Submission. It’s a challenging concept for a lot of us. Especially people like me who have grown up mostly getting what we want. When I want food I go to the store and buy it. Ding! The microwave signals a nourishing sound. If I want to go somewhere I get in my car, turn over the ignition and whapam! Pedal to the medal and I am there in no time (maybe traffic is good for us?). And just yesterday the house felt drafty at 72 so I bumped it up to 73. Woosh! The warm winds blew up from the pipes through the vents and into the rooms.

Or sometimes I want to know something and my iphone is the handy tool for just that. Tap tap and I have my answer at my fingertips ready to use in a conversation as if I have something smart to say. And by the time I get to the conversation I gave forgotten anyway so I just pull out my phone and look it up. There is no need for brain power when I have my ‘world’ in my pocket. What is life without a smartphone? I mean would life even go on if we lost access to the internet?

Maybe you get it now. I’m still trying to get it (what I am saying) and get what I want (when I want it). Confusing huh? Yea me too. It’s really hard for me to allow the information in my brain to migrate the 18 inches to my heart. My heart being the center of my will, you know where I make decisions and where I will things. The heart is not defined feelings but desires.

Back to submission. What does that look like in the kingdom of heaven. What does it mean to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ? Dallas Willard defines it as “abandoning outcomes to God.” he says it looks like letting go of four things. To submit is to let go of trying to make things happen. It looks like letting go of the need to get others to like me. Submission is letting go of getting others on board with my plans. And finally it looks like letting go of success.

A lot of letting go right? Yeah it’s hard for me too. But it is the path to freedom. Ironic right. Submission is the path to freedom? Huh? How does that work. Well I heard it illustrated like this. A kite blowing in the wind is trash if it is not anchored by the string to the earth. Cut the string of a kite in the wind and you don’t have a kite anymore. The kite is free to fly in the breeze only when it is anchored into the ground.

So to sum up, this is what it’s like then in the kingdom of heaven too. Jesus said don’t worry about holding on to everything that passes away, namely the outcomes. Instead seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness and the things you need will be given to you. Yup, he gives us what we need when we live out of the reality of the kingdom of heaven in our midst. Man cannot live on bread alone. Man needs the word of God too! Jesus is the word of God! So dependance on Jesus and his life in the kingdom of heaven is what we need. True life is in Jesus the king of the world. That is my claim. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. That is our claim as his disciples, that he knows the way to live the eternal kind of life now!

 

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Come on, people like us are obsessed with good entertainment. It comes in all sorts and sizes, both active and passive forms: sitcoms, reality TV, music, theater, art, literature, drama, comedy, concert, amusement parks, national parks, sporting events, and action sports (and the list goes on). Literally it is what motivates most of us to get through the workweek. Monday is an awful invention, so we come home and medicate with Netflix until bed. Wednesday comes with a hump, and after summiting, Friday is within reach. And when Friday comes, whatever day your Friday actually lands on, we escape the reality of a life of potentially endless workweeks by hitting the bar, or the gym, or the restaurant. Go ahead you deserve it. Work we think is not truly living. Life we say begins when I punch out, and the weekend begins. That is when we live the kind of lives we imagine living all the long workweek.

And how do we know what kind of life we want to live? Well I think mainly this is defined by the narrative that come down the pipeline of entertainment. Sitcoms normalize the lives some of us are already living. They make me feel good by comparison. Reality TV makes us all feel better about ourselves, like we know something the stupid people on the TV don’t know. Sporting events give many of us an alter ego, a fantasy life where real life is only about whose team is best and who scored the most points, or who is going to be the team next year. Cell phones and computers put entertainment in our hands all day, in the bedroom, on the toilet, or at the coffee shop with a friend. It is all designed to keep us contently numb.

What happens when the noise stops, even just for a second?

Come on be honest, you feel the compulsion to drown it out, the silence that is. You reach for the remote, the phone, the book, car keys, the bike or skateboard or whatever it is.

