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Healing Road Project:

It’s becoming so much harder for me to identify as “Christian” while at the same time being a U.S. citizen. I know the difference, but it seems to have been a bad blend of religion and statism since the beginning. Not mentioned here, the history and current plight of First Nations under colonial invasion and occupation. See also Brian Zhand’s excellent post about being a follower of Jesus and supporting human torture. http://brianzahnd.com/2014/12/christian-support-torture/

I share this out of a very deep grief that has been growing over the last couple of years. At times, I have been angry. But that anger was rooted in tears.

Originally posted on Ben Irwin:

prison-370112_1280

We’re a nation that uses fear as justification for torture.

Despite the fact that, according to scripture, “perfect love casts out fear.”

We’re a nation worried more about whether torture was effective than whether it was moral, as if the objects of torture are somehow less than human.

Despite the fact that all humanity bears the divine imprint. Despite the fact that torturing human flesh is an assault on the image and likeness of God.

We’re a nation that held a mentally impaired man hostage, using him as leverage to extract information from a relative. We’re a nation of secret prisons, in which roughly a quarter of known detainees, perhaps more, were wrongfully held.

Despite the prophets’ condemnation of those who “deny justice to the innocent,” despite their warning that the Lord’s anger would burn hot against such people.

We’re a nation that engaged in simulated hangings, that forced…

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I began writing here a few years ago, putting out my deepest spiritual angst for the world to see, and I always hoped, could benefit from in some way.  As my need for therapeutic writing (processing) has diminished, I’ve had less to say, and have no intention of trying to contrive content in order to keep a blog going.  This has never been about finding followers or selling anything.  I guess my desire was to reach out – find like minds – offer a warning alarm for anyone seeking to take the detours I’ve taken.   I didn’t come out of an unhealthy religion (twice) just to find a comfortable pew to spend out the rest of my days.  The journey marches on with new challenges, disappointments, and a continued desire for more understanding.  Having been born and raised a Seventh-day Adventist, and now being an ex-Adventist, makes up a part of my identity I can never truly erase.

I thought I’d moved on past this label, and gotten to where I can just be a human.  But you really can’t cut off your formative years.  They mold you for a lifetime in some way or another, a sobering thought as a parent too.  What brought this back to the surface for me was a show I ran across on Netflix called Amish:  Out of Order.   Reality shows have their severe limitations, and I don’t know when it became necessary to format programming as if the target audience was five years old, but the sincerity of the people in this show sharing their experiences  had me in tears myself.  The show centers around an ex-Amish man, Mose Gingerich, who does what he can to help other young Amish people make their transition to the “English” (outside) world.  He offers much counsel, encouragement, and finds ways to bring the ex-Amish together as a family to replace the ones they left behind.

In one episode, the focus turns from the young people to Mose and his own pain he continually carries from past abuse and being cut off from his family when he left.  He goes back to attempt to reconcile and re-spark a relationship with his mother.  His father has passed on.  She won’t let him in the house for fear of what her community elders will do to her.  She can’t even agree to correspond by mail.  She can offer no relationship, because she has been given a choice between her son and her church.  He chooses to forgive those who have hurt him and to pursue a relationship even if there is no response in return.

While Adventists are rarely (but sometimes) this extreme in their shunning of those who leave, the effects of growing up in a church that teaches salvation only within its own membership, creates fear and confusion that only those who have left one can understand.  In this episode an ex-Amish evangelical minister mentioned that suicide is sometimes the preferred option for someone who can’t stay or leave.  I also knew many Adventists who committed suicide.

As I look back on my life, I feel like my entire adult life has been an attempt to grapple spiritually with my original heritage, which has a culture all of its own.  While not as secluded as Amish, and very worldly by comparison (more so now than when I was young), this church has a very distinctive culture of food, religious lingo, and a prophet that dictates nearly every facet of every day life, for those who take her seriously enough to comply.  Adventist churches of my youth were close-knit and in my family where work/church/school all centered around the institution, we had little or no social connections with any non-Adventists.  If we did happen to meet people on the outside, we felt it our responsibility to share our truth with them.  Outsiders were a lesser class of human and seen only as targets for saving.

