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Archive for the ‘Jesus follower’ Category

by Jordan Hathcock

“It’s difficult to avoid all the crisis talk that fills the airwaves: climate change, debt, food deserts, clean water, masses of discarded plastic filling the oceans, populism nationalism, racism, shootings, stabbings, the list goes on and on. And apparently it is not just the poor and the middle-class who are feeling the pressures and concerns of all this, we all seem to have lost sight of the future.”- Barry Taylor

Within the Christian tradition, the future has always been more geared towards a more doom and gloom outlook. This is due to several factors: church doctrine, theological perspectives, biblical hermeneutics, and cultural influences. This isn’t just a religious position, from the Western eyes, an apocalyptic future has always been in our scopes. We love the hopeless end times so much that we have become contagious to any other possible future outcomes. Screw a compassionate eschatology, we want that blood, guts and fire!

Here is the thing, when it comes to the future, I think we all would agree that we want it to be a bright and hopeful existence for our kids. Yes, religion has played a huge part in the pessimistic future position that a lot of us hold. The Abrahamic faiths have not helped! When we view God as an executioner, riding the dark horse coming in the clouds to seek and destroy, who would want to trust in a faith like that?! With that being said, I do believe that we have numerous issues in the world today and in our day to day lives. This world is fucked up in many ways! How are we supposed to react and position ourselves?

I don’t know for sure, but I think having a compassionate and enduring view of the future puts us on a more beautiful trajectory. It does takes steps and action to get this type of faith moving. Recently, I just finished a course with LA Hatchery called: Spiritual Entrepreneurship. Through this course, we discussed, critiqued, questioned, and proposed innovated ideas that would propel us into a brighter faith of the future. One of the course instructors, innovated theologian Barry Taylor, described a great perspective in retrospect of the future with using the Mt. of Transfiguration:

“In the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest friends witness an amazing encounter and want to build a monument on the site and make it a place of pilgrimage and retreat. In some sense they seem to want an escape from the hardships of life and to bask in the light of this revelatory moment. But Jesus has other ideas. He leads them back down the mountain, back to the world, to ordinary existence where life is dominated by uncertainty and anxiety. He calls them to live in the dust of an uncertain world and to bring a different future to it.”

Boom! That is what I think we must do! We are going to experience all the uncertainties, anxieties, and doubt when it comes to the future. No way around that. I don’t think it’s so much about happy endings but instead, its more about collaborative beginnings. It’s all about the process. We need to start being creative in how we react to our current world situations, collectively and individually. We cannot let fear of letting go of old traditions that are no longer viable in bringing a brighter future to existence (Mark 7:8).

News flash: from all the data from social researchers, when it comes to religion and its participants- its not working! The nones and dones are piling up! It’s time to use a little of that death & resurrection that Jesus spoke about and put it into practice. If we want to see any type of productive future of this faith for our kids, I think we better hop on this approach pronto…

“When tradition is thought to state the way things really are, it becomes the director and judge of our lives; we are, in effect, imprisoned by it. On the other hand, tradition can be understood as a pointer to that which is beyond tradition: the sacred. Then it functions not as a prison but as a lens.” – Marcus Borg

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by Jim Gordon

What would you tell someone who asked you what a christian must do to be pleasing to God?

A lot of people would start out by saying we must go to church, we must tithe and we must obey the ten commandments. They would probably say we have to witness to others and give our money to the poor, and probably even some in the USA would say we must vote republican.

Seems like we christians are so hung up on works and doing things in our own effort to be pleasing to God. If we are not going to church we are backsliding. If we do not tithe to the church we are robbing God. We have all these things we are told we should be doing to be pleasing to God.

I think a lot of the christian world today has forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the old covenant. When he said “it is finished” he was declaring the old covenant had come to fulfillment. By living a perfect life, Jesus showed us God’s true character which is love. He restored the fellowship between us and God. He sent the Spirit to live within us so we could enjoy that fellowship on a daily basis.

