Take up the True Cross

Jesus and the cross

The good of the many outweigh the good of the few, or the one. Spock

Christians are called to sacrifice. Without the Sacrifice of Jesus there is no Christianity. Without sacrifice there is no Christianity.

Jesus sacrificed all for others. Would you do that? Would you die for someone you hated? For a Muslim terrorist? According to most theologies, that is exactly what Jesus did. Well of course Jesus didn’t hate them but he did die for them and he calls you to do the same. 1) To love them and 2) to be willing to die for them.

Jesus calls us to Love our enemies. Democrats, Muslims, homosexuals, the liberal media environmentalists, believers in evolution, or anyone else you disagree with.

Jesus calls us to give out of our abundance. Mark 12:44 but all that is talked in church is make sure you follow the tithing rules. No Jesus wants more.

Jesus tells us to go beyond reasonable. Jesus says when you are made to go one mile, go two. When you are asked to give you robe, give two. When you are asked to bake a cake make two, when you are asked to serve someone you don’t like serve them twice as well. Matthew 5:41

Jesus says that we are to forgive. That means you have to sacrifice your pride and learn that you are no better than anyone else.

Jesus says do not be selfish. Yet most of us have the latest Cell phones several TV’s, the latest fashions, computers, toys etc.. etc… while people are starving, going without medicine and dying when we could be helping them instead of passing them by. In fact we often throw stones at them saying they are lazy, or need to get a job or that they are just faking it or using the system. Excuses we give to say we don’t have to help. Shame on us!!

Jesus says that he came for the sinners, not for the righteous and yet on average 97% of a churches income is spent on the people in the church. We are not here for the people in the church we are here for those outside the church. How did we get this messed up? We are not to be taking care of our buildings for the sake of drawing people in. We are supposed to be out in the world for the sake of drawing them. No cool music program is going to turn people to God but our sacrifice for them will.

Jesus said “Do not judge” and yet we continue to do that. Paul says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 and yet we do. We constantly belittle others to make us better. Look at their sins I don’t do that. That’s kind of what Paul was saying in Romans 1-3 First he lists the sins the church people were complaining about in others, then (chap 2) he lists the sins committed by the church people then in chapter 3 he says “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In other words, you are no different than someone else just because your sin is different than that of people you don’t like. So shut up because “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24

When Jesus says “Take up your cross and follow me” he means your life is over. And it has just begun, because when you truly take up the cross and sacrifice for your fellow man you have truly found Jesus.

In the view of Jesus, The good of the many is better than the good of you.

Church, let’s start on this Easter to be real followers of Christ.

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Make the New Year Count

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right
Oprah Winfrey

It’s that time again when people make their New Year resolutions.  The most common that I hear are to eat better, exercise more, or quit smoking or drinking.  All of them seem to be about self and not about others.  I think that when we look ahead to this year we should look at making decisions that will have an impact on someone else and if it helps us to then that is a double bonus.

I have a few suggestions that might help us all.

1) Cut down the arguments on Facebook, Twitter and your other social media sites.  Everyone has a right to their opinion don’t be mean to them because it is not yours.  And before you post a meme, check out the facts behind it.  I’ve often found them false and do let people know when a meme is deceiving or an outright lie.  Sometimes that starts a fight.  “Learn to walk away” I tell myself, “Learn to walk away.”  No one is going to change their mind unless they want to, fighting only makes them more defensive and less willing to listen to you.  So learn to walk away.

2) Help someone.  We all know people who are in need.  Do something for them.  Don’t just tell them that you are praying for them. Sure that may lift their spirits, but put your words into action.  Help them with their needs.  If you can’t fill those needs, find someone who can.  But I am betting that you can do it.  You can send a card, you can clean a yard, wash some dishes or baby sit their kids.  Make a difference in their life.  It will be more rewarding than anything you can think of.

3) Don’t look down on people.  To many times I hear people talking bad about that bum on the corner asking for money or the single mom who is struggling to control her kids, or that person that doesn’t keep their house perfectly clean etc.. etc.. I could go on about what people complain about.  It does not help them or you.  You don’t know what a hard life or day that they have had. Instead, try to be sympathetic to them or whatever they are going through.  Each of us reacts different to situations and just because you think would handle it better doesn’t mean that all people do.

4) Volunteer somewhere.  This could be at your local place of worship if it is involved in community outreach that does not involve evangelism, the food bank, homeless shelter, pet shelter, etc… There are lots of good places you can help out instead of spending time on yourself.  Spend it on and for others.