Since leaving, I have never found any other group that had the same close-knit feeling of community as we had growing up.  (Our Hebrew Roots group came close for a time.)  Sometimes I wonder if I’m not out looking for truth as much as I am looking for that type of spiritual family.  American churches I have been involved with are not like this.  I cannot even imagine the void an ex-Amish person must feel upon leaving.

Going from this closed system into a public school my senior year, I found myself lost in family dysfunction and grasping for my own identity.  I felt like my new social world operated on a set of rules from a secret code somewhere, and I didn’t have any instincts or discernment about who to trust.  I went into college continuing the reckless abandon I had begun the previous year – trying to prove to the world and myself I wasn’t a religious freak.   I didn’t want to think about God, religion, rules, personal safety, or the future.  I wanted to be seen as a wild child just like everyone else, and it’s much easier to fit in with a joint in your hand.

Decades later, I see that the main focus of my adult life has been trying to find a spiritual path and identity.  I can remember shortly before our awakening out of the Hebrew Roots Movement, feeling so thankful I finally had found the truth and wouldn’t have to go through any more transitions.  That’s pretty funny, because I’m still in transition.  I don’t get to rest comfortably in correct knowledge, because the older I get, the less I know.

I don’t have access to cable or satellite television, but this week I was at a friend’s house and decided to check out 3ABN for the fun of old times.  This Adventist television station plays a variety of programs designed to teach the church and also evangelize outsiders.  The current program featured an evangelist we had watched almost 20 years ago.  We used his videos to evangelize the community.  In fact, one of my husband’s employers and now lifelong friends came through this connection as we reached out to our town with the “truth”.   This evangelist, with more grey hair now, paced the stage selling the same rote speech on the Mark of the Beast as we had handed out umpteen years ago.  He now has a more elaborate stage, complete with life-size golden angels and state-of-the-art multimedia technology, but the defining message of the organization marches on:  If you do not keep the 7th day as the Sabbath, and keep it correctly, and instead worship on Sunday as the harlot of Revelation has taught you to do, you will be damned.  At least I can watch it now without the anxiety, only sadness that people are still being led into this.

This month I am going to visit SDA family I love so much, and have learned to put down the sword of aggression toward their faith.  I don’t think they are going to hell, even if they think I might.  I no longer believe I need to save them from what I consider false beliefs.  They are happy.  It’s home for them, and they have contentment in their path.  I envy that at times  – being settled.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  The spiritual truths most precious to me now cross all barriers of sect and culture, so I hope this time around, we have more in common than not.  Because after all, I will always have some Adventist in me too.

 

 

 

 

 

In the last few weeks we have seen the bloodiest conflict yet between Israel and Gaza.  The last news story I saw reported that Israel was appearing to scale back its operation, but there is no way to know what tomorrow holds, and the situation at the moment is terribly bleak.  The last figures I saw reported over 1800 killed and 8000 injured in an area about half the size of Orlando.  That would be a huge crisis even if your still had all your medical facilities and your power plant, which they don’t.

Yesterday I received an email update from a Palestinian pastor who has contacts in Gaza, and had been involved in ministering to believers there before this began.  With his permission I’m sharing it here to ask you to join me in prayer for them, and for those who are able, to send aid.   Please take just five minutes to hear his phone conversation with a pastor inside Gaza, and his description of the situation there.  He estimates there are 2000 believers there.

(video removed)

 

Now I want to bring up something this pastor never mentions.  In the times I have heard him speak, or in the few brief conversations I’ve had with him, he has never complained or spoken negatively about the lack of interest the American evangelical church shows toward their suffering brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank.  But I personally  know there is often shock when people are even asked to consider that Palestinian Christian exist at all!  In our fervor to support Israel, we tend to see the Palestinians as one big block of terror – all dark and sinister.  But there is still a light in Gaza, and it’s suffering.