I think the real answer to the question of what must we do to be pleasing to God is…..nothing! We do not have to do anything because God provided grace through Christ. We are the righteousness of God and the Spirit of Christ now lives in us. It is not based on what we have done, it is all on what He has done.

We no longer have to try to keep the ten commandments. Those were a guide, or tutor to lead us to Christ. We no longer have to go to church because through Christ, we are the Church. We can assemble together with other believers any day, anywhere. We do not need to look to others for guidance and knowledge because the Spirit lives in us and is our teacher and guide. We do not have to tithe our money because the old covenant has been fulfilled. We can now give our money out of love and to who and where God is leading us to give. We do not have to force every encounter with someone to witness to them because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws all men to God. Since He lives in us we can be open to allow Him to work in us how He pleases.

So many christians today do not realize the freedom we have in Christ. They do not understand grace and the fact that we are no longer under condemnation. We do not have to do things to be pleasing to God. We now live under the guidance of the Spirit and we do things out of love, not out of obligation and trying to keep rules and commands.

So many of us live day to day under condemnation because we feel we have not done enough for God. We feel we do not measure up because we cannot do things like someone else does, or we cannot preach like someone else can. The fact is, God made us all the way we are for a reason. In the body of Christ, we all are equal and all have equally important qualities that God uses. No one is on a higher level than anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Stop feeling like you are not pleasing to God because of something you do or something you do not do. Christ has provided grace for all of us, and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

We can rest in God’s love. We can enjoy daily fellowship with Him because He loves us. We can be assured that we are now in the Kingdom for eternity because of what Christ has done for us. We can stop listening to others who we think are on a higher level than us, or who we think are closer to God because God loves each of His children equally. We are all capable of hearing and learning from the Holy Spirit who is within us. We do not have to wait until Sunday to hear from Him, worship Him, serve Him because we are the Church and every day is the Lord’s day.

Stop condemning yourself, look to God, love Him and love others. Let Him teach you, guide you, live through you day by day. There is nothing more you need to do than accept Him, love Him and love others. We are now new creatures in Him. We now live in His Kingdom. Forget the the rules and regulations of religion. Love God, love one another and realize you are loved just the way you are.

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by Jim Gordon

I imagine we all have been in a relationship with a family member or close friend where we had some misunderstandings and miscommunications. These can often cause hurt feelings and arguments. That is bad enough but there are times when we get treated downright unfairly by others.

I know there are people who are just an acquaintance and we really do not know them. When they treat us badly, we can move on with no real concern. Yet the people who are close friends, relatives, siblings and parents can be just as mean at times. For me, I have always believed in treating all people respectfully and kindly, but those who are close are the people we really do not want to allow the unfair and unkind treatment to continue.

I have seen it many times over the years. People you love and respect seem to take you for granted and do things that are unkind, disrespectful and demeaning. When it first begins to happen, our usual response is to ignore it. We think they did not mean it or they were just in a bad mood at the time.

This may be the case. Often times it can be a simple misunderstanding. Yet if it goes on and on and it happens time after time, it will eventually start to be a major problem. Good communication is key at this point. You need to think enough of yourself and the relationship to speak up. This does not have to be done in a mean or hateful way. Just a calm private talk explaining what is going on and how you are feeling can put an end to such treatment.

I have personally seen a few people who were treated disrespectfully and taken for granted time after time, month after month, year after year. So much that eventually they gave up on the person and the relationship was damaged. When we continue to accept being treated badly, we are not only damaging the relationship but we are destroying our spirit. As we continue to accept such treatment we begin to think less and less of ourselves.

Very often the way people treat others is done out of ignorance. They may not even realize how they come across. Again, good communication and standing up for yourself can straighten things out. The main thing is do not allow yourself to accept this kind of treatment. Think of yourself more highly than to take whatever bad treatment people dish out.

When people are treated with such disrespect and taken for granted the best thing to do is (for you Andy Griffith fans) pull a Barney Fife…. nip it, nip it in the bud.  When we allow others to treat us unkindly year after year after year, it eventually takes a toll on us and we come to a point where the relationship is lost. Stand up now, speak up now. Do not allow this kind of treatment to continue for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with someone you care about.

