get reflections of the Prodigal Son story in the brothers who come and rather than presume a familial tie with this most powerful man, call themselves his servants. Joseph forgives them and in this sense, and despite what he has said, he does stand in the place of God. He can forgive their sin against him, and he does. Who has benefitted from God's working of good from evil? Many people.

Who are these many people? Not just Joseph's family, not just the Jews in captivity, but the entire Egyptian nation and any others who like Joseph's family have come to him for famine relief. God has not just worked good for Joseph through all this, but for people from all over.

We have in this story a shadow of the work of Christ. Christ is rejected and killed by his people. God is in that evil work and draws good from it. As a result of Jesus' willing death, he is elevated to the right hand of God, and people from all over the globe benefit from it. Not just Jews, not just Christians, but all people are welcome to come for rest, for relief, for life. Joseph's story has a myriad of parallels with that of Jesus, it's hard to miss them. Joseph turns out to be type of Christ.

What about you? Are you a type of Christ? Do you want to be? If you have or are going through difficult times of any sort, are you looking to see the good God is working through it? Not just for you, or even primarily for you, but for others? Do you allow God to work through your life and trials to bless other people - even those you don't know or who don't share your faith?

One last observation. That "Am I in the place of God" retort? That sounds like Jesus, doesn't it? But even though both Joseph and Jesus deny being in the place of God as judge, they both have the ability to forgive those who have wronged them. Joseph flatly says he does; Jesus asks forgiveness for us while he hangs on the cross. 

Want to reflect Christ? Forgive those who hurt you.
,
Who do you need no, who do you want to forgive as Christ forgave you this week?

Do it.

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Big Picture

Love can be commanded, or stated as an expectation for continued relationship. In fact, the covenant with Israel established loving YHWH as a condition for continued blessing. The essence of love however, love the thing we call love, cannot be coerced or manipulated. It cannot be produced as a result of a command. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Ultimately, loving someone "because you have to" is nonsensical.

The ultimate desire or intent of God is what it always has been. That is, a community of voluntary, self-denying lovers, with God in their midst as the chief lover, the life giver, the sustainer.

YHWH has demonstrated a desire that the people he blesses (but more importantly and by extension the people he has created) should both acknowledge his graciousness toward them, and use that divine grace as a model for their own lives. The location of this community (earth or Heaven) is irrelevant because the expectation is the same - an expression of the economy of God. We aren't waiting for Heaven to pull this together - it's supposed to be reality now, just as it is in Heaven.

Reconciliation or redemption (salvation) is not primarily about sin or damnation. It is rather, about restoring the object of the redemption to a previous state. That is accomplished by the gracious, unforced act of God. Having been restored or redeemed, or saved, the expectation remains as it always has - gratitude toward the redeemer, and a life modeled on the redeemer's life. Forgiveness of sins is a consequence, not a prerequisite for salvation and no longer being damned.

The cosmic redeemer says, "I have set things right, come back to me." As has been demonstrated through Scripture, life with God then becomes an open question for those who have been redeemed or reconciled to God. Deuteronomy 30 and Jeremiah 18 provide two examples of God's urging people to remain faithful to him and live in the world of his blessing. The relationship they have with YHWH exists because he wants it to exist, but they have the opportunity to reject the relationship. Similarly, we can accept the reality of redemption and reconciliation, or we can reject it. If we reject it, we separate ourselves from God and his life. There are natural consequences to choosing to not live with God, but they remain the result of our choice, not an imposition by God.

Why would God want you to live with him, as a cosmic lover yourself? Well it seems there are two interconnected reasons:

That is the best sort of life for any sentient being, and
That is the purpose and design for which you have been made. To become such a lover is to become most fully your true self.

God has created people in his image. We have, as our core values, desires, wants, drives, and ultimate satisfaction, to live as God lives - in his character; reflections or icons of God himself. Sin, at its basic level, is not behavior, but character fault. Sin is a failure to live as love itself. In Scripture, we can be both saved from our sins (having God reconcile us to him) and saved from sin (returning to live as the image of God we are).