I want to share a few words with you from a book written 12 years ago.  Many have lost their lives since then in numerous conflicts.  But the situation spoken of here is just as true today as it was then.  Please put yourselves in their shoes and try to see through their eyes for a moment:

“For many years, I have been hurt so much, more by my brothers in the West than by Israel.  And this is common throughout the evangelical churches in Palestine.  We do not ask the churches in America to give us money.  We just want them to identify with us and allow us to identify with them.  And if not identify, at least feel with us.  Say you understand us.  On the contrary, many of the brothers from outside come to us with judgment.  They even come with rebuke.  We feel cut off, alone, away from the church.  We want to be part of the church worldwide.” – Jack, Palestinian Believer

“We wake up in the morning and have breakfast like Christians in the U.S…. We go through difficult times like they do.  We love the Lord as much as they do.  And we need them to be with us, not against us.  I don’t have a problem with any Christians supporting Israel with money and prayers.  I don’t mind that.  I just encourage them to look at the other side and to recognize that there are Palestinian believers too.

“But the only emails I receive from Christians in America say that Palestinians are terrorists and need to be killed.  A Christian church in America donated money for a tank.  Imagine how we felt as we watched the news and saw a tank crossing over on shipboard to Israel with a big sign on it reading, “Donated by the Christians of the United States.” – Waleed, Palestinian Believer

These quotes, along with many inspirational stories of faith are found in the book, Between Two Fires by Jack Kincaid.

Do you know anyone praying for Gaza?  Do you know any churches or groups weeping for them, praying, and mobilizing resources to help in their time of need?  I would love to hear about it!  Please leave a comment.  That’s why I’m writing this.  Please share it with your friends.  You can be the spark!

The suffering of every person should deeply touch us, Jew, Muslim, and Christian.  But if we do not even know what those in our own family are suffering, how can we show compassion to the rest?

I also want to share with you a picture and message that has come through a brother, who hasn’t as far as I know, read the book I just quoted.  But Jesus impresses his heart with images and words that express His pleadings for us to turn our hearts to Him and what He loves.

The Palestinian Bride

“Many of My people love Israel
and they pray for her often—
for her safety, peace, and prosperity.

They are proud to ‘stand for Israel':
they preach it in their gatherings,
participate in conferences about it,
and assemble to protest and rally for it.

They support Israel’s politics;
they pray for Israel’s army,
for her military objectives,
and for her to be victorious.

They are attentive not only to the past
and present sufferings of Israel,
but also to potential sufferings that Jews
could experience under speculative scenarios.

But they cannot see the great sufferings
of their Christian brothers and sisters
in neighboring Gaza and the West Bank.

My Palestinian bride suffers,
but they do not mourn with her,
comfort her, encourage her or support her.
They do not ‘stand with’ her.

My bride in Palestine is an inconvenience
to the great devotion of many to Israel;
hearing of her suffering only interrupts
their unceasing prayers for Israel.

Many of My people in their hearts have sold
their suffering Palestinian brothers and sisters,
trading them for the hope of being rewarded
for unconditionally ‘standing with Israel.’

Although many in the church abroad
have forsaken My Palestinian bride,
yet I have not abandoned her,
and I have raised up a remnant of My people
to pray for her and support her.

Though she has not been loved
by many of her family—My people—
she shall be honored and called ‘My beloved’.”

*****

Art: “Forsaken By Family”

Ramone Romero

Weeping Jeremiahs

For many months when I have tried to begin to write these things I have been at a loss to know where to start, or claimed I do not have the time.  But when the heaviness gets to be too much, it just has to be written, with full knowledge that my words are offensive to people I love.  I have held back for literally years from speaking my heart in honesty, for fear of what people may think.  I can now no longer look at myself in the mirror as the fearful person I have been, but speak as I have been burdened to speak.

Early this morning I had a dream I was driving an old, junky car (with a passenger, but don’t know who it was) and came to an intersection in a small town business district that looked as any in America might look, with old brick buildings and cars parked along the street.  As I pulled up, a jihad-style army marched toward us from the opposite direction.  They wore all  black and carried banners with symbols on them.  Their machine guns pointed straight at us.  They stopped at the intersection as well,  keeping their weapons held up, ready to fire.  I felt terrified at first, and unable to move.  But then suddenly the fear disappeared and I decided to turn the car around and go the other direction, whatever the outcome may be.  I realized they might shoot, but it seemed better than sitting there waiting and wondering.  As I turned the car around, behind me was a procession coming from the other way – almost like a parade.  Women were in the front dressed in beautiful Arab clothing as if for a wedding or some special occasion.  Suddenly we heard people shouting at us from all directions to get out of the way, but I was blocked in and couldn’t get out.  I realized at that moment we had driven onto a movie set and ruined an entire scene someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to create.

