Thursday, August 10, 2017

We’ve Watered Down Jesus’ Message For Our Own Comfort - Rev Joe Kay

Many Christians are tempted to confine Jesus’ message to such a small part of our lives that it’s effectively neutered. They then live by opposite values — self-importance, money, power, privilege.

A recent story called “U.S. Christians are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on lack of effort” caught my eye.

Sadly, I wasn’t surprised.

Many Christians are tempted to confine Jesus’ message to such a small part of our lives that it’s effectively neutered. They then live by opposite values — self-importance, money, power, privilege — in most areas of life and call it "Christian."

In our market-driven, individualistic society, we all like to believe that we “deserve” what we have, and those who are struggling simply are unworthy. We comfort ourselves by thinking that we are better and more deserving. This gives us the permission to be concerned entirely about ourselves.

Jesus challenges that attitude directly and unreservedly.

The full article is available here

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Evolving Mental Models of Spirituality - Progressive Christianity

If we are on a spiritual journey, we should be constantly evolving our “mental models” about how the world works, how we fit into it, who or what God is (or isn’t) and how God works in the world.

Scientists use mental models all the time. They imagine a structure that explains the known data, whether of a gene or a galaxy, and then proceed to ask questions and collect more data to refine that model.  When too many results don’t fit the current model, they will conclude that the model must be wrong and they will find a new one that does explain the data.

It can seem challenging for many folks to do this when it comes to their spiritual models, but it’s really just the same process. We look for a new model that better explains God based on what we have observed and experienced, when the old ones don’t seem to fit any more.

This has been done through out history. For example, when humans discovered the causes of natural disasters through increased/new scientific understanding, they were no longer described as being "acts of God." Plate tectonics, atmospheric pressure, and the like were correctly identifying as being the causal agents.

The full article is available here

Friday, July 28, 2017

Responsive Call To Worship: Doing Work of Jesus In The World Today based on Luke 4:18

Reader: Our job is to bring the spirit of Christ’s message
and to do the work of Jesus in the world today.
All: And what is that work?

Reader: From Luke 4:18: “... [t]o proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoner,
recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free.”
All: It is up to us to reclaim and proclaim the Gospel of love and liberation.

Reader: We can do this once we see the world through the eyes of God,
who sees those who are suffering and oppressed as “blessed.”
All: Then we can hear the call of “Your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven”
that cries out for God’s restoration, mercy, and healing here and now.

Reader: As John the Baptist declared, “... the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
All: God, may your kingdom come as we give thanks and praise.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Responsive Call to Worship: Hear God's whisper based on 1 Kings 19:11-13

Reader: So often, we expect life to wow us with dazzling special effects.
All: But God, you often come in the still, the small, and the meek.

Reader: So when we're overloaded by constant stimulus and sales pitches ...
All: ... we pray God, that you'd settle us with the unforced rhythms of grace.

Reader: When our hearts are cracked by drought of despair and pain ...
All: ... we pray God, that you would open up the wellspring of your mercy.

Reader: We're taking you at your word, seeking you in hopeful expectation.
All: You are trustworthy and good. For this, we give you thanks.

Benediction: God Has Blessed The World With Good Things

May we always be paying attention, seeking out
the whisper of God’s spirit within and around us.

May we listen for and hear God speaking to us,
using those words of grace as a secure footing for our souls.

May we continually find new life in God and all of
the good things that God has blessed the world with.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Eugene Peterson on Trump and State of U.S. Christianity - Religion News Service

"There’s a whole part of the U.S. Christian church which operates out of fear, which I think is quite contrary to the Gospel that Jesus brought to us. As with Trump, I think we can survive that too. Overall, I’m optimistic. That’s the short answer."

RNS: You mentioned earlier that these are difficult times. What do you think of what we’re experiencing right now, politically? What are your views of Donald Trump and the political mood animating our world?

EP: I think we’re in a bad situation. I really do. Donald Trump has no integrity. But I have good friends who think he’s wonderful. But I think they put up with it less and less. People are getting pretty tired of him, I think. Some of us were tired of him before he was elected.

RNS: In “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” you say that we are facing some of the same cultural situations in our world that you identified years ago. For example, you talk about an “undercurrent of fear fueled by neurotic or manipulative religion.” Can you explain what that means?

EP: I think there’s a whole part of the Christian church which operates out of fear. It’s a negative kind of gospel, which I think is quite contrary to the Gospel that Jesus brought to us. I’m not happy with that. As with Trump, I think we can survive that too. Overall, I’m optimistic. That’s the short answer.

RNS: You’ve seen the church change a lot. You’ve seen Christianity, if I can generalize here, change a lot. Are you more encouraged or more discouraged by what you’re seeing in the American church?
EP: I’m not sure it’s either/or. I do feel like pastors are not doing their job. Look at what’s going on in the church. It has a consumer mentality. It’s about what we can sell and how we can attract people to come to church.

Now there’s a lot of innovation in the church, and overall, I can’t say I’m disheartened. I’m just upset by the fad-ism of the megachurch, but I just don’t think they’re churches. They’re entertainment places.

