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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Jesus, No Stable, Just Love

love-your-neighbour-as-yourself

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

Making Lent Real

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“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness.”  Napoleon Hill

Lent is about sacrifice.  It has been practiced for at least 1800 years as Christians prepared for the celebration of Easter.  I find it ironic that some churches don’t understand what sacrifice means.

Let me back track for a bit.  About 7 years ago I was with a church that was meeting to define its purpose.  Just what did it want be hold as it’s main standards of living?  What did that church want the community to know about them?  Those who were there split up into groups of fours and fives and talked and discussed what each person wanted.  I’d bet there were close to ten groups that night.  Terms were tossed around like caring, friendly, good kids program, Bible based preaching, good music program and on and on.  But I did not hear sacrifice.  I told my small group that without sacrifice there is no Christianity.  Sacrifice must be the center of everything that we do.  The others in my group eventually decided that sacrifice should be added to our core.  My wife had a similar experience in her group.

All the groups were brought together and each listed it’s ideas of the core values of the church.  My group and my wifes were the only ones that listed sacrifice.  We again had to fight for the idea that sacrifice should be part of the church.  That blew me away.  Then the leader of the meetings said that in the ten years he’d been doing these seminars no church had listed sacrifice as a core value.  I was astonished.

Eventually I got my way and sacrifice was listed as a core value.  However it was only listed as a surface value.  It had no depth.  When you have to fight to put sacrifice or anything into a groups core, the group really doesn’t hold to that deeply and they just let it slip under the rug.

What is Easter if it is no about sacrifice?  Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity.  Without his sacrifice there would be no Christianity, and yet sacrifice is now too hard for the church.  To hard for the church to do for the God they so eagerly say they want to serve.

No man can serve two masters, they cannot love God and safety, they can not love God and their comfortable life.  We can not love the poor without sacrificing our pride.  No one can love the sick and dying without sacrificing their comfort.  Jesus loved the lepers, the poor, the prostitutes, the destitute and more.  How much are you willing to sacrifice to be like him?

From Tertullian we got the phrase “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  What is a martyr but someone who sacrificed everything for God?  You may not give up your life in the name of God, but would you be willing to?  That is a hard question, not easily answered.  No one knows for sure until it’s too late.

Lent as well as life is about becoming more like God.  Giving up our lives to follow the path that God has laid in front of us.  I have found that the more I follow the true path the harder it becomes.  It is not about a life of ease, the nice house, family or job.  It’s about stripping away the things that hold us all back from truly loving those people that we just can’t stand.  Stripping away wants and desires until all that is left is God and nothing else.

Who’s willing to be spiritually naked before the world and let them see your true self.  Not the self that is hidden behind fear, religion, rules, or what society tells us is right.  But the self that God wants the world to see.  The self that God created in the first place.