I don’t claim to understand or interpret dreams, and I’m sure there is a great deal here that I have missed, and possibly just a dream reflecting how I deeply feel.  But it occurred to me when I woke up that all these world events are like a stage – and people have been appointed their parts to play.  Anyone who would interject that this isn’t our true reality, and decide not to be ruled by fear, will be seen as an extreme nuisance for botching the “picture” everyone has dedicated themselves to playing out.

In this world you can find an opinion in every direction from any source.  You can find  someone who has converted to any religion from any other religion – with convincing testimonies.  My husband recently ran across a zealous evangelist for Islam who was raised a fundamental Baptist.  Every human being seeks a group to express and define identity, whether that ideology is religious, political, or simply a lifestyle.

Doris Lessing in her book, Prisons we Choose to Live Inside, astutely observes,

“The fact is that we all live our lives in groups – the family, work groups, social, religious and political groups.  Very few people indeed are happy as solitaries, and they tend to be seen by their neighbours as peculiar or selfish or worse.  Most people cannot stand being alone for long.  They are always seeking groups to belong to, and if one group dissolves, they look for another.  We are group animals still, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But what is dangerous is not the belongings to a group, or groups, but not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us.

When we are in a group, we tend to think as that group does:  we may even have joined the group to find “like-minded” people.  But we also find our thinking changing because we belong to a group.  It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group.” – p. 47, 48

We see “freethinking” movements today as many in our culture seek to reject the norms, yet this group will have its own dogmas and expectations and restrict free thought into areas it seeks to reject.

In my lifetime, I have been carried away in currents of more groups than I care to remember.  I have discovered that to align my life with the pattern that Jesus taught does not seem to be congruent with many groups I am aware of, chiefly because so many of the groups that claim to follow Him have allied themselves with other influential groups that imprint another belief structure on top of His, most of which I feel drown out and alter His true message.

Many world religions seem to have a violent faction and an arm of peace, which I find interesting.  Christians have a tiny slice of their group who reject active participation in violence, most of which exist on the outside fringe of what evangelicals accept as orthodox.

The Church in America denounces the violent past of the Crusades and Inquisition, explaining this was not “real” Christianity, yet the religion as a whole here supports without question the flag of a country, and its military, that have been one of the most and aggressive and meddling since World War II.  Although, when we are finished with a country, the Christians living in those areas are running for their lives, offered no protection from this great military might we Christians here support without question.

Evangelicals also widely support Zionism.  Along with the Hebrew Roots Movement to which I subscribed, these groups set up Israel as the modern fulfillment of Bible prophecy, therefore cannot be in error in any of their methods or goals.  These groups believe Israel must not be questioned  on any grounds for any reason, and refuse to believe any report that may suggest that the Jewish people may in fact be supporting a very oppressive, systematic breaking down of millions of people.  Many I know would in fact not even care.  They believe in the Jewish right to this real estate at any cost.  “Turn the Arab world into a glass parking lot…” – that’s what I hear.  This loyalty is based in religious belief, which ironically is not at all shared by the most devout followers of Judaism.

In the Hebrew Roots Movement we enamored ourselves with the teachings and way of life of the most faithful in Judaism while at the same time, never getting clued into the actual stance of many of them toward the political state of Israel itself.  This group does not believe in serving in the military (but are being forced to) and contend that the fulfillment of prophecy will come through the Messiah without violence and oppression.  Interesting viewpoint!

Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews both agree that the prophecies of Israel’s restoration will take place, but have very different views about the methods.

All religion aside (if that’s possible in this case), a brave voice in Israel wrote an article recently that explained most clearly and simply the situation as I had come to observe it as well.

