Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jesus Message Of Loving Enemy, Nonviolence Eludes Western Church - Father Richard Rohr

Interfaith Coalition: No Principled Basis For Trump's Travel Ban - Religion News

A coalition of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jews say Trump's travel ban is “anathema” to their shared belief in religious tolerance.

They say the order “selectively targeted” six Muslim-majority nations cited in State Department reports on terrorism but excluded at least two Christian-majority nations — Venezuela and the Philippines — that meet the same criteria applied to the Muslim countries.

While not contending that those two countries should be included in the ban, the coalition argues that the order violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which calls for the government to not favor one religion over another.

The full article is available here

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Prayer For The Anniversary Of 09/11 - Sojourner's

"May we never forget
that on that day
those who jumped in to help others
did not focus on nationality,
wealth, education, sexuality.
They focused on need."

The full article is available here

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fear and the Nashville Statement - Christian Reformed Church Network

We need to be welcoming and affirm God’s love for those who have been marginalized rather than capitulating to fear.

The recent "Nashville Statement" by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood purports to provide clarity about the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the church.

The authors claim to speak with grace and love, but their words ring hollow as they promote conversion therapy, complimentarianism, and patriarchy.

Going further, they even state that Christians who do not agree with their position are not true Christians.

That kind of statement seems to stem from a position of fear. It is profoundly damaging to our Christian witness, and theologically wrong in it's elevation of human sexuality to an issue of salvation.

We need to be welcoming and affirm God’s love for those who have been marginalized rather than capitulating to fear.

The full article is available here

Friday, September 1, 2017

God Didn't Command Genocide In Old Testament - Brian Zahnd in Religion News

The Bible is not the perfect revelation of God; Jesus is.

Even a casual reader of the Bible notices that between the alleged divine endorsement of genocide in the conquest of Canaan and Jesus’s call for love of enemies in his Sermon on the Mount, something has clearly changed.

What has changed is not God but the degree to which humanity has attained an understanding of the true nature of God.

The Bible is not the perfect revelation of God; Jesus is. What the Bible does is point us to Jesus, just like John the Baptist did.

The Old Testament tells the story of Israel coming to know the living God, but the story doesn’t stop until we arrive at Jesus!

It isn’t Joshua the son of Nun who gives us the full revelation of God but Yeshua of Nazareth.

It’s not the warrior-poet David who gives us the full revelation of God but the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. We understand Joshua and David as men of their time, but we understand Jesus Christ as “the exact imprint of God’s very being.”

Once we realize that Jesus is the perfect icon of the living God, we are forever prohibited from using the Old Testament to justify the use of violence. Using Scripture as a divine license for the implementation of violence is a dangerous practice that must be abandoned by we who walk in the light of Christ.

The full article is available here

Monday, August 28, 2017

Larry Norman's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" & Unbiblical Christian Culture - Jacob Wright

Whole swaths of western Christian world passionately believe and espouse a strange doctrine that can be found nowhere in scripture and was completely foreign to church theology until the 1800's.

Remember the song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" written by Larry Norman in the 60's and covered by DC Talk in the 90's? It's about Christians worldwide suddenly disappearing in The Rapture.

I remember sleepless, anxious nights as a child sitting alone on the staircase of the house where I grew up.  I wondered if I should go wake my parents to comfort me, terrified that Jesus would return and take my family away leaving me behind because I was not right with him due to some unconfessed sin or something.

I still can't believe that whole swaths of western Christian world passionately believe and espouse a strange doctrine that can be found nowhere in scripture and was completely foreign to church theology until the 1800's.

Thankfully, I think due to the availability of information on the Internet, good Bible exegetes like NT Wright, and a thousand failed false prophecies of when the rapture would happen, and maybe some really bad rapture movies, the rapture is being left behind by a lot of the western church.

But this is also a lesson concerning popular theology. Look how The Rapture became a self-evident "Biblical truth" within a century.

What else might we have wrong?

What else are we projecting onto scripture because of how we have been told to read scripture?

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 and dazzle us.
All: But God, you often come in the still, the small, and the meek.

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

Reader: When our hearts are dried up by apathy and cynicism ...
All: ... we pray God, that you would open up the wellspring of your mercy.

Reader: God, we are 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