The full article is available here

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Responsive Call to Worship: God Welcomes Everyone

Reader: God welcomes everyone with open arms.
All: No one stands outside of God's circle of mercy and love.

Reader: And so for this endless, limitless grace ...
All: ... we come to give thanks.

Reader: Through the power of your spirit, God ...
All: ... open our eyes to see your handiwork all around us.

Reader: Open our minds to be receptive to your wisdom.
All:  Open our mouths to give you praise. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Where Did The Pagan Doctrine Of Original Sin Come From?

Before Augustine, no one taught that humans were born sinners and therefore that their freewill is in bondage to their flesh.  

Original sin is not a Biblical teaching.

The creation of the pagan doctrine of original sin can be traced back to 4th Century Rome, where the pagan philosophies of Gnostics and Manicheans blended into Christian teaching.  Unfortunately, this erroneous doctrine has had an inordinate influence on evangelical dogma and how the Gospel is preached.

Augustine of Hippo is the first to formulate the flawed doctrine.  As a student, he studied under the Manicheans, who had a dualistic worldview which saw the material world as inherently evil; therefore seeing all humans as evil by nature from the day of their conception.

Augustine's background in pagan philosophy set the stage for what would be his idea of grace, faith, and salvation.  This flawed idea is of severe negative consequence because it is through his efforts that the doctrine of original sin pollutes much of Christian teaching to this day.

Before Augustine, no one taught that humans were born sinners and therefore that there freewill is in bondage to their flesh.

In fact, the Old Testament contradicts Original Sin.  One example is Ezekiel 28:15 which says, "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created ..."

Another example is Ecclesiates 7:29 which says, "Truly, this only I have found; that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes."

The false doctrine of Original Sin plainly contradicts the Bible and erroneously makes God the author of sin.

The teachings of the early Church Fathers, who were direct descendants of Jesus' apostles, also contradicts Original Sin. The early church talked about sin as an action or an illness, Augustine and others shifted language to an inborn sin nature.

Justin Martyr (c. 160) said, "Unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be."

Tatian (c. 160) stated that, " ... nothing evil has been created by God; we ourselves have manifested wickedness; but we, who have manifested it, are able to reject it."

The doctrine of original sin renders the Gospel ineffective.  It destroys man's free will and turns God into a tyrant by God demand something man is incapable of doing.

Read more here about how Original Sin Is Biblically Refuted 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Christian Reformed Church Reaffirms Response To Refugees

The Christian Reformed Church is remembering, reaffirming, and reinvigorating our response to refugees as a denomination. The denomination has welcomed refugees for decades. To remember this rich history, here are some stories of Christian Reformed churches and individuals across the United States and Canada who have opened their hearts and homes to those fleeing from war and persecution.

Check out these beginning stories of welcome!

Monday, June 26, 2017

How Trump Makes A Spectacle Of Religion - Evangelical American Chris Curia

Trump's religion world tour displayed prominently his tendencies to jump to conclusions about long-lasting issues he does not and cannot fully understand in order to appease his fan base - right wing American evangelicals.

As an evangelical Christian American, I am left confused by my president’s behavior, rhetoric, and religious convictions. I get the feeling that my religion is being used to further an agenda rather than as a foundation for the formation of impactful and sustainable policy.

The full article is available here

Friday, June 23, 2017

Benediction: Let's Serve All That God Created and Called "Good"

As we go out now into our parts of God’s world ...
let's listen for God’s voice within and around us,
let's serve all that God created, called “good,” and loves,
and let’s remember that God's Kingdom is always at work,
making all things new again in everything that surrounds us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

This GOP Christianity (or “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?”) - John Pavlovitz

The seemingly elemental question of 'What Would Jesus Do?' is one the professed religious folks running this country right now and those applauding them from pulpits and pews, would be wise to resurrect.

In nearly every small and large decision, and in every piece of legislation, they are providing a remarkably vivid illustration of exactly what Jesus would not do.

The full article is available here

Kallistos Ware: Make Us Progressively More Aware Of Mystery

Responsive Call to Worship: We Have Come Seeking

Reader: God of peace, we have come seeking.
All: Your life-giving spirit is nourishment for our souls.

Reader: We have come seeking meaning, connection, and togetherness.
All: Help us to be open and to lean into your presence,
which is always moving within and around us.

Reader: You are good. Your care and compassion know no end.
All: For this amazing gift, we have come to give thanks together.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Prayer of Confession: We Should Focus On Giving, Not Getting


Your kingdom's wisdom lies in the time-tested truth that the more that we live to love and give that love away, the more that we are growing towards grace. But if we're honest, we have to admit that we often struggle to live out that kind of self-giving love.

Sometimes we simply get distracted. Without even meaning to, we can become completely absorbed in our own little corner of the world and lose sight of the bigger picture.

And maybe sometimes we intentionally avoid living out that kind of sacrificial love because - to us - it seems like your kingdom has terrible arithmetic. It is a love that says, "Follow this way of life and give your life," but we're so used to the message that says that the wisest course of action is to "get." We're told to look out for #1, that what we acquire defines our value, and to see our fellow beings as competitors through a lens of scarcity and fear.