The single most overwhelming item of evidence of Israel’s rejection of peace is, of course, the settlements project. From the dawn of its existence, there has never been a more reliable or more precise litmus test for Israel’s true intentions than this particular enterprise. In plain words: The builders of settlements want to consolidate the occupation, and those who want to consolidate the occupation do not want peace. That’s the whole story in a nutshell. -Gideon Levy

This Palestinian hatred does not emerge in a vacuum.  Even the war hero, Moshe Dayan, honestly  acknowledged this fact, while still holding to the line that Israel must march forward no matter the reprisals or dangers.  But at least he didn’t glaze over the root cause of the conflict.

 “Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate,” 

(April 1956)

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/doomed-to-fight-1.360698

 

When this injustice of continued land-grabbing ceases to take place, and Palestinians are not treated as sub-human on a daily basis in their encounters with the IDF checkpoints, and their basic human rights are acknowledged (speaking of the overall strategy here, not the wonderful exceptions to the pattern), then the claims of persecution and threat   may be taken more seriously in the world community.  I applaud that warning shots are sent to a house before it’s destroyed.  It’s great to be courteous when taking over a land.  I am not sure my own country is as thoughtful.  But attempts to minimize civilian casualties does not a moral army make if the directives are wrong in the first place.

I implore you to take less than 10 minutes to hear this alternative voice:

I understand Israel has a deep-seated fear, and a genuine danger from her neighbors, which she herself feels  obligated to escalate and perpetuate.  These nations are on track to bring about destruction of the entire region.  Palestinians are not that immediate threat to Israel’s destruction, although they do manage to cause pain and suffering.  Their rockets shut down the economic activity but harm little else.  They are pawns – used by opposing sides – to justify activities that profit a few.

Jesus says to live by the sword is to die by the sword.  If Moshe Dayan was correct in his assessment that to have a nation state of Israel in this region is to commit to a life of the sword for survival, then what does it mean to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?  What would be the prayer for Jerusalem now that Jesus would pray?  Would it be similar to the one He prayed in tears when He walked the Earth?

If my survival, and even more commonly – my prosperity, depends on bloodshed, the damage to my soul is greater than I have done to the body of my enemy.  I speak this of my own country even more so than Israel.

Can we form spiritual and political alliances or are they mutually exclusive for a Christ follower?  Are there people being called in all areas of the world who see that this path as one of self-extinction, not of peace?  For those who believe this theology of spreading the gospel to save the world, is it more effective behind the sights of an assault rifle or not?  Does the person on the other side of the rifle barrel or in the drone target zone understand the difference between your soldiers and missionaries?  And why you support both?

I close with one last quote from Doris Lessing.  She was a humanist, but echos my observations of the polarization of mankind into extremes.  I however have to differ with her on the point of reason and sanity.  The Narrow Way doesn’t usually follow into those categories.  But while there is great evil increasing, I also see rays of light coming out from unlikely sources.  Come quickly Lord Jesus – if not in the clouds today – at the least in our hearts.

 “This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures.  Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that – a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check.  But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice – or if we notice, belittle – equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization.” p. 3,4  Prisons We Choose to Live Inside

Israel_Palestine_FlagMy heart is broken today over the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.  I ache for all the suffering on both sides.  

As an American citizen, I have no ground to confront the violence of any other nation.  We romanticize our “wars” no matter how pointless, and worship our military.  I love and respect everyone who serves, but I find it sad that reverence for selfless service is used as a barrier to discourage open discussion about what they are asked to do and how.  As the whole world knows, we love our guns too.  It’s hard to find an American, Christian or not, who doesn’t believe violence is an admirable way to solve a conflict.  

Not only do we support violence, but Christians here have some strange beliefs about who God loves and doesn’t love, and therefore some people are of more value than others.  As I try to see humans through God’s eyes, not political and religious bias, and realize none of us are without fault or deserving of more of God’s favor, it becomes increasingly painful for me to remember the lock-step allegiances I used to ascribe to, and the people I used to degrade in my speech.

Father forgive us for these blind hatreds and loyalties both.  We are all in need of mercy.

