In the end…

A Story About Two Sons

28 “Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him.

Matthew 21: 28-32 (NCV)

This is one of my favorite parables. I constantly find myself going back to it and, honestly, I’m surprised I have never heard it preached. This is not a joke. No one has ever preached this parable in my presence. I wonder why? Are we worried about the implications of a God who forgives those who once rebelled? I don’t know. I ran into it while reading scriptures one day and my jaw fell open. It was so amazing.

“Tell me what you think about this,” he said.

I wonder about our tendency to praise potential over product. At least, I’ve had that tendency. I’m drawn to people with potential more than people who are actually producing fruit.

Permit me to think out loud for a moment.

It could be a combination of things.

  1. I like to teach, which means I am naturally predisposed to drawing the potential out of people.
  2. My top 3 love languages have nothing to do with physical things people can do for me or give me. You can wash my car, clean my whole house and buy me shoes but it won’t light me up the same way a conversation, a hug or an “I love you” would. But then it becomes unfair, right? Some people who are genuinely trying to love me find their love overshadowed by others who feed me their grand intentions steeped in zero substance.

What if God was like that?

Thank heavens He is not.

He sees you really trying. If those lofty words mean something, He knows. And if that physical offering means something, He knows. If that grand declaration means nothing, She knows and if that physical offering is void of personal significance, She can tell. We can’t fool God with the aesthetics.

How I pray for wisdom to be like Him.

I have made many mistakes trusting in the person that seemed so amazing because of the promises flowing from his lips like honey. I have chosen the business partner that seemed to know what she was doing and promised me the world. And they have failed me.

But you know who’s a bit better in some cases? The person who doesn’t promise they can do it. Sometimes, they genuinely just want to count the cost. They don’t want to disappoint. So they approach the task at hand with sobriety and because of that, they end up being the most dependable.

I’m learning more and more not to trust the flash in the pan emotional display. I’m learning to trust the slow, steady growing tree that takes the time to dig its roots deep before it emerges to the surface and says, “Yes. Now I am ready.”

Here are some synonyms of “slow” that I quite enjoy: deliberate, unhurried, ponderous, moderate, dreamy…

I used to hate my penchant for questioning everything. I spent so much time deciding on things my peers would breeze through in a second. That is how I am. I get lost in the details. I give in to a little bit of paranoia and allow my mind to run wild with a million scenarios of how things could go given the current variables and their values. It makes me slower at many things – making decisions, getting ready, eating (because that’s also thinking time)… Getting started on anything is a long journey for me. And I didn’t like the way my mind worked but one day, I reflected on how some very technical things came to me naturally: creating a song, building a website, programming, finding the right words to describe that feeling/idea… And my paranoia, questions, and imagination became a gift. I realized my slowness was my strength.

It’s okay to arrive slowly. In some situations, it is genuinely better to question and requestion and go back to the drawing board and pray once more and prepare twice more and buttress thrice more because by the time you arrive? Oh wow. You will be unshakeable. There is nothing like a season of doubt (if you come out of it) to reinforce your faith . Yes, there are no’s that are permanent but sometimes, that no is a maybe. Sometimes, that “no” still finds a son thinking about that thing his father said. Sometimes, that “no” comes from the mouth of a daughter that is sincerely wondering and questioning, not just being a rebel for the fun of it. So let them take their time. Abba allows it.

There is no formula. We just have to walk with our eyes open and watch what people are doing. We can only pray that we will see them as they truly are. We can only ask questions and test the waters. Slowly but surely, what is within will bubble out; what is beneath the ground will break forth; what is hidden will be revealed.

Not all who say “Yes” are dependable and not all that say “No” are horrible. Sometimes, the naysayers are just being brave enough to be honest.

That was a very long tangent. My point is: in the end, you will know who was sincere based on what they did, not just what they said. So let actions speak.

This parable also reminds me of a theme I stumbled upon twice in Ezekiel:

21 Suppose wicked people stop sinning and start obeying my laws and doing right. They won’t be put to death. 22 All their sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they did right. 23 I, the Lord God, don’t like to see wicked people die. I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live.

24 But when good people start sinning and doing disgusting things, will they live? No! All their good deeds will be forgotten, and they will be put to death because of their sins.

