Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Robin Williams and Knowing Where You’re Going When You’re Dead

Tragedy has, apparently, befallen us all. I must admit I had no idea that so many other people held Robin Williams as similarly close to their heart as I did. I could not honestly tell you the number of times I watched Mrs. Doutfire, Jumanji, and Hook in my lifetime. They all spoke to the silliness and care for others I feel inside myself. Similar but more mature inspiration  found me as an adult in movies like Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society, and World’s Greatest Dad. These were my favorites, and I’m sure you have your own.

As so many people have stated, he was a lovely man who sought only the best for others. On multiple occasions he visited people in the hospital dressed as a nurse speaking semi-foreign languages to cheer them up. His daughter Zelda seems to have best captured what this loss means,

“Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.”

In spite of the tragedy of a lost brother, friend, father, and inspiration; some people find it in their own best interest to question and criticize those who believe that Robin has now found peace or has been “freed.” Some going as far to imply that his soul might possibly be headed the opposite direction of heavenly bliss (leave it to the religiously superior to dump on the beautiful words of our broken hearts).

I believe that not only is this assholicly inconsiderate, but scripturally false.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable about sheep and goats. The sheep are brought to his right hand to experience eternal glory and the goats are sent packing. I believe that we cannot judge whether or not someone is a goat, but we certainly can tell who the sheep are. Let me explain.

In Matthew 7 Jesus makes it clear that we will know true prophets by their good fruit, what does that good fruit look like? I believe it looks like the sheep in Matthew 25. People that did something for the “least of these.” Does this mean we are limited to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick and lonely? Of course not! Jesus also shows his servant heart when he washes the disciples’ feet in John 13.

The heart of a servant is set as an example, and what is the goal of the servant’s heart? Jesus tells us in John 10 that it is so that we might spread joy/life so that other might have it abundantly.

We, as distant admirers, do not know the heart of a man like Robin Williams; but we do know that he inspired us to live more fully and to seek out much joy.

So how is it that we CAN know that he is “freed” and “at peace?”

In the parable of the sheep and goats Jesus says that, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”

You see!? The recipients of the “good fruit” have tasted the fruit of that tree and know that it is good. The beneficiaries share a connection with Jesus Christ, the judge. This is why it is possible for us to know that someone is worthy of the Kingdom.

Likewise, we cannot know whether someone is a goat, because we don’t know what good fruit they might be producing for someone else.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Before you question the peace of someone’s soul, perhaps we should concern ourselves with finding peace in our own souls.

Rest in peace, Robin; and thank you for your inspiration.

 

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The Law is eternal; laws are cultural.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a three part series on whether or not the Old Testament is relevant today (one, two, three). Hopefully, this will conclude it all.

In part one I came to the conclusion that when Jesus speaks in Matthew 5:17-18 about the “Law” (with a capital ‘L’) it is in regards to the first five books of the Bible as a whole. Some translations don’t capitalize the word “law” in those two verses, but I still believe that when used alongside “the prophets” it is referring to the Covenants and not the commandments.

Which brings me to verses 19 and 20 of the same chapter. Jesus goes on to say that whoever breaks one of “the least” of these commandments will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Immediately, I can hear my conservative brothers and sisters shouting, “AMEN!” and nodding their heads; but hold on, Jesus isn’t done just yet.

In verse 20, He says that our righteousness must EXCEED that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to experience the Kingdom of Heaven.

Scribes and Pharisees were known for their overbearing rules and regulations. In addition to the 613 commandments given in the Old Testament many scribes and Pharisees came up with their own individualized additions to the ‘law’. The idea of having to exceed the amount of laws followed to reach the Kingdom is an overbearing thought for the average person.

HOWEVER! There is hope.

As we investigated in part two, Jesus has fulfilled the Covenants. We are married to Him. We have put on his robe of righteousness and are clothed in his perfection.

And like we found in part three, all of this happened when He died on the cross (perhaps sooner)! The commandments of the Old Testament existed for a time, but that time is past. The ‘laws’ (lowercase ‘L’) were part of a historical and cultural time period. Strict adherence to them are not necessary (although SOME may still be of relevance).

