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by Jordan Hathcock

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy.

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

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by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings, traditions and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read, and through confirmation through his voice within we are really left to our personal views and opinions and what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible mentions we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit? No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important. The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book about humans trying to find God. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living in the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that. Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how often people get offended and feel they need to prove their point on so many topics and posts online? It usually does not go well once that starts. Especially when it comes to spiritual and biblical topics.

We fail to realize that not everyone has the same interpretation as another. We also fail to realize the fact that we cannot prove most of what we believe.

We can fight and argue between christian and atheist, one christian denomination and another, among Jewish, Christian, Islam and a host of other religions. We can argue about whether there is or there is not a God, is there a hell or not, what this verse means or what that verse means. We get mad and defensive when someone goes against what we believe and do our best to prove our view is right.

Thing is, we cannot prove our point. We cannot prove God exists, we cannot prove there is a heaven or a hell, we cannot prove any other aspect of the spiritual existence. This life is a life of faith and belief. As christians, we have faith that God is there and he loves us. We have faith in the guidance of the Spirit within us.

On the other hand, no one can prove there is not a God, there is not a heaven, or there is not a hell. Yet we will fight and argue until we almost hate each other trying to prove our way of thinking.

I think God can take care of himself. We do not have to fight and argue to defend Him. Rather than making ourselves look like mean, hateful people who have to be right we should be showing the love of God to everyone. Show his love to those who agree with us and also to those who are a hundred percent sure in their minds that we are wrong.

To be sure, we cannot have this kind of love and acceptance in our own strength. God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it his love that flows out of us. Through His power, we can love those who live differently, who think differently, we can love our enemies and those who want nothing to do with God.

We can have our own way of thinking, our own beliefs and interpretations, knowing that God created each of us differently. Yet we need to remember we are not totally right on everything, and for sure we are not always going to agree with one another. We can all learn something by listening and communicating with others.

We all have a right to believe what and how we want to believe. People can put their faith in God or not. We can have completely different lifestyles. We can have a completely different interpretation on bible verses or we can completely reject the bible and not believe anything about it, and it is OK. Jesus did not tell us to judge and condemn others for what they believe. He did not say to force our views and beliefs on others. He did say to love one another.

We are not called to make people believe like us, or believe in God at all. We are called to go into the world and live the gospel message that God loves and accepts us. Jesus came to restore fellowship between humanity and the Father. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to love and accept others just as they are.

We can have our individual beliefs and interpretations, and we do not have to agree with everyone. Love and acceptance do not mean agreement. We can love and accept others just because they are loved by God. We were all created in His image. We can have our differences and still accept and care for those God brings into our lives each day.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”– Alan Watts

When exploring the comedic landscape, be it stand-up or just laughing with buddies, what we discover is total-unsaturated freedom. I mean, come on! You know you cannot deny when a good joke hits your soul, you become overpowered with joy and bliss. The endorphins hit an all-time high, and you bask in the comfort of hilariousness. When swimming in the Christian tradition, I think “busting-up” is a vital prophetic practice to have if we ever want to see restorative justice and mercy flow through our current social landscape.

How do we experience this through the Christian tradition? Well, unfortunately we don’t see to many preachers at the pulpit preaching “go out and watch some comedy”, but this does not mean that from the broad scope of things, the Christ-trajectory hasn’t journeyed out to this particular new endeavor. Yes, I get it. When we see how uncomfortable someone’s sense of humors can make us feel, its hard not to react in disdained. I find it interesting that a sermon kind of has the same kind of effect on us. Comedian Pete Homes says it best:

“The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive, and you’re likable.”

Now, I am not saying that we are just to be entertained in our seats while watching the “pastor” make us laugh. That is not the point. The point, I think, is we might have to find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces to be able to stretch us to encounter different perspectives. We are seeing some truth spoken to power being projected out of the stand-up scene, which if we listen closely and take some pointers, it might just help us over here in the Christian world.

The prophetic is used not to just expose the injustices, but also to bring about liberation. We must see that when we laugh, it is a way for us to heal towards a better way of living for ourselves and the community we relate to. Likewise, as the medical research shows:

“There is growing evidence that laughter as a physical activity can additionally produce small but quantifiable positive physiological benefits.”

The physiological also plays a huge part in the spiritual. When we step into the realm of expressed humor, we find ourselves in a place of peace. It is peacemaking that brings us into the “reign of God”. There is hope for this Jesus tradition and it is finding our sense of humor! Yes, the current divide and injustices that is currently happening within our current American culture is ramped.

It’s easy to get to serious with ourselves with all the bullshit running amok! Believe me, I am guilty of it! Please understand, we are not to ignore the racism that is happening within the police force across the county, school shootings, the Trump impeachment scandal, etc. The list can go on and on.

But we must admit, when things to get a little out of hand, the only medicine is to laugh that shit off! Like good old Sarah reminds us in her time of utter disbelief in the insanity: “So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12) Pleasure? In all this mess? Is it possible? Don’t know (like always) but I do trust in the gift of laughter. From this ancient tradition, its time to let go of the long faces and step into the vibrant space of comedy…

“When I opened my eyes and saw the real world, I began to laugh and I haven’t stopped since.” – Soren Kierkegaard

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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 Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/knowing-souls/

“So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me”. – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Do we really know “how it feels” to be in someone else’s shoes? Can we really comprehend the magnitude of other people’s experiences? Hard to say, really.  I know for myself; it is not easy trying to empathize and relate to others experiences and dispositions. We all attempt and often fail miserably. Often, our motives are what really play a huge part in how we engage with others and their issues. Coming from the Christian perspective, I think we are on the failing end of making a positive difference in others who are different then us.