25 You people of Israel accuse me of being unfair! But listen—I’m not unfair; you are! 26 If good people start doing evil, they must be put to death, because they have sinned. 27 And if wicked people start doing right, they will save themselves from punishment. 28 They will think about what they’ve done and stop sinning, and so they won’t be put to death. 29 But you still say that I am unfair. You are the ones who have done wrong and are unfair!

30 I will judge each of you for what you’ve done. So stop sinning, or else you will certainly be punished.31 Give up your evil ways and start thinking pure thoughts. And be faithful to me! Do you really want to be put to death for your sins? 32 I, the Lord God, don’t want to see that happen to anyone. So stop sinning and live!

Ezekiel 18:21-32 (CEV)

The theme is also found in Ezekiel 3:17-21 and throughout Ezekiel 18.

Value is not determined in the beginning; it is determined at the end.  And thank God for that because it means bad situations can be redeemed.

 

Day 5: Jesus and Racism

This is the final post in a 5-day guest series on racism + the church. It has been an awesome journey and I would love to keep this category open. Maybe the discussion will continue in the future with more amazing authors! Amber Lowe will be closing us in prayer.


There are two things about racism that should be clear by now—what it is and what it is not. Critical race theorist Alan Freeman defines racism as an intentional, albeit irrational, deviation by a conscious wrongdoer from otherwise neutral, rational, and just ways of distributing jobs, power, prestige and wealth. This unjust distribution of power is based on the premise that one race is superior to all others, and that alleged superiority must be maintained by any means necessary. Therefore, racism is not simply a biased, preconceived opinion about a race of people. That’s prejudice. Prejudice can indeed fuel racism. But racism is more systematic as it infiltrates and influences systems and structures controlled by the powerful.

So, what is the Christian Church’s business with racism? How should the church respond to an evil ideology that has been present—particularly in American society—since the “founding” of this country? Maybe the better question is why should the church respond to racism? Of course racism has been violently and discreetly claiming the lives and daily wellbeing of Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics in this country for years, decades, and centuries. Of course racism is a threat to justice. And of course a basic belief in numerous religions is to love thy neighbor. But what other reasons compel the Christian Church to respond?

The answer to this question became apparent to me during my tenure as a seminary student, and its implications run much deeper than quoting Ephesians 4:3 and the Golden Rule. During the first semester of my final year in seminary, as I sat in Social Worlds of the New Testament, I listened as one of my classmates discussed her final paper topic. As an international student from St. Lucia, she was interested in Jesus’ encounters with foreign women—particularly the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 whose daughter was tormented by a demon. After “exegeting the text,” the St. Lucian student arrived at the conclusion that Jesus wasn’t perfect and without blemish or error as Christians so often believe. And the reason why Jesus wasn’t perfect is because Jesus referred to the Canaanite woman as a dog.

I sat straight up in my seat when the St. Lucian student said this. I wasn’t at all shocked at the claim that Jesus wasn’t perfect. I mean, he was human. What shocked me was the fact that I never paid much attention to this particular biblical passage. “So, you’re saying Jesus referred to the woman as the b-word?” I asked. “No,” the student responded. The student pointed to her research, which revealed that the Greek term for “dogs” as used in the text—kynaria— really means “puppies” or “household of dogs.” More specifically, the designation was not a Jewish term for Gentiles; it was a standard insult as also evidenced in Euripides, Aristotle, Quintillian, and others.

“Jesus used a racial slur to identify this woman. Jesus was a racist,” the student claimed. Jesus? A racist? Really? As the thought raced through my mind, I reminded myself of what a racist is and what a racist isn’t. For Jesus to be a racist, he has to be in a position of power and deny this woman of another ethnicity something that she needs, and this denial has to be based on her ethnicity. Otherwise, Jesus would be simply exhibiting a prejudicial sentiment Jews had long possessed toward Canaanites.

My silent mental line of inquiry about the claims this student made about this alleged racist nature of Jesus suddenly intersected with the topic of my own final research paper—the socio-political context of demon possession and exorcism in first century Palestine. Based on research inclusive of decades of social scientific and anthropological studies on the topic, I found that anthropological studies show a close relationship between demonic possession and social tension, such as class antagonisms rooted in economic exploitation, conflicts between traditions where revered traditions eroded, colonial domination and revolution. Therefore, demon possession is defined as an ancient form of mental illness, and the situation in Roman controlled Palestine allowed for frequent demonic possession.