Violence begets more violence, unless you achieve complete extermination or brokenness of an entire people group.  Once again, my country was successful on this front too with the continent’s First Nations.  While their total populations dwindled to only 250,000 at one point, and many believed they would vanish forever, there are now millions trying to reclaim their identity, and heal from centuries of genocidal practices toward every part of their lives for generations.  Yet we are still proud for having put them under our feet and taken everything from them we could.  I believe we have convinced ourselves they deserved it.  The “settler” and the “pioneer” are some of the most revered icons of our history books, and indeed my own great-grandparents were among them.

Why do people with no power or hope of winning continue to fight and bring these battles of final wrath upon themselves?  (Explore “The Great Indian Wars”)  Because they see what little they have left continue to be taken from them, right down to their dignity and their ability to provide for their own families.  Food is cut off, travel restricted, the space they are allowed to live becomes smaller and smaller as more settlers move in.  They see lands their families worked and lived on for generations taken over so that houses can be built for those who hate and abuse them, with military protection.

To this day, few people ever stop to ask, “What right did we have?”.  

I am living in peace on a land that 180 years ago was a war zone between the invaders and the people that had lived here for thousands of years.  My people won, and are still proud of it.  But when I go back and read the history, the broken promises, and learn of the devastated people, all I want to do is cry.  Nothing then, nor now, will stand in the way of our prosperity.  

This blog was not started to be political, and this discussion is much more about what the heart of Jesus sees when he looks at the world, not all the lies we tell ourselves about who is better or worse.  As Christians, many of whom proudly “Stand with Israel”,  I plead with you to not stand for violence toward any human beings.  Endless discussions abound over what people have a right to do in order to defend themselves.  Jesus had a right, but He set the example that it was more powerful to not exercise that right.  The bigger question is, what is the revenge cycle going to solve, and when?  

Genocide is a high price to exact in order to gain security.  Yet it appears there are elements on both sides here who have made a pact to follow this track to the end.  I know it is not the desire of all the people on either side.  Which side has the ability to actually carry it out, and will it in the end be justified or later listed with all the other unfortunate events in history?  

Where would Jesus stand?  I would personally love to see Him standing somewhere on this earth anytime now.  But my grasp on eschatology and prophecies wane a little hazy.  All I know is that whether it’s next year or 500 years, my call is to stand in Love, not on either side of a battle line.

I am encouraged that many voices are speaking out, from Israel as well, and I feel less compelled to do so.  But my husband and I both have discussed how our own past support of political sides that blinded us to the humanity of those we deemed as “enemies” leaves us with a burden to speak out for love, truth, and honesty.  I am not on anyone’s side, or against anyone.  I am for Love.  And for those who choose to walk in it as the highest road.  

If you are wanting people to believe the Jesus you speak of, you must put down the gun – both literal and figurative.  My faith has been sorely tested more by those who profess to be of this religion than by any other challenge.  “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”  Good question, Jesus.

 

I want to share a dream a very close friend of mine had a few weeks ago. I believe that as we settle down from the holiday food, fireworks, and parades – the message of this dream is so relevant to believers in the United States – or any country that has a strong sense of nationalism, and consequently the mindsets that develop as we endeavor to protect our way of life from foreign and domestic threats.

We are deeply divided against each other and view many other people groups as a whole, as evil. People have been easily herded into passionate crusades of one kind or another since civilization has existed. There is always someone screaming for your undivided loyalty.

The message of this dream conveys so beautifully the truths I have come to understand in the last few years.

I dreamed our family lived in a hotel. But it wasn’t unusual, because the whole world, or at least our country, lived in this hotel. Our government, the Church – everything was in this hotel. And it seemed that everything was in chaos. Terrible chaos. Terrorists everywhere. Government officials were urgently walking into and out of meeting rooms, giving speeches, suggesting one thing after another.

community-300x201But permeating the chaos and terror, and with supernatural power, was a group of young people on whom the Spirit of the Living God rested for just such a time as this. They had no weapons at all, but they were a choir. A choir with the sweetest music imaginable. Music that I couldn’t describe as I told Wes about the dream the next day. Music that made the things of life fade into the background and God into clear focus. They were singing, “Jesus Saves” but it was nothing like the song we know. Infinitely more beautiful.