It has become a competition in winning the souls of others, instead of building authentic relationships. Numerous of factors come into play of why this is. Not to get to long winded on this blog post, but the biggest driving force is the concept of hell. The Christian tradition has morphed into a factory of “get people of hell in the afterlife” instead of letting people experience “heaven on earth in the here and now”. Fear, greed, and the us vs. them motif is the foundation of this unfortunate state of affairs we are currently experiencing.  When you make a belief system of fear and hate into a thriving institution, the effects are direly devastating.

But, I don’t think all is lost (yes, very optimistic of me I know).  There always has been another spark and remnant that comes out of the evil empire that brings about hopeful change. I would like to quote this verse from the Christian scriptures that brings to light these two contending ideas of winning souls vs. entering in genuine relationships:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

The premise I take here (from the many different interpretations and commentary I have found with this scripture verse, and guess what? That’s ok!), Paul was trying to bring about blessings to those he made contact with for the sake of the gospel. It states: “I have become all things to all people…in order to save some”. It has the “winning souls” rhetoric here and to the first century readers that could have been more of a way of getting to a better way of being to escape the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (just a little side note hehe). But, I think how Paul finished up this passage is showing the real intention of “becoming all things to all people” (the true relationship builder): SO THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS! This right here is the point of entering in relationships with others.  This is what the Gospel of Christ should bring to ALL PEOPLE.

It about truly knowing people.  When Jesus says: To know God and His Son, this knowing is ginosko and this literally means “a felt knowing”, as in RELATIONAL! No matter who it is–black, white, gay, straight–experiencing the blessings of peace which produces love is what it’s all about. It is going out there and becoming friends with others (I know we can’t do this with everyone, but I think we can fucking do a better job than what we are doing now)! This is what brings us out of the hell we sometimes find ourselves in this life. The Kin-dom reality is about the here and now.  We will never develop and evolve (aka salvation) as a species until we realize that its real relationships that will get us there…

“Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.”

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com

We Americans are easily impressed by all things big and successful. We find it almost impossible to gainsay that which has massive popular endorsement. So the assumption is that if a particular message can fill churches and arenas and propel books onto bestseller lists, then it must be a good thing. – Brian Zahnd

Bigger, stronger and faster, it’s the only way to survive and thrive in the good old USA. It has become the mantra of modern-day capitalism. The consumerism culture thrives on the constant banter of “we want it now and more of it”! We as a species have been leading the charge and now are seeing the horrible and harmful effects in our communities and environment.

Within the Christian platform, we have seen how using this consumer culture tactic, enables devastating spiritual and physical carnage. The Mega Church has become the mascot of this mass consumption crusade through its ideologies and practices. Now, every entity has its anomalies (like all things in life). There are some heathy and good results coming from mega churches, no doubt (I have experienced it firsthand). But, from an overarching perspective, the fruit of the mega church doesn’t look so good.

Here are just a few examples of what happens when the tribalistic big church group think runs the show:

– Too big to fail

– Prohibits intellectual diversity

– Pastor egomaniac syndrome

– Misappropriated funds

– Sexual misconduct

All of this leads to unhealthy relationships which then produces unhealthy communities. When we make church a “corporation”, we open-up all the rules and regulations that need a corporation to be successful. It comes more of a place to compete instead of a place to heal. When this becomes the priority (bigger and better) we lose the capacity to really step into discipleship (loving the least of these).

Just recently, we have seen this model of church cause great harm and pain. The Village Church and its head pastor Matt Chandler were caught up in a tragic incident that resulted in sexual abuse. On Feb. 17, 2018, Ms. Bragg and her husband, reported to the Village that their daughter, at about age 11, had been sexually abused at the church’s summer camp for children. Since then, Matthew Tonne, who was the church’s associate children’s minister, had been investigated by the police, indicted and arrested on charges of sexually molesting Ms. Bragg’s daughter. [1.]

With this devastating tragedy, you would expect any ethical organization (especially a church) to do whatever it takes to bring justice to this girl and her family. Not only that, but love and support from the leadership. This never happened as Ms. Bragg stated:

Ms. Bragg waited for church leaders to explain what had happened and to thoroughly inform other families in the congregation. She waited for the Village to take responsibility and apologize. She waited to have even one conversation with Mr. Chandler, a leader she had long admired.

But none of that ever came.

“You can’t even take care of the family you know,” she remembered thinking as she walked out of the large auditorium. “Don’t tell more victims to come to you, because you’re just going to cause more hurt.”[2.]

AHHH! This is fucking unacceptable! How can you sleep at night Village clergy?! Matt Chandler, where are you at?! How does it come to this? Well, I think what we see here is when you are part of a non-stop “bigger, stronger, faster” locomotive church model, you plow through anything that gets in your way (disregarding all collateral damage). When you run a community based on American consumerism ethics, you become too big to fail and will not accept defeat. The machine has too much of a good thing going to worry about a little sexual abuse…what a diabolical program.

What’s the lesson we can learn from all of this? I don’t know but I think we need to realize the danger when it comes to our hyper competitive consumer culture. If we claim to participate in the divine love of the universe that engulfs the air we breathe and the people we trust, we must create healthy spaces for Christs collective to grow. This earth in time and space and the forever now that lies between is to important and precious to ignore. We must humble ourselves and let go of our egos to let the Spirit guide us to new heights. It’s the least of these that we are here to serve, not the power-hungry tyrants and their cutthroat empires…

But the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished—proof that this Jesus stuff WORKS! At its best, such a culture generates pews of Stepford Wife–style robots with painted smiles and programmed moves. At its worst, it creates environments where abuse and corruption get covered up to protect reputations and preserve image. – Rachel Held Evans

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