It’s deafening isn’t it? How can silence be so loud? It is scary and dark in there, in the room of silence. Is it a trap. Perhaps a maze with no way to exit and our worst fears around every corner.

Booo!

I thought silence is the absence of noise. But the silence, like it is so good at doing, gives way to the noise in our hearts and minds.

Try it. That is, try listening to your own life instead of the worship album, or the Netflix original. Don’t worry; it will be loud when you turn off the noise. It will settle down though.

And when the waves settle and the water becomes still, there you will hear the alpha and omega the beginning and the end with a still small voice saying with all the love in the world, “you are my Beloved child. I am yours and you are mine.”

It might just change your life. Or maybe I mean the one behind the silence will. Yea that is what I mean. Don’t be afraid. Give it a shot. Go for it. Just do it. Don’t take my word for it. Go, now!

I think joy is commonly misunderstood. Joy and happiness are two different realities. In my experience most of us cannot explain how these two are different. I can have happiness without joy and joy without happiness.

Happiness is an emotion. I am happy when… and you fill in the blank. I can also say I am not happy when this or that happens. It is based on something happening to me. And mostly it is out of my control. Say for example, when a friend calls I am happy and when he doesn’t I am sad.

Joy is a state of being. It includes the arc of human emotions. Joy is enjoying a constant sense of well-being. It allows us to feel what is appropriate to feel. It is teaches us to understand our feelings as prophetic gifts. Joy has nothing to prove or manipulate and allows us to be humble.

With this constant sense of well-being, established on the rock of Christ, I can feel what I feel without having to say, “You shouldn’t feel like that. Don’t be sad or angry because emotions like that open you up to the icky messy thing of pain. It’s safer if you just toss that under the rug.”

Joy allows us to live in the present moments of life. With joy I no longer need to excuse my past or live in an idealistic delusion of the future.

And despair is joy’s opposite.

Jesus had this thing down. Joy empowered him to use the gamut of his emotions with transforming love. Joy for Jesus said, “It will be ok, you are in the Father’s hands, don’t worry.” Let’s look to him and learn. That is if you believe in that sort of thing.

-Influenced by Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Take my yoke. When two pull the plow the burden is light. It’s much better this way. Many hands make light work. I am the head, you are the body, and so we are one flesh. This is not about not carrying burdens for there is work to be done. The earth needs plowing for it to come alive. So help me plow it. Share the burden with me.

You my church are the hands and feet of this whole thing. You my church are the workers who by the power of my spirit bring life to what is dead, light to darkness, blessing to curse. Do not like a fool sitting on your inheritance. Use it and work it out. Partner with me and the burden will become light. The burden of all things made new!

All of us live in the dark. Fight and kick. Reach and grab. Thrash around. Run away. Hide. Cover up. Don’t let them know. Convince yourself. Deny and lie. Have faith. Don’t doubt. Pretend and presume. Don’t believe it they say.

I say I don’t believe it, and yet I act like I do. I don’t care what people think, yet I act like I do when I go to the party. I care about the poor and oppressed, and yet when I know there are neighbors lacking I instead fill my own belly. Many Christians say they believe in Hell as a place where God’s wrath is poured out on the unrighteous (or people who look different than they do) and yet they pass by people every day they assume will not make the cut.

Christians say they believe Jesus is the Son of God and where does that get them? Christians talk about their belief in the Bible as inerrant and perfect and incapable of being wrong. And where exactly does that help them land? Christians say they believe in the power of the Spirit, but do they really think they can become like Jesus. We Christians say we are forgiven and do we act like it? We talk about the beauty of God’s grace as the way into transformation, but do we believe it enough to trust Jesus with ourselves and others.

What effect are our beliefs having? Maybe you and I do not know what we really believe. Belief is readiness to act like the thing I believe is true. If I believe love is the only way to save the world do I in turn act like it’s true and love my neighbor? Or do I push and pull and grab and kick to get the good outcome I want for them? Love does not insist on its own way. Its patient and kind, not arrogant or rude. How often are we assuming we love someone when we really just love ourselves?