Based on these findings, New Testament scholars and I concluded that the Canaanite woman’s daughter—for example—could be experiencing mental illness as a response to abject poverty caused by colonial domination. And because of this illness,  the Canaanite woman is in search of something or someone that could aid in healing her daughter. For the Canaanite woman, that something or someone was Jesus. The Canaanite woman who found herself at the intersection of poverty and her status as a  female widow begs for favor from Jesus.

But Jesus called her a dog in response to her request, as the St. Lucian student stated. And not only did he call her a dog, but the Canaanite woman is also initially rejected by Jesus who is in a position of authority. He’s the one that many in his community have referred to as the messiah. He’s the one who has gained a huge following among poor, destitute Palestinian Jews. And he’s the one who allegedly has the power to heal the woman’s daughter. But he irrationally and intentionally denies healthcare to this woman’s daughter based on her ethnicity, based on the preconceived notion that Jews are superior to Canaanites.

However, as the St. Lucian student later pointed out, the Canaanite woman helped Jesus to see something about himself that had been embedded in his Jewish psyche long before he found himself in human flesh in first century Palestine. She helped him to see that he allowed his prejudices to keep a child from receiving healthcare. She helped Jesus to see that he could not continue to limit his message of justice, liberation, deliverance, reconciliation, and healing to the house of Israel. It was as though the Canaanite woman handed Jesus a mirror that not only reflected himself singularly but reflected himself as the summation of his historical racial bias. The St. Lucian student arrived at the conclusion that Jesus wasn’t perfect, but through listening to the voices of the marginalized, he did learn from his mistakes.

And it wasn’t just the St. Lucian student who had arrived at this same conclusion about Jesus’ once racist nature. The following semester, I cross-registered at another seminary to take a Politics of Jesus course. The issue of harsh Jewish treatment of foreigners according to the biblical text arose once again. While the instructor and other students cited Old Testament examples, I cited Matthew 15:21-28 in which Jesus was the perpetrator. This response didn’t sit too well with a few students. I had succeeded in “messing up their Jesus.” But a white female student approached me during the lunch break an expressed her gratefulness for me citing Jesus as an example. “I brought that up a few years ago in a bible study on that text. Jesus called that woman a dog. He racially slurred her, and that’s like calling a black person the n-word. We gotta deal with that.”

Why should the Christian Church concern itself with the business of racism? Because the leader of our movement who although, according to Luke 4:18, proclaimed in a synagogue that the purpose of his ministry was to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recover the sight of the blind, and let the oppressed go free, was once himself a proponent of the systematic superiority of one race at the expense of another.

But where do we go from here? Although it may not be accepted by many, what do we do with this information and revelation about Jesus the Christ? Revisiting Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail provides insight and direction to a solution for this question. From his jail cell in Birmingham, King expresses his frustration with members of the white Church as he writes on a roll of toilet paper “I felt that white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be some of our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.”

Like King, I too have recognized the silence and complacency among members of the white Church, many of whom I know as friends. Ironically, I’ve found more support from my white friends who are atheist. Either my white Christian friends divert attention away from the issue of racism by stating “all lives matter” and “I don’t see race,” they proclaim the cliché that “Jesus paid it all” which doesn’t really say much, or they are silent altogether. But King lets us know that it is not enough for the black church to be the sole opponent of racism. To exorcise the corporate demon of racism and begin the healing process, there must be a collaborative response and action.

Just as Jesus listened to the cries of the Canaanite woman and her ill daughter, members of the white Christian Church must recognize its role in the maintenance of white supremacy and institutionalized racism by listening to the battle cry “black lives matter.” And the white Christian church must then move to listening to now acting, responding, standing in solidarity, and fighting.

Like Jesus in Matthew 15:21-28, the white Church must move beyond the ideology of choosiness and embrace the ideology of Christian universalism which helps groups persevere despite persecution. After all, this is how the early Christian Church survived oppression and persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. And like Jesus, the white Church must learn from its mistakes. Learning is vital to survival. And lives are at stake if you choose not to learn.