We often get it wrong, so we come asking for your grace and mercy.

Give us eyes to see where we've given allegiance to the things other than your kingdom. Give us wisdom to listen; not to the clashing gongs and clanging cymbals of greed, fear, and cynicism - but instead to the still, small voice of your love's life-giving power.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Responsive Call To Worship: Take Up Our Cross and Follow

Reader: Loving God, you call us to turn away from our own selfish interests,
to take up our cross, and to follow you.
All: To find our lives, may we live them in service of your mission.

Reader: As we come before you this morning given us open hearts and open hands.
All: Make us eager to hear your voice and seek your guidance.

Reader: Open our minds to your ever-present spirit that is always moving within and around us
All: Open our spirits to your nudging and open our lives to your love.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Prayer Of Confession: Not Seeing Original Goodness Or Need For Community


You are loving and kind. Your grace is bottomless. You want us to reflect that same love, kindness, and grace in your world.

But this can be difficult to do sometimes. We're constantly bombarded with a different message from other voices;
voices that say that we are the center of our world, voices that say that our focus should narrowly hone in on getting ahead, voices that say that we should pursue what will gratify us instantly.

As a result, we sometimes find ourselves pushing away from community and connection because we don't want
anything to prevent us from having things go our way - because we want to have control.

Other times, we think we're not worthy of being loved. We think that we have no value and that if anyone knew the real us,
they wouldn't want anything to do with us.

It can be so easy for us to get off track. Without intending to, we slide back into familiar ways of thinking, so we need your grace.

May your love and mercy be continual reminders of the abundant life and well-being that we should wish for all of your creation. May your goodness be a continual reminder of the inherent value that we have and the original goodness that you created the universe with.

May we stay committed to one another and remain active together in the ongoing work to renew and restore your world.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Benediction: The Active Vision of God's Kingdom Is Our Agenda

The love of God - that Jesus made known - helps us to sense the Spirit anywhere and everywhere. This love is intended for all, boldly claiming that the whole world is God’s work-space and that God is busy removing barriers so that life and grace can pour out in abundance.  

This active vision of the kingdom of God is our agenda.   So let’s be on the lookout for places where God’s mercy and grace is held back - and then set it loose.  

Let’s work for the restoration and redemption of the entire world, which God created, called “good,” and inhabits.

Responsive Call To Worship: God's Spirit Reaches Everywhere

Reader: God, we remember that your spirit is reaching everywhere.
All: It rejoices in the wonder and beauty of creation.

Reader: Your spirit is near to all that is wounded or weighed down
All: It gathers in the lonely, the lost, and the least.

Reader: Your spirit creates and recreates a vision of hope.
All: Let our worship rejoice in your work of renewal and transformation.

May 21, 2017: Global Day Of Prayer To End Famine - World Renew



We come to you with our hearts heavy for the people who are currently experiencing famine and personal hardship. We do not know them personally, but we share a common bond as human beings, created in your image.

Many of them find themselves in desperate circumstances - without food, without shelter, and often without hope.  It can seem to us that there is little that we can do for them and we wouldn't even know where to start. The pictures on the news are difficult to watch, and we’d often rather look away.

But you have called us to be your hands and feet in the world; to speak and act for those who are marginalized and neglected, to seek justice and to love mercy.

So we pray that your spirit would prompt us to action. Give us generous hearts; let them break for what breaks your heart. Give us courage to speak on the behalf of the suffering to those who are shaping our country’s response.

Give us perseverance to continue the work of renewing and restoring your world, as we seek to live out our calling as your disciples.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Liberty University, Your Ugly Roots Are Showing - The Christian Century

The Moral Majority was formed to fight desegregation and the Civil Rights Act and Jerry Falwell Sr. championed segregationists.  So it makes sense that Donald Trump - who vilifies Muslims and Mexicans, who wants to build walls and institute bans, who hired Jeff Sessions as Attorney General - would find friends at Liberty University. 

Loyalty explains why Trump loves Falwell, but why is the feeling mutual? Why would Falwell see such dreamy qualities in Trump? How could the Moral Majority and a famously immoral president form an alliance? And how could most of Evangelicals go along with it?

The answer lies in the reality that we have a false story of the origins of the Religious Right in our minds. Despite the common perception that it was founded to fight Roe v. Wade, the Moral Majority was formed to fight desegregation and the Civil Rights Act.

Jerry Falwell, Sr. championed segregationists. In a sermon, the elder Falwell preached in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate public schools:
If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.
The elder Falwell went on to say that integration will “destroy our race eventually.” Falwell worked to start a white Christian schools in response to desegregation and strongly defended others who started them. Then in 1971, when the IRS moved to revoke the tax exempt status of Bob Jones University which forbade interracial dating, the Moral Majority movement began.

Once again, Liberty University's ugly roots are showing. So it makes sense that President Trump, who vilifies Muslims and Mexicans, who wants to build walls and institute bans, who hired Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, would find friends at Liberty University.

The full article is available here