Perhaps if we relax a while and sit still for a moment we might realize the darkness of our lives has a lot to teach us. There is nothing to learn for those who deny their wounds. As much as we try we cannot live up to the ideal created by perfectionist thinking. Perfectionism is dangerous because it lives in denial, a denial of darkness and a denial of reality, which quickly turns to despair, pity, and self sabotage. Honesty and humility are the way into presence of God. God is there with you, just turn your head. There he is the light of the world, smiling, embracing, and lifting and accepting. If you say you believe Jesus loves us all, broken or not, do you really believe it?

Sometimes I have a hard time believing it. Maybe you do too.

Trinity or the divine rule of three is a less a rule and more a relational unity built into the very fabric of reality. Reality is not static or motionless or fixed, but caught up in the divine dance of God himself. Trinity is beautifully dynamic and creative and is not satisfied by opposition but unity. And the unity is not found in the sameness, but is bound up in the love and diversity of a relationship.

And so is our relationship to one another. Relationship in the Church cannot be thought of outside the divine law of three. There can be no fellowship apart from the third. Two can become one only in relation to the third, which is Jesus the Christ himself. When I sit across the table sipping steaming coffee with a brother, I know I am not bound to the other but to Christ. Christ is the great mediator between man and God and between myself and my brother or sister in Christ. There is nothing to own or possess or grab when Christ is between us. Together we participate in the communion of Christ.

When two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them. There is the Church. There is the body of Christ, between and in us all. Christ is the one who makes it all possible.

 

-Inspired by the thoughts and teachings of Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault 

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To Pilate Jesus answered…

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV)

A new way, not the way of old, is and has been craftily creeping in for sometime now. It is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps the thing is like a monster under the bead or in the closet, waiting for us to fall into an innocent and deep sleep. Maybe it’s like a blurry picture that says it tells the whole story, taken in the darkness of a new moon. How has it crept in under the door of thought?

Have you ever watched a late night infomercial and after some time looked at the clock and realized an hour had passed? Were you drawn in, convinced you absolutely needed this revolutionary product. Surely and with conviction and not to mention with a money back guarantee, this product will change your life. Right? Some of us give in and pick up the phone with a credit card in hand; others of us wake up and realize we either do not need the thing really. Maybe what I am trying to say is in some ways similar.

Jesus is not something to be sold. He is not something to be consumed or bought. The king of the world is not a cheap trick. Salvation is not a transaction. The cross is not a barcode to scan at the checkout counter. Capitalism and the free market cannot represent what the kingdom of God is like. Judicial systems do not give us the complete picture of how God relates to us and what actually happens on the cross.

Entering the kingdom of God does not look like busyness, earning money at the expense of others, doing more, controlling, manipulating, or using power to oppress others. It does not look like possessing more things. It does not look like media, politics, or commercials. The kingdom of God is not a trend. The kingdom of God is the reality breaking into our present world and kingdoms, not by force or violence or the sword, but by and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Don’t miss the point; the kingdom of God (his rule and reign, his sphere of influence, where his will is done) does not look like the kingdoms of this world. But remember, and this is important, the kingdom of God Jesus teaches about is not a place. It is not “heaven” as far as is popularly understood. When Jesus says the kingdom is not of this world he is not saying it is in a different place other than earth.

Rather he is saying the kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of the world. It is something else entirely. So we do not go to the kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven when we die. To think that is to miss the whole point! To enter the kingdom of God is to come under his rule, here and now! It is to come under a rule of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and mercy, not a rule of coercion, military strength, violence, and manipulation.

It is to live like Jesus if he were I now and not in some disembodied place after I die. Entering the kingdom of heaven happens now on this side of death! What good news! We belong to the Lord in death as we do in life! Entering the kingdom of God is entering everlasting life!

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