References

Crenshaw, Kimberle, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, eds. “Introduction.” In Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings That Formed the Movement, 1. New York: The New Press, 1996.

Hendricks, Obery. “Call the Demon by Name.” In The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted. Reprint ed, 1. New York: Three Leaves, 2007.

Newsom, Carol A., Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley. “Commentary on Matthew.” In Women’s Bible Commentary. 3rd ed, 1. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Wogaman, J. Philip, and Douglas M. Strong, eds. “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” In Readings in Christian Ethics: a Historical Sourcebook, 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.


Amber

Reverend Amber Lowe is a 2012 English graduate from the University of Mississippi. She is also  an ordained travelling deacon in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and serves on the ministerial staff at the historic West Mitchell CME Church in Atlanta, GA. Amber is a recent graduate of Phillips School of Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center. From there, she received her Master of Divinity with a concentration in Ethics, graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Amber is currently in the application process as she plans to obtain a PhD in religion/ethics/public policy. She plans to begin coursework Fall 2016. In the future, Rev. Lowe also plans on pastoring, teaching seminary and university courses on social theory and the intersections of public policy and religion. In addition to her commitment as a minister of the Gospel, Amber enjoys writing poetry, reading, and Zumba.

The book and the God

I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand.  The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking my message and telling it to you.

-Jesus

See John 16: 12-14, CEV

(The amplified version is amazing too)

I was having a conversation with a friend one time when he asked, “What if there were no bible, Buki?”

What if I lived in a world where there was no bible? Then it dawned on me that I didn’t have to imagine too deeply because once upon a time, the bible didn’t exist. So I said, “I guess if God is who He says He is, then He would come down and reveal Himself to us…” (which is really what the bible is an account of)

Peace broke in the room. It was tangible.

Imagine something with me. Say, Claire stumbles across my blog and decides, “I’m digging this! I want faith like Buki.” (Hang with me before you conclude that I’m a crazy narcissist) So Claire takes my 15 posts on thesecondbreakdown.wordpress.com and turns it into “the Book of Buki.” She then starts a religion based on just those writings, using me as her excuse for/against her actions and beliefs. She creates a theology about how God takes the form of a child because of my one post, “He’s like a kid” and anyone in the congregation that tries to compare Him to a lover or a fighter is branded a heretic because, “that is not in the book of Buki!”

How do you think I would respond?

The posts you see are just snapshots of my many encounters with God and the many experiences I have had with the Holy Spirit. This blog is not the full description of my faith; an ever-evolving relationship with God is the full description. To someone interested in my faith, I wouldn’t say, “Read my blog.” I would say, “Talk with God. Walk with Him…”

So! The primary thing is the connection with God; the by-product is the book.

Abraham did not have a book but he had a connection with God. Moses did not have a book but he had a relationship with God.

I think Christians today are a bit handicapped. We worship the book. We reference the book ABOVE the walk with God and I think it is because many of us are devoid of Holy Spirit power. I get that we don’t want to wander off into heresy and it is good to rely on the testimonies of those that came before us but to say that they have written an exhaustive narration of the faith would be false and, honestly, impossible for a faith that purports to worship an inexhaustible God. We say our God is infinite, that His ways are too high to completely comprehend so why do we say the bible has said all that needs to be said?

Jesus said, “What is God’s kingdom like? What can I compare it with? It is like what happens when someone plants a mustard seed in a garden. The seed grows as big as a tree, and birds nest in its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19, CEV

It’s bigger, y’all. Do you realize how much we have limited Him in our minds?

If the God I worship is who I say He is, then He is God whether I have a bible in my hands or not. He can reach me on a mountain or in a church.

If He is who He says He is, then the God who spoke to Joseph in a dream and found Moses in a burning bush is still alive today. His Spirit is not dependent on a physical building, a book, specific songs or any of the other constructs we use to make Him portable.

If God wants to appear in a massive vision to a guy who has never held a bible in his hands, then God will do so because God can do whatever God wants.

Jesus said to her: Believe me, the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.

John 4:21, 23-24, CEV

I want y’all to recognize that the greatest icons of our faith did not have a bible but you do. Think about it. No seriously… spend a few years pondering how that has affected you. Probably one of the most liberating things I realized was,

The bible is not the only way God can speak to me.