5) Give that $1.  Often a store will ask if you want to donate to a cause when you are buying what you have come to purchase.  Give a $1, it won’t break you and it will help so many people or animals.

6) Make a friend.  Recently I read a story about President Lincoln who received a letter asking for a pardon from someone without the normal letters from influential people.  Mr. Lincoln asked if this person had any friends.  “No sir, not one.” came the reply.  “Then I shall be his friend.” Said Mr. Lincoln.  Be that friend to those who have none.

7) No road rage this year, in fact control your anger wherever you are.  Instead pray for that persons safety that just cut you off and for the safety of those in their path.  Maybe they are rushing to the hospital because their mom just had a heart attack.  Maybe they are rushing to pick up their child who is sick.  We don’t know.  Maybe they are a jerk, but treating them the same does not make your day or their day any better.

8) I’ll leave this one up to you.  There are many other ways you can make this a better year.  Feel welcome to drop an idea here to help someone who may read this page.  Have a Great and Happy New Year!

Jesus, No Stable, Just Love

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But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
 Luke 2:10

Merry Christmas or whatever your holiday is this holiday season.  I hope you have or are having a good one.  I am a Christian but don’t hold to the traditional look at the Christmas story.  I don’t think Jesus was born in a barn or cave, but in a home of Joseph’s relatives.  He did after all go to Bethlehem because he was from there.  The word that Luke uses for inn when we translate “there was no room in the inn” is the same word that is used for the “upper room” at the last supper.  Now I don’t know about you, but I never pictured the last supper in the Holiday Inn banquet hall.  Ok, that’s stretching it a little.  But what makes more sense that Joseph and Mary were visiting relatives and when she was reading to give birth they moved her to a bigger room or they were traveling and about to give birth and some jerk throws them in a stable?  Especially when you think about the importance of hospitality in that region during that time and before.  The Old testament has many verses about taking care of the stranger or traveler so it was important to them to do that.

If you are wondering about the manger,…. Many people kept their animals in the house at night for the extra body heat.  They would keep a small manger filled with food in the home to keep the animals quiet at night.  I wish that worked with my cats.

Do we know about what year he was born?  Absolutely not.  Everyone says 4-6 BCE because they  only read Matthews account talking about Herod the Great.  Yes, He died in 4 BCE so that should make Jesus born before that date.  That would work except that Luke says that Jesus was born while Quirinius who took the position in 6 CE.  That’s 10 years after Herod died.  Hmmmm Can’t exactly make the stories not fit can we.  Yes he was the Legate of Galatia from 5-3 BCE but that isn’t the word that Luke uses.

So we either have to admit that Luke is wrong or our tradition is wrong about the time of the birth.

Now we could sit and debate about whether I’m right or wrong, but that isn’t really what is important.  What is important is what the birth of Jesus represents.  It’s a change.  A big Change that calls to us all.

Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, judges and the books of Samuel and the Kings there is a cycle that is continued to be pointed to that Matthew points to.  the Deuteronomy cycle is basically this.  You are in good standing with God, you commit sins, you are punished and a Messiah (judge, good King) comes and brings you back to good standing.

The Jews at that time would have felt they were in bad standing and Jesus is pointed out as the Messiah.  The one that would lead them back to good standing.  He would lead them into caring about one another and not following some religious laws or tradition that has been made up.  Jesus calls us to love and sacrifice.  He said the greatest command was to Love God and love your neighbor as yourself and then he showed the way by sacrificing himself for this idea.  When he says to take up your cross he is saying you better be willing to die as a revolutionary.  Not necessarily a revolutionary against the government, but against any group or organization that holds to ideas that are hurtful to people.

A true Christian follows in the steps of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and fights for the poor, oppressed, persecuted, underprivileged and victimized.  Just like Jesus fought for women and foreigners we must continue to change the world as he did.  To do that we have to see each other as someone to be loved, no matter what they are liked or what your religion has taught you to think of them.

When it all comes down to what is important, those traditions aren’t important. It’s whether you actually love.  Are you willing to sacrifice it all and make the change?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quirinius

To Mom

mom

October 22, is my mother’s seventy hmmm blah blah birthday. Not supposed to tell a woman’s age right? I and my family owe her a lot. Here are some wonderful things my mom has done for us.