If you don’t believe me then how can we call Jesus a “spotless lamb” or a “sinless sacrifice” when he purposefully and blatantly broke the Old Testament commandments multiple times. He healed on the Sabbath, he ate and drank with sinners, he added to and removed commands from the Torah, he touched a woman while she was menstruating, he disobeyed his mother, he insulted the Jewish leaders, and he refused to stone a prostitute.

All these actions are worthy of condemnation according to the 613 commandments.

In addition to this, I can’t see God requiring in this day and age that a woman who is raped must be married to her rapist, or that if a woman’s husband dies childless that she can only marry his brother. I don’t see God requiring, at ANY time, that people in the Pacific islands be told not to eat shellfish… or pork for that matter. I can’t see God supporting slavery, despite a whole section of mitzvot on its requirements. I don’t see God requiring capital punishment in any instance.

And so often, we as Christians, like to cling to the laws that support OUR agendas, but what of the laws that don’t?

NEVER in recorded history has anyone fully celebrated the Jubilee. Our loans are loaded with interest. We harvest our entire fields (both literally and figuratively). God asks for a 10% tithe and the American Church gave only 2% in 2005; of that 2% only 2% gets outside of our own walls to aid the poor. We constantly serve money and other idols as our masters.

‘laws’ are historical and cultural. The ‘Law’ is what we are eternally saved by. Jesus’ fulfillment of the Covenants brings us into a marriage with him. We are clothed in his righteousness for eternity and from that righteousness we are set free that we might love one another without an agenda.

Lord, help us let go of our obsession with commandments and seek your Covenantal love.

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Easter, Boston, and Beautiful Things

I’ve never quite understood James 1:22-24.

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

I suppose it could be attributed to the fact that for so long I had been taught that “the word” told us all the things we weren’t supposed to do…

  1. Don’t drink
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Don’t have premarital sex
  4. Don’t vote Democrat
  5. Don’t cuss
  6. Don’t disobey your parents

…and so on, and so on.

As life has gone on I’m realizing that God cares a lot more about encouraging us to do good things that build the Kingdom up, rather than punishing us for doing bad things. As far as I’m concerned, this is humanity’s next step in becoming more “Christ-like.”

After “turning off” Christian radio for the better part of the last 7 years I was surprised to hear Michael Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” on one of the local stations while I was flipping through. On top of that, I was surprised to hear more and more Christians talk about how they like that song of his (secretly I was wondering if they listen to any of his other music).

I think people are obviously drawn to that song because it allows us to believe the best about ourselves. It allows us to, in our self pity and self loathing, sing about the hope that we will one day achieve something worth calling beautiful. Essentially it is a song that let’s us focus on our need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness from God, from each other, and from ourselves.

What’s funny to me (in a sad way) is that we (as Christians) are so quick to claim forgiveness for ourselves, but are so unwilling to spread that forgiveness to others.

In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians I can’t understand our government’s decisions to take military action against other countries. The man we worship taught us to put away our swords, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and to love and pray for our enemies… not persecute them.

In a country that is over 70% populated by Christians it is incredible that the death penalty even still exists! The man we worship was, by our account, executed on wrongful charges. Now WE are the ones shouting “CRUCIFY!”

In every Christian church around the country, we read about, accept, and praise Jesus for his words, “Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing.” Then, like Pilate, we ‘wash our hands’ of the problems the opposing political party is creating; blaming them and doing nothing to move towards forgiveness and understanding.

In the book unChristian, David Kinnaman makes the assertion that Christians are becoming known for being hypocritical, insensitive, and judgmental. Being seen in this way, to me, means we have failed the test of being a religion based on forgiveness.

This religion of forgiveness is exactly what James is advocating for if we only read verse 21 just before the passage I shared earlier…

…welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

The only words that have the power to save our souls are words of forgiveness. When we beat our chest at the altar asking God to forgive us on Sunday, then call the guy who cuts us off in traffic an “idiot” on Monday, we have looked in a mirror and forgotten what we look like.

We are better than that, and I am happy to share this article talking about all the people already praying for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. While it is much more difficult to forgive him, it is the only way that we will look more like Christ.

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Equality is at the heart of achieving peace

“Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.”

-Woodrow Wilson

The Bible tells us of a God who acknowledges, believes, and engages in this form of equality to achieve peace.

Genesis tells the story of a God who walked among humanity, in peace, as their equal. Well, that was, until humanity was convinced that the relationship was one sided. As the story goes, Adam and Eve were convinced that God was superior to them and instead of enjoying the fact that God would choose to be more like them, they took action to make themselves more like God.

The repercussions of this story have been reverberating throughout history ever since. Humans are STILL trying to make themselves more like God, despite God’s efforts to meet us on our own level.

The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us the story of a God who took love and peace so seriously that he renounced his own divinity, his God-like qualities, and took the form of a human being; but not just any human being… NO! He took the form of a poor, homeless, no-good, hick-town, Jewish boy who’s mother was an unmarried fourteen year old girl that gave birth in a barn. That means blood, guts, cow shit… the whole nine yards.

The ultimate Creator of the universe. The Almighty. The Alpha and Omega. The All Powerful…

…gave it up and became flesh and bone. Became breakable. Became poor. Died. To achieve peace.

Humility is the cost of peace. The strong must become weak. The proud must be humbled. The rich must become poor.

It applies to humanity. We are to follow in God’s footsteps. The example that Jesus Christ has given us for achieving peace is the path of love. As a nation, as a state, as a community, and as individuals we must break and humble ourselves if we truly wish to achieve peace.

The United States must relinquish it’s military and nuclear power, not make it larger, to achieve peace.

Each state must patiently endure lost autonomy, not fight at any perceived slight, to achieve unity.

Every community must consider others better than themselves, not vice versa, to achieve completeness.

And every individual must spend as much time, money, and energy giving rather than taking, to achieve harmony.

Shalom does not simply mean peace. Shalom means peace, completeness, well-being, right-living, harmony, and unity.

Shalom is when everyone prospers.

Politically, parties would have you believe efforts focused on helping one group or another will lead to benefits to all groups, but even that hinges on the belief that the one group being blessed will in turn bless the others. What we, our communities, our states, our nation, and our world need is more humility.

Humility of the rich to choose less money so others can have more. The humility of the strong to choose not to oppress the weak. The humility of the wise not to abuse the foolish.

We must follow the example given to us and choose humility for the sake of equality and to bring about peace.

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Christ cannot be removed from Christmas…

This “movement” (if you can even call it that) is absolutely ridiculous.

First of all, Christians, you cannot take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas.’ The word cannot be spelled without it. If you were to take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’ you would be left with mas. Coincidentally, mas means more in Spanish; which is exactly the amount of money we spend on ourselves, our friends, and our families rather than on the poor in the streets (something Christ advocated for).

I believe Jesus exact words were, “When you host a feast do not invite your friends or family or even your rich neighbors because they might invite you back and you will be repaid. Instead invite the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.”

If you really want to keep Christ in Christmas, maybe you should do what he said and stop buying presents for your friends and families and wondering why the checkout counter at Target can’t just say “Merry Christmas.”

Also, if you are upset because December is a STRICTLY Christian season used for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ… think again. Scholars and historians agree that Jesus ACTUAL birth took place in our current spring time. The reason we celebrate his birth in December is because Constantine moved the date when he instituted Christianity as the national religion in order to cover up the holidays of other religions (even Christian groups agree on this point).

What is disgusting about this is that it is an instance of Christianity being married to government and society; something that Jesus was also an opponent of (albeit somewhat more subtly). This is the man who entered Jerusalem as a “King” riding an ass rather than a war horse. He let himself be crucified as a rebel leader and refused to acknowledge the power of both Herod and Pilot.

Christianity is a culturally subversive religion and thrives best when it is persecuted.

“Keep(ing) Christ in Christmas” is a poor attempt to create the image of persecution. Christians are NOT persecuted in the United States. For goodness sake, 76% of the country is a self described Christian.

The reason we say “Happy Holidays” is not to persecute Christians, but to build up, to acknowledge, and to respect other faiths. The hypocrisy of “Keep Christ in Christmas” is that we manufacture persecution of ourselves in order to ACTUALLY persecute other religions as well as non-religious folks.

We as Christians are acting as the opposite of Christ.

I will conclude with the statement that if we have the mindset that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” then we ourselves are taking him out. When we generate our own perceived slights and fight against it, we are ego-stroking. Celebrating Jesus is about humility and sacrifice on the behalf of others who cannot repay us.

If we wish to truly make Jesus the “reason for the season,” then we need to worry about our actions rather than someone else’s words.

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When Jesus spreads too quickly

As a kid I loved throwing dried up birch bark, leaves, and pine branches in the fire. The flame would turn a blinding orange-yellow, the heat would flare up in my face, and the boring logs would be consumed from my view… for a few seconds.

And shortly after the flame quieted, there the logs would still be.

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of a solid oak log. It doesn’t flare up like dried kindling, but it does last for a few hours. It’s an efficient burner and the coals it produces will last until the next morning; from which a new fire can be lit.

Christianity is a lot like a fire.

There are plenty of momentary joys and celebrations, but the deep seeded, persevering beauty is of greatest importance.

It is for this reason that when Jesus gave his great commission he did not say, “Go and make believers…” he said, “Go and make disciples!”

Evangelism is a strong suit for most western Christians. We have been taught to be bold in our faith with both words and actions, but we have not been taught how to be efficient, steady, or consistent. When we tell or show others who Jesus is we so often stop short of discipleship and settle for belief.

We are reaching for kindling, when the world needs oaks of righteousness.

Just yesterday I received a new book, Red-Letter Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. I’m only half way through the first chapter, but Shane has made an incredible point. He says, “…our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live.”

Jesus came to SHOW  us how to live. He is the “author and perfecter” of our faith.

Sure, he taught a lot about theology and belief, but it was how he lived that really changed the world.

In this age of immediacy and political disparity Christians have become exceedingly whiny. Like infants that lack object permanence, when a flare up of something bad happens Christians freak out and turn to selfish instinct instead of patiently awaiting the return to shalom that God has promised.

Too many Christians are burning up quickly and floating away like ash.

We need more oaks of righteousness. We need more discipleship. We need less emphasis on right belief and more emphasis on right living. We need smaller churches and more diverse communities. These are the steps for producing coals that will light a new generation, a new fire.

Kindling has its purpose but so do  slow burning logs.

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The Misinterpreted Anointing: We can’t stop serving the poor

Jesus didn’t always make sense to his disciples.

At the end of Matthew 25 he tells them that the people who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven with him are those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned. Then while they are eating dinner a few days later a woman pours an entire jar of expensive perfume on Jesus.

The disciples totally freak out asking, “How much food, how much water, how many clothes could we have purchased for the hungry, thirsty, or naked with the money spent on that perfume!?”

It is in response to this that Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you.”

Personally, I think and feel that many members of the Church use Jesus’ words here to not take care of the poor in the way that the rest of the Bible commands us to. I feel like Christians today use this verse as a qualifier for hoarding their own wealth and possessions in the same way that they used Paul (speaking to slave owners) to justify having slaves in the 17 and 1800s.

Let me be clear in saying THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ INTENT!

Jesus precedes, “The poor you will always have with you,” with, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.” Which makes sense when we look back at Matthew 25, “…just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me…”

You see, it wasn’t JUST taking care of the poor and needy that got the sheep into heaven. It was because they were serving the King; just like the woman with the perfume.

When Jesus rebuked the disciples he didn’t mean for them to STOP serving the poor and needy; his intention was to say, “Don’t judge the way others use their gifts to serve me. Don’t you serve out of self-righteousness. Don’t make your service something to be measured. Let it be pure. Do it as though you were doing it for me! Don’t make it a competition between each other.”

Scriptures say the world will have unbelievers  until the day of judgment when every knee will bow, but the Church still spends millions, billions, and trillions of dollars trying to fulfill the Great Commission by ‘winning souls’ for Jesus. Why don’t we attack poverty with the same resolve, energy, and commitment that we put into evangelizing?

Just because the poor will always be with us, doesn’t mean we can stop serving them.

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