Here in Ilawe, it is a compliment to say, “Your daughter is more beautiful than you are” because the hope is that your posterity will pick up where you left off and go on to do greater things. The bible is beautiful. It teaches us magnificent things but let us not be content to allow our search for God stop there. The finite experiences of the people of the bible should start us off but let us go on to have our own amazing experiences with God – experiences worth writing about.

Jesus did many other things. If they were all written in books, I don’t suppose there would be room enough in the whole world for all the books.

John 21:25, CEV

On Judgement

The Problem

The conversation about Heaven and Hell is really hard to tackle so I am going to try to be as graceful and careful as I possibly can. I also want to try my best to be honest and Jesus focused. This blog post is also quite long so brace yourselves. There are many scripture references and sections. Alright, let’s begin:

We have exalted ourselves to the judgement seat.

Sometimes, in the church, when people talk about judgement/heaven/hell, we either feel pressure to say hell/judgement are non-existent OR we feel pressure to decide who’s going where. Those are tough tasks.

The pressure to decide who is going where gives birth to debates such as whether certain people are in heaven or hell based on what little we know of their lives. It is cringe-worthy (especially on facebook… come on, guys).

Alternatively, the pressure to say there is no hell or judgement is difficult because Jesus talked about judgement and hell quite a bit. He also purported to be a just and loving God but we find it hard to harmonize those 2 ideas:

“How could a loving and just God possibly have the whole judgement and hell thing going on?”

It shows what we’re really thinking: we don’t trust God to be fair in His judgement. Both parties are freaking out because they don’t think God can handle the intense mental pressure of judging the hearts of people and they are just dying to help Him out. Somehow, we believe we have a deeper heart of compassion and justice than God does (even though both those things originate from His heart).

We just don’t believe God is who He says He is. If that’s the case, why worship Him then? I am not being facetious. Seriously, why should you even bother worshiping a wicked God? Because of fear? If He’s that awful, then you probably wouldn’t want to be in Heaven anyway. If He’s unjust, you shouldn’t worship Him. Throw out your bible and stop going to church. Close this tab.

So, why are you still here? Because I think deep in your heart, you suspect that God is good.

A proposed solution

In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father… And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man… I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

– Jesus (John 5: 22, 23a, 27, 30 – NLT)

Yzma

“It is no concern of mine whether your family has… what was it again? [Food]. Well, you really should have thought of that before you became peasants!” -Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)

Let us all remember that the judgement seat belongs to Jesus.

For those of you who say, “Only God can judge me” and then proceed to commit a heinous crime? B+. It’s really “Only JESUS can judge me” but whatever. Semantics.

My point is, the judgement seat belongs to Jesus. Good intentioned as we are, we really have no place deciding how to judge people because it is too complicated a task. We’re about as useful as Yzma, pictured above.

By trying to handle the issue of judgement, we are sitting somewhere we have no place sitting. And honestly, it’s a huge task to take upon your shoulders. I think every Christian reading this has been there and has hated it. Here’s a verse that made me do a double-take one time:

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you…”

Matthew 11: 20-22 (NIV)

They would have repented? It will be more bearable for them? Wait. Jesus, you mean to tell me you have already worked out a whole system by which you will judge people? And somehow, you’re judging them based on their HEARTS and not just their actions?

Yes. Scripture seems to suggest just that.

You may believe you are doing right, but the Lord judges your reasons.

– Proverbs 21:2, NCV

But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motivesI give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.

– Jeremiah 17:10, NLT

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. [People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart]…”

1 Samuel 16:7, NCV [NLT]

It feels a bit silly to finally admit this but I think God has it handled. If God is who He says He is (and I suspect He is which is why I follow Him), then He is just and He is merciful and He is loving. He knows us and He knows us better than anybody. The precondition is that we trust in His wisdom and fairness otherwise, we will drive ourselves insane trying to run the world from that little room in our minds. Breathe. Calm down. He has it under control and He is going to do a fine job at it.

Once upon a time, I was angry at God’s response at the end of the book of Job but I will use that as a reference today. I think it paints a perfect picture of what we all struggle with when we call God’s heart of justice into question:

Then the Lord said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

[then Job said something]

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

“Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?