This is the offer of God - return to me and live the most satisfying life possible for you. Salvation isn't primarily about sin, but being restored to real, full life. That life is the ultimate life for which you are made and is lived with the same characteristics as the very life of God. It is simply, the most natural for you and is the purpose or telos of your creation.

The ball's in your court.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hosea 11 - How Can I Give You Up?

If YHWH picks you to be one of His spokesmen, you can be pretty sure of two things. One, this is a great honor if you can pull it off; and two, your life is going to get pretty problematic really soon. A cursory review of the people who have been tapped by God (not the modern, "I'm a prophet" sort of people; the real ones in Scripture) will easily bear this out. 


Hosea is a wonderful example of this. Perhaps best known for the story of he and his wife, Hosea is directed to take a wife of whoredom. As the story progresses there are a number of infidelities and reunions between the couple. Eventually, Hosea's wife Gomer, gives birth to three kids. Now if you're a prophet, not only does your life become problematic, but various aspects of it will be used to help spread the message YHWH wants communicated. Such is the case for Hosea. Those three kids are named by YHWH Himself and they aren't flattering names. They mean, in order, Jezreel, No-Mercy (or Not-Pitied), and Not-My-People. These three kids' names are part of Hosea's message to God's People. The first may well be the basis or cause of the other two named realities to come. Jezreel, where the blood of innocents has been shed and YHWH pursued unfaithfully, will result in there being No-Mercy for Israel, and Israel becoming not the people of YHWH. We can imagine the sorts of abuse Hosea would have born having had these judgments and proclamations as his message.

This message is the theme of Hosea's prophecies to Israel.

It is remarkable then, that in chapter 11, beginning in verse 8, we read these lines:

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
     How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
     How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
     all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
     nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man--
     the Holy One among you;
     I will not come in wrath.


After promises of judgment and causing deliberate signs to be delivered in the very names of Hosea's children, YHWH here declares His compassion and His desire not to harm Israel. Hosea includes urgings to return to YHWH like these lines in chapter 12:

But you must return to your God;
     maintain love and justice,
     and wait for your God always.

I will heal their waywardness
     and love them freely,
     for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
     he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
     he will send down his roots; 
     his young shoots will grow.


There will be restoration eventually but even now, if Israel would return to her God, calamity could be forestalled. Alas, she will not. Even so, there remains a time in the future when YHWH will restore her. A time when Israel will become strong and vibrant again - after her travail.

The message of Hosea is that God does not overlook persistent evil, but will punish it. This punishment is not something He wants to do -- God is much more willing to forego any punishment because the punishment is intended as discipline rather than wrath. If the lesson can be learned soon, the discipline will not be needed.

YHWH prefers compassion and mercy; He punishes to correct, not for punishment's sake. Unfortunately, we humans are a stubborn bunch and we throw ourselves almost headlong into worthless pursuits that result in discipline. God much rather would bless us with life in the Garden with Him than have us in the wild places estranged from Him. In fact, that is always the promise and always the offer - return to me and I will bless you; or I stand at the door and knock.

The choice is ours. God has come in the person of Jesus for the purpose of overlooking our sin and restoring us to life with Him. What will we do? What will you do?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a choice that does not require anything from the other. Forgiveness simply accepts the human condition as it is, realizing that the offender is also human. It need not agree with or legitimize the offense in order to forgive it or the offender.

Forgiveness does not pretend that the other's character, reliability, or trustworthiness is changed or that we must continually leave ourselves open for abuse. The Kennedy quote is instructive in this regard, but the others are as applicable. Forgiveness includes, at its fullest, a renewed desire for the good of the offender. This is not codependency, not porous boundaries, not severe self negation. It is simply living in community with integrity, accepting others as broken humans.

In this sense, forgiveness is more of a stance, a readiness, a willingness more than a specific act although such a stance will result in behaviors of forgiveness. Those who are open to the reality of broken human society forgive as a matter of course.

An addendum. Sometimes forgiveness leads to or even requires grieving what we have lost in ourselves, for ourselves, and even for the other. If grief remains strongly associated with the hurt, defensiveness rather than forgiveness may result.

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