And these young people were being killed by the dozens. But not retaliating, just ministering the Spirit to all. Gladly giving their lives that others might see and live.

I woke up with such a clear view of the Kingdom of Heaven being around us and in us.

I don’t want to muddy the water here with many of my words, but a few things stood out to me as significant.  The hotel setting shows we are in a temporary situation here.  We invest so much energy into the crises of these times in worry, fear, and anger.  We set up idols of ideologies, and look to human constructs for peace and safety.

But those who recognize the Supernatural walk in the opposite realm of love and living sacrifice.  They realize that retaliation and revenge perpetuate the darkness.  They would rather suffer their own demise as a witness to love than to hate and kill in return.

The song “Jesus Saves” is more beautiful than anything heard before because it’s the music of heaven being played out in their lives – not just a song on their lips.  The message Jesus Saves has been abused and misused for centuries in horror and violence, against Jews, Muslims, Native cultures worldwide, and even between Christian sects.  This was not His way.  This new song sings and walks in the truth.

I see many people caught up and carried away in the currents of world events and choosing sides.  But I also see many, often a younger generation, who are willing to walk the Jesus Road.  Big changes are coming.  Of which Kingdom do we belong?

See also a more urgent plea: Babylon is in Your Hearts

 

I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about this.  But grace is the supernatural variable that comes in, and unconditional love sees only that which remains – the good He planted in you – His own life and breath spreading light into the world.

The shocking, scandalous grace Jesus brought offends this law-based world, largely because we are led to believe that law is an end in itself. We never imagined there was another way, so if we can’t see the higher way He taught, we will try to fit him into the old wineskin where we understand how things work.

I read an essay yesterday by an environmental activist who saw the tragedy in living by a contract – that you will give no more than you absolutely have to. Sustainability concepts teach that you should endeavor to not take more from a living system than you put in, whether it be your land, community or family. This “contract” he stated, has created a mindset of people who are not willing to go out of their way for anyone or anything if they believe they have fulfilled their obligation. I understood exactly what he meant. Legalism at its finest.

Yesterday my children gave me a beautiful picture of what it looks like when Love trumps Law. I left my younger two with their older brother while I went to run errands. The house had been neglected for three days as we had spent most of our time working in the garden and yard over the holiday weekend. I constantly struggle with feeling overwhelmed, unable to keep up with my own expectations (law) about what I believe I need to accomplish.  I left them with two things I wanted them to do while I was gone, not really expecting it to be done by the time I returned. This brother and sister can take ALL day to clean a room, between playing and fighting – very normal kids.

When I came home, I instantly noticed the living room looked unusually tidy. My young son couldn’t wait to tell me what they did. But he didn’t have to tell me because I could see it! I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter sweeping the floor, and a note on the table said, “For You Mom”. The table was cleared off, along with the rest of the clutter around their desk and school area. She pointed to my bedroom door and said, “Look we even made your bed!” They also had started their laundry. I nearly cried. My gratitude for this gift was beyond measure. They weren’t even asking for extra allowance! They just wanted to help me. As I kept telling them how much I appreciated this extra help, my son said, “Wow mom, I didn’t think you would be THAT happy.”

I very soon thought of our Father in heaven and how it must touch his heart when we joyfully do things as a gift of love for Him, and not just doing our duty. Doesn’t the Scripture say, “God loves a cheerful giver?” I always go back to our human family as a reflection of our relationship with Him. Where there is love, no law is needed. Love goes above and beyond. It is a Law in itself, but one that breathes life and joy. (Not saying children don’t need boundaries… they do!) But as they grow and mature I want this love to be their motivation, not living up to my law or anyone else’s version of “have to”. Because everyone seems to have one, in and out of church or religions.

I would have been pleased enough if they had done what I asked. But to see them thinking outside of themselves, beyond reward or punishment to what would bless someone else, gave me a far greater joy – not just for the help it gave me, but for them to know this joy also. I don’t want to see them living a life seeking only their own benefit which leads to the never-enough syndrome, whether it’s in trying to ensure they avoid the wrath of God, or just impress the world on its terms. My prayer is they choose Love.  

 

 

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