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by Jim Gordon

Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you be at peace with all men.

To be at peace with all people, including believers and non-believers seems almost impossible in our world today. We have so many different thoughts and ideas, different denominations, interpretations and beliefs and all the different religions. It makes you wonder how it is possible to be at peace with everyone?

The dictionary describes peace as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; harmony in personal relations.

I have been thinking recently about how some christian people act towards those who see things differently. I do not know why we can be so mean at times. We feel we have to prove our point to others and stand our ground when it comes to doctrine and interpretation of the bible. I am not sure why we feel it is our job to be the morality police. Why do we feel the need to force our views, beliefs and interpretations on others?

Rather than base our lives on following doctrine and interpretation, we are to follow the example of Jesus. He said to love God and love one another. There is no way to be at peace with others without loving them. We cannot love others without the Spirit of love living within us.

I think what God is saying about being at peace with all is that we are to live in harmony with others, not allowing any oppressive thoughts or emotions to take control of our feelings toward them. In other words, we live in love. Just because someone does not interpret the bible the same way we do or go to the same church we do or does not go to church at all, we should realize that in regard to other believers, we are all wanting to love God and do what is pleasing to God. We are to accept one another in love and respect the fact that God is working in different ways in people. Just because it is not what we are used to does not mean it is not of God.

In regard to non-believers, we do not need to condemn them or force our beliefs on them. We are to let them see the love of God by the way we treat others. They do not need someone beating them down or twisting their arms to get them to believe like us. We are to love them as they are and let the Spirit do any work that needs to be done in their lives just as the Spirit does in our lives.

If we believers could understand that we are responsible for ourselves in the way we live for God. We are not responsible to live the way others do or the way others think we should. We are to allow our Father to work in our lives the way He wants and follow Him on the path He has for us.

Our responsibility is to love God and love others, accept them for who they are and pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us in the way we are to go. We are not responsible to force others to see things the way we see things. We are to love one another and accept one another as they are. Only by living in love can we live at peace with all.

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by Jordan Hathcock

 “We are part of something more than we are observing something. How does that feel to you? From the perspective of participation, we can recognize that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas about which we could be wrong or right. When it is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of “it”; we just need to talk correctly about “it.” We can avoid actually living out our beliefs and walking our talk.”– Richard Rohr

When it comes to the history of Christendom, it was mostly about obedience then participation. We see this through the various traditions. This concept of obedience ends up being more of “having the correct” beliefs rather than living out a loving way of life. When we get to caught up in the ideas of faith, we wind up being consumers rather than doers.

When we come to experiential trust, we can recognize that it’s really about connecting with others through relationships. It’s making oneself encounter the whole of being rather than worrying about if you have the doctrine of the atonement right (which it all boils down to a theory rather than an experience). See, when we get to caught up in “who has it right” we create an us vs. them paradigm which only causes division.

We have to come to the table of reconciliation and be always for coming together unified despite our differences. Yes, there is a way to participate that involves some type of decision to “obey”-which a better term would be taking action. Unfortunately, from many people’s stories and experiences with obedience, it was more of a blind allegiance rather than a divine connection. It is a dangerous thing when one loses himself to the higher powers of authority. This will lead to unhealthy abuse as one study showed regarding blind authoritative control:

“Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”-Science Daily

When we come to a place of authoritative obedience, we become oblivious to the harmful effects to ourselves and others. This is not what having faith is all about! Faith is having the courage to step into the unknown and experience the process of bringing about love that heals and liberates. God is not interested in obedience as much as entering in a relational space that endows growth and connection. Yes, we make the decision to trust and follow God, but if we do not believe that the center of all being is already connected to us, we will never fully allow this relationship to God and Her creation blossom and take hold of our reality. If its just obedience to an idea and not to a reality, we will not see the transformation bloom in ourselves and our surroundings.