  • Love of children. Mom just loves to play with kids. I do too. I think we are and will always be kids at heart. Maybe that’s why as a pastor I spent most of my time as a youth and children’s minister and now as a teacher I get to play with kids all day.
  • My mom stayed home with all of us kids. I think many kids today miss out on this. Instead of growing up with a parent they grow up with the people at the day care center. I’m glad that my mom stayed home with us even though I know we didn’t have all the latest things. We often got hand me down clothes etc… but to be home with mom is more than worth it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Mom loved to cook. I love to eat so we make a good pair. When I went to college, she would fill me up with all the junk food a college boy could want and from time to time would send a resupply box just in case. When I moved away and visited home she would always send an ice chest or two back home with me, the poor bachelor that needed something to eat. I see that she does that for lots of the grandkids now. Just one way to show her love.
  • Prayer: Mom was always up early praying and reading the Bible. She never stops praying for her kids, nor grandkids or great grand kids. Nothing is more important than knowing that your parent prays for you. Again that is yet another way that mom shows her love for each and every one of her kids.
  • Family: For many years my mom snuck around to see her sister who had been banished from the family by my grandmother. Even in the face of banishment if caught, my mom knew that family was important and that doing what was right mattered more than the possible consequence. Maybe that’s why I don’t believe in cutting out people from my life. Because people are important.
  • Mom has no sense of direction, but she gets places. Yes, sometimes dad has to draw a map or take her there first, but she still tries. I married that same person. I have to do the same for my wife as well. Some people would hole up and not go anywhere, but not mom.
  • Mom loves. She dearly loves her family, more than anything in the world and would do anything for any one of us. The Bible says that “these three things remain, Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love” I think mom has all of these things but the greatest thing she has is love.

Choose Love not Hate

love all

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Gospel of John 13:34 & 35

 

June 29, 1964 a sweeping civil rights bill passed the United States Senate after 83 days of filibusters from its opponents. This was in the middle of the Black civil rights movement. The 19 senators from both parties were mostly from the south.
When the vote finally took place it was an over whelming vote of 73-27 in favor. So, 19 people with an agenda of hate stopped progress for nearly 3 months. Nothing could be voted on during that time that they stopped everything. That saddens me. What is even sadder is that that kind of hate is still around.
We still have a long way to go regarding civil rights. Yes it is better, but it has a long way to go. In the past few years there have been laws passed trying to stop the LBGT Civil Rights movement. Kids who are running to America for help are hated. Many want troops sent to the border.
In recent years states like Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee have tried to pass laws trying to stop the LBGT movement. Laws like homosexuality being illegal to discuss in school or being able to not serve a customer if they are gay. Thankfully those laws have not passed.
This morning my pastor spoke on being nice to one another. Why can’t we be nice? That’s a good question. One thing he said is so very true. I can’t exactly quote him but here are the basics of what he said. “If you hear God telling you to hurt someone, to be mean to them, to do damage to them, it is not of God and you’d better see your doctor and get some medication.” If God is love, and I think God is love, then those that follow God can do no harm to others.
The saddest part of today’s Civil Rights movement is that the Church is one of the most vocal against people that it should love. It is not love to fight against a person’s rights. It’s just mean and selfish. It has nothing to do with God or the Bible. I almost want to say it’s Satanic but this isn’t Satan doing this. It’s people making a choice to hate instead of love.
President Johnson had a choice too. He was from the Deep South. Texas. He feared that passing this bill would hurt the democrats in the south. He feared his party would lose control of those areas. He was right. Many of those areas turned Republican. Johnson however knew it was the right thing to do.
I wish more people, not just out leaders thought like this. Doing what is right instead of what would benefit us the best. What if we started thinking of others first? If we put each other first we would not need an act of congress for Civil rights. It would simply be a normal part of life.
Next time you see someone different from you don’t think of them in negative terms. Think about what you could learn from them. Think about what their culture can bring to you. It will open up new and exciting times of growth that will benefit us all.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/on-this-day–record-83-day-senate-filibuster-against-u-s–civil-rights-act-ends-165011753.html#vxAD9IM
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/