Are you as strong as God? Can you thunder with a voice like his?

All right, put on your glory and splendor, your honor and majesty.
Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud.
Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand.
Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead.
Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you…”

– Job 40:1-2, 6-14. Read the rest of God’s comeback here

To sum it up, “You are not God. Take a seat.” In fact, scripture tells us to take several seats on various occasions. For example: Isaiah 55:8-11 and Jeremiah 17:5-9.

In conclusion…

we can shout out our man-made rules and use it to beat down innocent people (and some of the most beautiful hearts have been hurt by the blows of man’s shallow judgments) but God is the only one who really knows what’s going on.

We can also try to erase judgement but then that leaves the problem of a God who condones evil and does not bring justice to victims of violence, genocide etc.

God doesn’t fall for the show. God doesn’t fall for the optics or the hype. We as humans are susceptible to that. I can be (and have been) deceived by people who seemed good on the outside.  The humility in us must rise up to admit that this is too complicated for us.

Sometimes innocent people make mistakes and sometimes cold-hearted people start charities. Jesus is the only one who is able to tell wheat from tares. To Peter who called himself unclean, the Lord said, “I will make you a fisher of men” (Luke 5:8-10). While some of the Pharisees who did the right things, He called, “unmarked graves” (Luke 11:42-44).

When it comes to judging people one way or another, sometimes, the best response is, “I don’t know” because we don’t. We would do well to focus on judging our own selves; at least we actually know our hearts.

I know sometimes, really zealous people put pressure on other Christians to take a stance on every issue and condemn/vilify other people. Choose not to be trapped by that vicious spirit. Submit the government of the world to it’s true King then walk away and do what you were actually called to do: Love God; Love your neighbor. You were not called to judge.

Here’s something I think we should actually consider more: You will be judged with the same degree that you judge others and you will be forgiven to the same degree you show mercy to others. If that’s the case, I won’t lie. I don’t want to be judged by Jesus. He knows too much. I would rather run to the mercy seat.

To wrap up my heart, here’s a quote from a dear friend of mine:

“But I think a better question is who is Christ? I know him to be more unlimited than limited. I know him to be more loving than hateful. I know him to be more unexpected than predictable. I know him to be more scandalous than our traditions. I know him to be the husband and lover of all, men and women. I know him to be accused of being a lawbreaker in order to bring people closer to himself. I know him to complicate ways of thinking rather than always using simple language. And the truth is he lives within us and nothing in all creation, not even ourselves, can separate us from his love.”

The coolest artist ever

Grace and Peace,

Buki.

The Healing Power of Love

healingLove is patient

To heal a heart, a broken heart, a broken body, a broken soul…

patience is required, to watch the bones grow painfully slow;

to change bandage after bandage, emptying bowl after bowl

of time and sensitivity, poured as a sacrifice upon the head of the wounded.

And finally, after many moons,

his eyes will open and her arms will rise to wrap around your neck and say, “Thank You.”

Love keeps no record of wrongs

“It’s all behind us” is the sound of forgotten pain.

A long embrace after rejection,

the smile that sees beauty even in separation

is the sign of forgiveness for mistakes.

To ingest acid and produce beauty,

to be unaware of the knife in one’s back and to move full force ahead without dying… that is the healing power of love.

Love hopes all things

And everyday I think about you and you and you, I hope you are no longer marra*; I pray you are happy; I pray only for your good and desire that maybe one day, we can meet in God’s park and walk through His field of fragrant flowers with the rising scent of smiles, laughter, positivity…

 maybe one day everything will be alright.

I know one day Love will make everything alright.

He will make everything alright.

He makes beautiful things out of all of it.

Love endures all things

Love survives the empty space between “goodbye” and “hello again.”

Love survives a slap in the face, the kiss of betrayal.

Love survives the harsh winter of abuse.

Many men have tried to kill her.

Many women have trampled on her breasts. She resurrects every time.

Every. Time.

And every generation, naive infants are born to teach us to give, to trust, to love again.

Love is the greatest of them all

It takes Love to love. We are nothing without it.

We love because He first loved us.

He was the one to reach aCROSS.

He was the one who gave His Son.

And that is the freedom we stand upon.

God is great.

God is Love.

 Fill us with Your Love, Lord, that we may be cured of the infirmities that breed hate, callousness, selfishness & silence.

Sing over our hearts every day until stone breaks into flesh.


“marra” – bitter

On Unity in the Church

asian_woman500 black_man500 Stare

1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-13 (CEV)

My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other. Don’t take sides. Always try to agree in what you think. Several people from Chloe’s family have already reported to me that you keep arguing with each other. They have said that some of you claim to follow me, while others claim to follow Apollos or Peter or Christ. Has Christ been divided up? Was I nailed to a cross for you? Were you baptized in my name?


When I started growing into my Christianity, it became clear to me that certain types of Christians didn’t get along with other types of Christians and vice-versa.

I moved around and attended a few different types of churches growing up. I’m thankful I got to see so so many different colors of Christianity. Some Christians danced and others didn’t; some believed you were not really a Christian until you got baptized as a mature person while others did a little sprinkle action on babies within days of their birth; some churches prophesied regularly as a part of the service while others did not even mention it. The list carries on.

It’s interesting. Sometimes the differences can even be beautiful. It is the same kind of beautiful I see when I visit a new culture. Each culture has beauty as well as ugliness.

Based on my various experiences, here are a few thoughts I have compiled on different worship styles:

I think some spontaneous worshipers could stand to adopt a few orderly practices. I think some methodical worshipers could stand to adopt a few charismatic practices. It would just widen all of our spiritual worlds. I feel like there is so much more God to discover if we walk over to the other side of the church (the body of people… not necessarily the building).

It seems futile to fight over whether God is more pleased with free expression or whether He prefers very organized worship. Some things are just not worth fighting for. We waste our time asking Jesus whether it is lawful to work on the Sabbath and eat with “sinners” rather than asking Him to teach us about love, justice, mercy or other higher things.

Recently, one of my old professors reminded me of something:

Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America, a fact connected with one of our country’s greatest forms of continuing injustice. – Dr. Eric T. Weber (paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King)

If we want to separate ourselves, I think it is more worthwhile to disagree with someone on the basis of being mean-spirited rather than their music tastes. It is more worthwhile to distance yourself from someone who is selfish than to distance yourself from someone who prophesies simply because you don’t understand it (I have a lot to say about prophecy that will have to wait for another post because I think quite a few of us in the church don’t really know what it is).

We’ve become scared of each other. Rather than exploring each other and learning from each other, we’ve chosen to shut each other out. We’ve become afraid of hearing something new and experiencing something different. Are we so afraid for our faith that we believe a new experience will completely destroy it? If being part of Christ’s church is truly as powerful as we claim and God is real, then I think our faith should be able to stand even if we are exposed to foreign ideas.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

-Aristotle

Don’t be afraid. Walk across the room, ask a few questions and learn more about God because I think that fear will rob us of experiencing our glorious, multi-dimensional God. We are many races and cultures and styles of people because God is not just one thing. We are all made in His image and no two people are the same because that is just how amazing God is. It takes billions of people to express all His different traits. Yes, we are broken, but He loves us all and wants to save us all because He breathed into us all.

So… Jesus was homeless (and other fun things I learned while reading the bible)

MATTHEW 4:5-7 (NCV)

Then the devil led Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem and put him on a high place of the Temple. The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, jump down, because it is written in the Scriptures:

‘He has put his angels in charge of you.
    They will catch you in their hands
so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.’” (Psalm 91:11–12)

Jesus answered him, “It also says in the Scriptures, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’” (Deuteronomy 6:16)


When Satan tempted Jesus with a scripture, Jesus combated him with another scripture. This is the basic idea of dissonance: we do not believe in a God that contradicts Himself. We believe in a God of order and harmony.

Definition
Dissonancedisagreement or incongruity; inconsistency.

I feel like a lot of our journey as Christians has to do with farming for dissonance in our thinking and then weeding it out. Let me explain:

I was exposed to many kinds of Christian doctrines growing up. One of them was the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel purports that with enough faith, you can get a lot of material prosperity (wealth, jobs…the whole gamut) and that it is God’s will for us to be extremely successful materially. However, as I read more and more scripture, the prosperity gospel was swiftly disproved by many things Jesus said:

  1. Matthew 19: 21-24, NCV
    Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich. Then Jesus said to his followers, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
    (Note briefly: I think this was a specific calling to the rich young man to sell his possessions, not a blanket doctrine. Remember the point of what Jesus was talking about: if you’re too busy serving wealth, you won’t have room in your heart to serve God)
  2. Luke 12:15, NCV
    Then Jesus said to them, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns.”
  3. Matthew 8:20, CEV
    Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests. But the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”
    (So…Jesus was homeless)
  4. Luke 12:16-21, NCV
    Then Jesus told this story: “There was a rich man who had some land, which grew a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What will I do? I have no place to keep all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and other goods. Then I can say to myself, “I have enough good things stored to last for many years. Rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life!”’ “But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So who will get those things you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be for those who store up things for themselves and are not rich toward God.”
  5. Matthew 6:19-21, NCV
    “Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is.

And so on and so fourth. So, now, when I hear, “Jesus wants you to be rich!” it just sounds dissonant to me.

To me, there is something dissonant about a man who constantly heralds the phrase, “wives should submit” but never gets to to the point in the chapter where the husband is encouraged to love his wife in a sacrificial and respectful way (See Ephesians 5:25-30 and 1 Peter 3:7). It is the same way that there is something dissonant about people who are “pro-life” but do not care for LIVING orphans (James 1:27). Honestly, we lose a lot of our credibility as Christians by not being holistic thinkers. We have to take ALL of scripture and pick it apart intelligently, not just pick and choose whatever suits us. This means that sometimes, the bible will hurt our feelings and challenge us and we will be better people for it.

Farming for dissonance is important because we are not supposed to be chopped up people with a bunch of views that don’t match up. Through and through, we should be consistent.

I think a lot of our spiritual dissonance is sustained by bandwagon fandom. I want to be careful when I say what I am about to say because I am not about to attack new Christians for not knowing scripture (that is to be expected so don’t take it like that). That said, I like approximately 2 songs by the Brazilian artist, Seu Jorge but I wouldn’t call myself a Seu Jorge fan because I don’t know that much about his greatest hits or about him in general. Therefore, I hesitate to click that “like” button on facebook.

Too often, in a hyped up Christian culture, people are content to know very little about Jesus/Christianity and consider that a valid enough reason to change their religious view on facebook to “Christian.” When I see Christians who for YEARS have remained at the same level of knowledge about the faith, I get a little sad. Jesus’ followers were constantly asking Him questions, sitting at His feet, listening to His stories/teachings and even listening closely enough to write it down and talk about it years later (hence the gospel books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). A FOLLOWER is at the very least curious about who they’re following and what they’re subscribing to. I think new Christians that ask questions and check out what’s in the bible are better off than old Christians who don’t care to know more.

Dissonance is not just unfortunate but I would argue that it is dangerous to the Christian. Lies and false doctrines can slap you around so much and have you on top of a building, ready to jump off simply because you don’t know any better. That terrifies me (as it should) and I think it should terrify ALL Of US.

We’ve got to let go of this idea that living by the spirit means chaos or disorderliness or that it means just feeling good. We’ve got to learn to start studying God and seeking the truth about Him. PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOU FALSE DOCTRINE even from the pulpit. Don’t trust this post. Don’t trust the next post you read. Go figure it out for yourself and trust in GOD (of course we can’t get away from people; we just have to be better at sifting through the myriad of ideas that come at us and deciding what to follow).

If Jesus was not Jesus, Satan would have quoted Psalm 91, and Jesus would have JUMPED OFF A BUILDING but because Jesus had endeavored to be a good student of the word, he was able to cite Deuteronomy 6:16 right back.

My aim is to continue to break down my beliefs. Where there is a hole in my philosophy, I should be happy when it is exposed because that only makes me a better believer.

I’ve heard this quote is by C.S. Lewis but I haven’t been able to confirm it. Whoever said it, I think it is a good note to end on:

I want to know God, not my idea of God; I want to know my neighbor, not my idea of my neighbor; I want to know myself, not my idea of myself.

To glorious dissonance (which is then swiftly followed by harmony)!