Coming to a place of desiring the divine connection is a difficult journey. Its not all skittles and rainbows, that is for damn sure! It does take a great amount of patience and letting go of egotistical habits. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “to find life you must lose your life”. It is action that really drives a reaction. If we just sit on the sidelines of statements of beliefs, we will never truly experience the divine transformation that breaks us free. If we don’t take seriously the Orthopraxy of this whole Jesus movement, we are not going to survive. Its time we become participants of the God who is love and let go of the idea of blind obedience if we ever want to see dynamic change…

“New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled the humiliating question arises ‘Why then are you not taking part in them?” ― H.G. Wells

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by Jim Gordon

Does it not seem strange that in the christian church world we are told we are to love others, yet when we come to a difference of opinion or a change in views in our beliefs, christians can be the first to throw a stone?

We hear about fairly well-known individuals within the church system say they have changed their views and no longer accept some of the teachings they grew up with in the church. They are not necessarily saying they are walking away from God but they are walking away from many things they have been told about God they no longer accept.

When this happens, usually other christians are the first to judge and condemn these individuals rather than try to accept them and find out exactly what is going on. Their first thought is they are leaving their complete belief and faith in God.

Many times, this is not what the person is saying anyway. Leaving religious teachings of the church is not leaving God. In fact, many times leaving some of these teachings behind is just the beginning of a deeper walk with God.

I grew up in the traditional church setting and I had many good times there. I met a lot of nice people and learned many things about God. The thing is the church as we know it was never what God intended. Church is not a place or an organization, it is the people who love God and love, support and encourage one another.

The church today seems more like a corporation with the CEO and board of directors. I know there are a lot of good people within the church system. They love God and want to live their life for him. Yet for my wife and I, we became disenchanted with the religious system and felt there was a better way for us to live for God, which was outside the walls of religion and the human-led system of church each week.

We felt that since the Spirit lives within us there is no need for a middle-man (pastor) to lead and teach us. If the Spirit of God actually lives within us, why do we so often depend on a human being to lead and teach us?

I certainly do not want to make anyone feel bad if they are still a part of the institutional church. They are like I used to be and feel that was the best way to show love for God and learn about God. I would not tell anyone they should leave the system, although for my wife and I we certainly do believe it was the best thing for us.

Whether you are in the church system, questioning the church system or have left it, the main focus should be to love God and love one another. Doing so fulfills all the law and the prophets (as Matthew 22:35-40 explains). Of course, we know that the law no longer needs to be fulfilled but at the time Jesus taught this he was living under the law. Now that grace has been applied, we no longer live by the law but by love.

Leaving the institutional church or changing and deconstructing your religious views and interpretations do not mean you are leaving God. Rather than jump on board with those who judge and condemn, take a little bit and find out more about what is going on. Then remember we are all at a different place on the path as we follow Jesus. Pray for one another, encourage and support one another but do not beat one another up as we each try to follow Jesus as we feel led.

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by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the church system I was always taught that the pastor was the authority on anything spiritual. After all, they had been ‘called’ and had gone to college to be taught everything about God and the bible.

I remember how impressed I was by pastors. If I had a question about the bible I could make an appointment and go in and talk with the pastor. I figured he would have all the answers.

As I got a little older, I became infatuated with some of the big named evangelist. I would listen to them, send them money and if at all possible, go to their crusades. I can remember thinking if I could only be like them. They were super-spiritual and knew all about God and had the answers to all spiritual questions.

I really thought that was the way to learn about God, by going to church, reading the bible and getting all the wisdom of the pastors and evangelists.

Fortunately, I got to a point where I realized the pastors and evangelists were no different than me. They did not have all the answers and they were not super-spiritual like I had always imagined. I came to understand that people are people. None are closer to God or more special to God than another. Yes, some are more knowledgeable due to more time reading and studying but no one is higher up or more important in God’s eyes.

Now days I really do not care much what men and women say, it is just their opinion. They are humans like the rest of us. We can certainly discuss things and get insight from one another, but God loves each of us the same. The Spirit within us can guide and teach us without the help of any human being. If we believe the Spirit lives within us, why are we more interested in what another human says? Why not learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit from within rather than the thoughts and traditions of men?

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