Let the children come……

children_on_border

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Statue of Liberty

June 22, happy birthday Emma Lazarus. Most of you have no idea who that is, but she wrote the poem above. A poem that so many Americans love and hold on to. How we welcome people from all over and take them in.
Lately many Americans don’t seem to believe that this should be true. There is a growing fight over what to do with the refugees crossing our southern border. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is planning on activating the National Guard to keep the illegal aliens out and America safe. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is working to find a place for 1,000 of the children that are crossing the border daily.
This seems to be our history. Anytime a large group tries to immigrate into America some people get all up in arms and try to ban them. Jon Stewart puts it this way. “Why would you not come to a place that great? In fact, it’s why all of our ancestors came to this country, and were themselves originally unwelcome. Because that’s the story of America. From Ben Franklin’s worry that Germans were ruining Pennsylvania, to our 19th century 60-year ban on the Chinese immigrants who had just finished building our rail system, to our very real and justifiable concerns about the Irish, and their insatiable “applying for jobs”.” (Note the last part is sarcasm. You can watch it at the link below)
Stewart puts it a lot better than I can. These are Children. They are not a threat, nor an invasion. They are running from poverty and danger. They have no parents in a strange land wanting help.
While I do understand that there is a problem with just allowing everyone into the country, I don’t think we can just throw these kids back to where they came from. Setting up camps to immunize them and give them places to live is the most humane thing we can do. Sending them back to where they came from will be death for some of them. Many of them will just try again, hoping that someone will care this time.
As a follower of Jesus I have to ask what we can do for the least of these? If all we can do is throw them back to the wolves then you don’t know what Christ taught. Many of you like to throw out verses from Leviticus so here is one. 19:33-34 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
Love them as yourself. I think Jesus said something about that too. That is one of the two great commands. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe you might ask, “Who is my neighbor”. When you get down to it, it’s everyone you ever see, hear about, etc… Your neighbor is these kids. Start treating them with love. Take care of them and you will have your reward. “’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Time to start doing what Jesus asked us to do.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/07/19/6-cities-react-illegal-immigrants-communities/
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607317/Massachussetts-governor-offers-to-shelter-immigrant-children-Says-the-Bible-inspires-him-to-do-so.html
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/21/politics/perry-national-guard-border/
http://www.compellingtruth.org/illegal-aliens-immigrants.html
http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2014/07/16/daily-shows-jon-stewart-tears-into-protesters-of-migrant-children-shelters

My hand at Bible Translating

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There are so many versions or translations of the Bible out there that it is often hard to really know if one is any better than the next. I once counted mine and I had around 25 different versions in my house.  Each version or translation tries to bring into modern language what the Bible writers were trying to say. So each Bible has bias, good or bad, of the person or people translating it. What they understand and believe will come across in how it is translated. I could not come up with an exact number of translations there are but several sites said there were thousands. So we have thousands of people trying to tell us what they think the Bible writers were trying to tell us when actually they weren’t talking to us at all. They were talking to someone of their day.

What we have to discover is what they said in their time and see if any of it fits into our time. Lately I have been toying with that and have tried to make a few verses more real to people. Some have liked it and some not, but here are a few of what I have tried.

So with the idea of bringing the Bible to modern language, I gave my attempt at a few of the more famous scriptures.

 

When our time began God created the Big Bang. Genesis 1:1

Love mom and dad, so that you may have a good life wherever you live. Exodus 20:12

Jesus told him, “I am the path, the realness, and the full life. No one can come to the Father except doing what I have taught you.” John 14:6

There is neither American nor Russian, neither citizen nor alien, nor is there male and female, nor is there homosexual or straight for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3;28

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this, Love that dude that cut you off this morning, don’t complain about that bum begging for money, don’t put down that person with different political or religious views, and for Christ sake, don’t be mean on facebook!  Mark 12:30-31

Go and make followers of God, baptize them in the name of God, and teach them to love one another like I loved you and not to follow what church laws you grow up with just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. If you do this, my spirit will be with you always. Matthew 28:19 &20

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, and not by following all the rules of the church or what you think everyone ought to do, so stop telling everyone how righteous you are. Ephesians 2:8 & 9

The price of sin is a horrible and lonely life, but the gift of God is a rich spiritual life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For all have messed up, and remember that includes you and fallen short of what God intended. Romans 3:23

Do not give your opinion about what others are doing, and others won’t go around talking about what you are doing. Do not attack others, and you will not be attacked. Instead forgive and show mercy to those that talk about you and attack you, and you will be forgiven as well. Luke 6:37

Hey everyone, love each other, because love begins from God. Everyone who loves, understands God and truly knows God. Those that say God hates others, or is mean to another in God’s name or is unfair to others using God’s word has no clue, because if God is anything God is LOVE! 1 John 4:7-8

 

So what do you think? Did I miss the mark completely or was I close? Feel free to give it a try for yourself. After all it’s all about trying to understand the authors meaning or meanings the best we can so we can live it today.

Here is a list of the translations available if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations