So why do I love Jesus?

My last posting was a bit of a John 6:66 moment for me.

I sense those who did try reading it may well have given up and walked away scratching their heads. I do have that effect on people sometimes. It’s no small consolation that Jesus also had perhaps as many John 6:60-66 days as he did John 4:39-42 days. Sometimes we lose ’em even faster than we can win ’em!

One place I may lose folks is my own particular referencing of this body-mind-soul imagery that likens us to our creator.  To many this may seem to be discounting the body’s position in this trinity. As if to say that our human emotions and senses in relation to the outside world aren’t  really all that important. Or to say that our human fears are to be minimized; perhaps denied, rejected, cast out. If so, let me correct that impression.

To minimize our fears and other bodily emotions that impact our human mind is to minimize Jesus. Nothing could be farther from my intent, for to minimize Jesus is to negate the very Gospel I’m trying my best to proclaim.

Jesus, to me, represents the human side of God and God’s ability to relate to our world or social environment. Jesus is all about the body, the senses, the emotions, that we share here as humans. And the reason I love Jesus is that he teaches me everything I need to know about my own feelings, my own desires and fears, likes and dislikes. He is my coach, my teacher, my role model. He is my example of how to be a child of God. And, for this reason, he is my Savior.

That is why I love Jesus.

In no way should our bodies or our emotions or our fears, for instance, be discounted. They represent our children and, as Jesus might say to us, “of such are the Kingdom of Heaven.” To deny our feelings is to forbid the children from coming. To ignore our fears is to silence our own children as if they have nothing important to say, or have nothing truthful to tell us. To refuse attention or care of our own bodies is to refuse Jesus himself.

As God’s body, or God’s inner-child as I view it, Jesus was not always in agreement with God’s mind (which I call Father). Nor with God’s soul (that I call Holy Spirit). When Jesus says in Matthew 26:41 that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, the context is his own impending crucifixion. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples on the night before he was to be tortured to death. He was sweating profusely. He was beyond fearful.

God’s own mind knows what it’s like to be conflicted.   To hear his own soul saying “yes” while his body is busy saying “no”………..or make that “hell no!!!”

There is nothing wrong with Jesus being afraid. It would be wrong for him not to have fear. It would be a gross denial of his own humanity and the ultimate rejection of his own body. To face the cross meant facing his fear. To face death, for Jesus and everyone else, means facing fear. Especially when that death comes about as slow physical torture lasting for hours!!

Here’s what I love so much about Jesus. When he finds himself on the wrong side of his own soul, he pleads with his mind as if to say, “please don’t make me drink this cup!  Please!!”   And then Jesus does what I should also do when my body feels scared to death. He trusts his mind, in consultation with his soul, to make the final decision after all.  Even though he first makes it clear exactly how he, in all reality, feels!

For Jesus, it wasn’t a matter of telling his Father what to do, as if he knew better. It wasn’t a matter of telling his Father that the Holy Spirit was wrong about this whole “love your enemies” thing when it came crucifixion time.  Rather, it was more a matter of Jesus saying, in effect, “I won’t like it, and in fact I’ll definitely hate it. But I’ll do it anyway, because I’m the child. You’re the Father, and the Holy Spirit, in whose love and grace I place my own child-like faith.”

That’s the Jesus I love so much!

That’s the side of God, indeed the child of God, I can identify with. The one who can best reconcile and at-one me with God.


The child of God who faces his fears and voices them openly. And who goes to the cross of Calvary not because he feels like it. But because he chooses to have faith in his own mind and soul to make the final decision together.  A decision to drink the cup. A decision to love enemies. A decision to resurrect. A decision to save. And a decision to set the example for all of us to follow as children.

For to such belongs the Kingdom ..………. on earth as it is in Heaven.


Why are we so divided today?

Here is one thing we seem to all agree on these days. We all disagree.

A lot!

Our disagreements divide us to the point where it feels at times like we’re at war against each other. In our world, our continents, our nations, our states and provinces, on down the line into local communities, and even our families and marriages. And I don’t sense many voices speaking out with actual words of hope for reconciliation and unity.

I’ll try using my own voice here for such. I’ll try hoping for hope to happen. I’ll try. All I can do.

I believe we are divided so publicly because we are divided so privately.  So privately that we’re not even aware of it.   We all are prone to division within our own minds as we work at making decisions based on conflicted information from within our own bodies and souls. 

Let me try and explain.

I’m no literalist where the two biblical creation stories of Genesis are concerned, but I do at least believe there really is a sense in which God has created humanity in God’s own image. Those who’ve known me as their pastor probably know that per my own faith that means we, like God, have a body, mind, and soul. Three in one, if you will.

There is little hope for any helplessly divided society until we find help in resolving the mental divide within ourselves.  Our minds hear one thing from our bodies. And sometimes, but certainly not always, something different from our souls. Our minds are left to decide then upon such occasions between two conflicted sources of information. Supposing our mind cries fake while our soul cries fact, or vice versa.   Then our minds may experience a kind of helpless division struggling to test and then adapt to reality. This internal struggle becomes externalized and projected outward to our society. But this war of unresolved division first breaks in before it breaks out.

At times our minds seem broken between right and left brain thinking. Abstract vs. concrete, spacial vs. temporal, and such. Plenty has been researched or at least speculated and written about that. A few decades ago, learning to think with both sides of our brain was in vogue.  Building these neural pathways left and right may have been a great idea, but I don’t in my own right brain see it solving the mental problem I’m referencing here.

The divisive war within which seems to threatens our society the most today is the unresolved conflict between fear and love. Again, this war seems to start inside ourselves and then project outward from our own minds through the choices we made that lead to broader consequences for others as well as self.

It’s as though the mind hears about fear from the world through our bodily sensations and emotions located toward the bottom of our brain even as it hears about love from heaven through our soul or spiritual receptor located (I’m only speculating) toward the top of our brain. (Full disclaimer: I’m no neuro-scientist, but if I’m using my own right brain in partnership with left, I can at least hypothesize as well as the next person.)

Without an open neuro-pathway between bottom and top of our brains, I’m still speculating, I see the likelihood that we can become stuck or incapacitated in our decision-making, helplessly divided between the forces of fear and the forces of love, or what I’m also calling the division between earth (which some people experience as hell when under extreme stress) and heaven. Caught in the middle. Our minds between body and soul.   Or when in extreme conflict upon occasion, between hell and heaven.

I wonder if we’re not privately, and therefore publicly, conflicted between the world that drives us to fear and heaven that draws us to love. On the one hand, fear informs our decision by desiring control over others, proving “us” right and “them” wrong, and so we react in this way. Some neuro-experts would probably call this the stress-reaction of fight or flight. Control is the objective in reaction against an out-of-control world driving us to fear.    Stress cries out for us to take control or else!!!

That’s the world’s side of this equation as expressed through our bodies into the minds that then must direct our bodily or behavioral response.   Our mind’s decision , on that hand, may be some fight or flight in order to achieve control over the feared “other” in our lives.

But on the other hand.

Heaven’s voice is never silent.

God has many different ways of getting our attention as expressed through our souls into our minds that then may redirect our bodily or behavioral response to actually solve our problems. However, God’s solution is never about fearful control. Rather, it’s about loving influence. Notice I say “may redirect our bodily or behavioral response” to solve problems. Love influences, offers options, better options. Love doesn’t control. Hence, we are free in our minds (what some label “free will”) to act out our fear or our love.   

Here’s a point to consider within the mix. The world’s voice is not always driving us to fear. Nor always in conflict with God’s heavenly voice, whether that comes to us through the Christ of history or the Holy Spirit now within our souls. When there seems in our bodies to be little to fear in the world, we’re not so divided or conflicted within ourselves. So there’s much less of an internal war to project onto our society. But these days our fear and stress level is up pretty high. Our bodily nervous system and emotional alarm is amped way up there. Hence, there is a circular system at work where the outer war of divisions in the world create this inner war within our minds, which then projects outward to create a still greater war of division outside ourselves.

But what if?

What if instead of feeling helpless as individuals to create any peace in the world of warring divisions between people, we could find hope first within ourselves?  What if there were actually a way for our minds to open an up and down neuro-pathway and to facilitate a dialogue between love and fear, soul and body, heaven and earth within ourselves?  Such that we could bring about a meaningful conversation to resolve the conflicts within ourselves, those that occur between our own body and soul?

Would you be willing to try it out?   

To first heal the division between ourselves as a means toward then healing the divisions in society, I would suggest the following exercise. Write a letter, or send a message in whatever form you’re most comfortable communicating, from your body to your soul.  May be an email, or even a Facebook post to only yourself.   Something larger than a text or even private message.     Imagine giving voice to your body in this post or letter, directing it to your soul.  Vent every fear and frustration your body can possibly identify that is now coming out of your world.

With me so far?

If you’ve gotten that down, then your mind can take the next step of allowing your soul to write a reply, in whatever form your body is again most accustomed to.       Only this reply is to voice only the words for love that might influence the world around you rather than controlling it.   Write to your body as if you were speaking for the God of your understanding.   Use whatever love language your soul might have available to share with your body, but this must be only about love in response to your body’s fear.

That will probably not be enough.

Your body will probably need to post another comment or set of comments as if to control even the soul and voice its fear of love, its every doubt. And, in response, your soul will probably want to post another set of comments as if to influence the body and voice its own faith in love, its faith that loving influence really will outlast fearful control and win out in the end.

Mentally, we are tasked with managing this internal divide that conflicts us. Our bodies will always seek to control our minds even as our souls seek to influence them in return. Some of us will resolve this inner tension by siding only with our bodies and against our souls. Others will listen obediently to our souls as if to deny our bodies any right to even feel afraid.  When we do the latter, we become so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good to anyone. By shutting off our own human emotions, we lose the capacity for empathy with others here on earth. So how we manage this private divide within ourselves will impact our choices in ways that then cause often unintended consequences for others. We end up loving our neighbor only as well as we are able to love ourselves.

So maybe consider this question today, in private if not publicly. Am I divided in ways that cause my decisions to be more difficult than necessary and more mistaken than desired? Am I willing to get a conversation going between my own conflicted voices of information, my own sources of love and fear, and work toward some better consensus before making my own private decisions wherever I sense inner tension or conflict?

Perhaps when we resolve our own private division in mind between our conflicted body and soul, bringing them into common agreement somehow, then we’ll be ready to move toward healing the divisions within our general society and world around us today.





When talk is just talk

We live in a violent world.

Might as well state the obvious up front.

Yet, one of the great mysteries of humanity is that when violence erupts and someone, anyone, goes on the warpath and begins to kill other people, those who know or at least thought they knew the killer will then express surprise. “I didn’t see this one coming.” Or, “he seemed like a nice enough guy.” Or, “he never really bothered anyone, and mostly just kept to himself.”

Or, “he said different things, and he would talk about crazy stuff, but I thought it was just talk.”

It was just talk, so I didn’t really take it all that seriously or really do anything about it.

Just talk.

I’ve heard over my 40+ years of professional service a number of post-violence laments along these lines. Words overheard but then dismissed. A neighbor who killed his wife, but “I would hear him saying all kinds of things to her and calling her all kinds of names, but I never imagined he would actual do something like that.” Or, “I heard our daughter say several times she wanted to just die, but I never thought she would actually kill herself.”

Just talk. Only it was more than just talk. A lot more.

Which brings up this question in my own mind in recent days, and perhaps in yours as well, of whether the Donald Trump vs. Kim Jong Un verbal threats and name calling is just talk. Or more than just talk? A lot more?

I’ve had to ask myself, are these just two guys who are pampered bullies accustomed to getting their own way, no matter what, who are standing up to each other as one is advised to do with other bullies? Or are these two guys who are predictably out to again get their own way, no matter what?

It’s the “no matter what” part of that question that has me worried these days.

I’ve seen it too often before. Husbands who, having bullied their wives with talk, went on to one day commit actual murder. Or we’ve all seen it if paying attention to school shootings where the kid being bullied became the even bigger bully in the fight by taking a gun to school and then………..

And no one saw this coming. A behavioral pattern as old as human history, and no one saw it coming? Figured it was just talk?

Okay, deep breath time.

I’m not suggesting here that all talk leads to violence. But I am suggesting all violence begins with talk. Shootings. Bombings. All acts of violence begin with violent thoughts and then words. And then?

Well, two things can then happen.

We humans can either listen and take words seriously and seek deeper understanding of the thoughts and feelings underneath those words. We can seriously engage and intervene. Which is what happens much of the time in family, community, and even world history.

Or we can try to just ignore the words, assume they’re just talk, and…………after all the violence is then committed, all the death and destruction witnessed and reported………..tell whoever is then listening to us that we sure didn’t see this one coming.

And if we say this, THAT is when talk is just talk.


The problem with problem-solving

It’s been a bit more than 40 years since receiving my MSW from the Ohio State U. I was there so long ago that no one ever bothered to say or even write the “the” in their name. But there are a few things I received in my two years of study there that managed to stick somewhere in mind. I’ll share one of those things today.

Social Work is more than a mish-mash of Psychology and Sociology aimed at helping folks with their psycho-social problems in life. Granted, it is something of a step-child profession started by a few brilliant women back in the day when America’s industrial revolution was stirring great social problems oblivious to the solutions of, well, non-males. It combines the art and science of what at least some now regard as female genius. It is a profession that has long understood that human social problems are not really intractable. They just seem that way because we spend all our time, treasure, and talent solving the wrong problem instead of the right one.

I suppose you’ll expect examples from me at this point. Flood problems that are actually unsolved infrastructure problems comes instantly to mind post Harvey and Houston. War and military problems that are actually unsolved diplomatic problems is a close second. Poverty problems that are actually unsolved education problems. Disease problems that are actually unsolved wellness problems. Need I go on?

Well, I will go on and name you one more unsolved problem. It’s not an intractable problem, but it just seems that way.

Unsolved social problems are usually caused by our failure to identify the actual problem, instead falling for a pseudo-problem that cannot then be solved. Hence, our failure to solve the problems of war, flooding, poverty and disease. And one such unsolved problem is now often misidentified as “hate.”

We have a hate problem in our world. And it’s seemingly intractable (unsolvable).

Or do we? And is it?

Social Workers are, if you’ll pardon what some call psychobabble, inclined to reframe the problem as instead a “fear problem.” Far as we are concerned, that makes the problem more solvable. It matches our human resources with actual needs instead of wasting them on matters of superficial desire. That turns out to be important for the same reason firefighters aim their water hoses at the fire rather than wasting it trying to eliminate the smoke.

Hate is to fear like smoke is to fire. Hate can kill, and so can smoke. Yet, as commonly as we can recognize that a burning house does not have a smoke problem but rather a fire problem, we uncommonly seek to solve our interpersonal hate or anger problems rather than their underlying fear problems that produce all of that hate and anger. We then wonder why the problem never seems to get solved. And we wonder why we are short of resources after wasting them on trying to solve the wrong problem.

So what might happen if instead of throwing money and effort into fighting the wrong social problems, we as Americans would use our creative genius to solve the right ones?

What if, for example, we took a deeper look at our fear problem the way professional firefighters are trained to investigate our fire problems. What if we looked for our fear triggers? Our fire starters, our sparks? What if we looked at our underlying hurts and unmet expectations that produce our traumas that trigger our fears? What if we engaged each other in actual face to face, eye to eye conversation? What if we did the hard work of empathy and understanding?

Is it possible that placing our time, treasure and talents in solving our fear problems in this way might actually work? Might actual solve something for a change?

As I continue the work of my forthcoming book, “Love’s Resurrection: its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” I’ve reached this point in my own life’s journey. I believe we all as humans, and perhaps other animals like dogs and dolphins, live by faith. And we all have this mind capacity to choose: we can place our faith in fear, which is rooted in our desire to receive, or else we can place our faith in love, which is rooted in our need to give.

Better read that one again: we can place our faith in fear, which is rooted in our desire to receive, or else we can place our faith in love, which is rooted in our need to give.

We then go through our lives internally conflicted about this choice. Our desires conflict with our needs. We fear that our desires will go unmet, that we will not receive enough. Yet, our love of giving meets the need of our souls that gratifies us so abundantly that our fear is, at some deeper level, cast out. Or solved.

I believe love is the solution to the universal problem of fear. That’s where my own mind now chooses to place my faith after 71 years of arguing back and forth internally between my body’s fear and my soul’s love.

And that’s why I believe in Jesus.

Jesus was the master of love. When it came to casting out fear, or rolling away fear’s heaviest stone, his power to give love met a need I call “resurrection.” It’s a universal need we all have. And while it may not be perfectly met this side of heaven, it is God’s purpose in our world to resurrect / restore / re-story us here and now. On earth as it is in heaven. If we will but place our greater faith in love rather than in fear. If we will but trust in love to solve our fear problems, we will actually solve our problems for a change. We will quench the fires of our own hell by fighting not the smoke or the hate or the anger in our world, but the underlying fear of not receiving our deepest desires. Our. Real. Solvable. Problem.

If you, too, can read and actually believe this, thank a Social Worker. Thank Jesus.


A Prayer for President Donald Trump

During those years I served in pastoral ministry, I often reminded myself: never speak to our people about God before I speak to God about our people.

It’s time that I remind myself to do the same today.

I’m tempted even now to post my own version of a Dear President Trump letter pointing out all the errors of his ways. Those who know me realize I’ve been calling human attention to that boatload of errors I’ve been counting up since at least 2011. My cup overfloweth!!! And my letter to him today would amount to yet another rant hopefully calling to his attention the reasons I fear he is destroying the very America he purports to make great.

Which brings up a problem I must instead work on within myself. I fear Donald Trump to such an extent that I cast out the very love Jesus would have me instead use in responding to him as my enemy. And it’s time that I repent today not by writing a “come to Jesus” Dear Donald letter, but instead writing a “go from Jesus” Dear God letter that prays for the enemy I sometimes think God alone knows how to love.

Dear God, please forgive me for not loving my enemy, Donald Trump, as I should. Forgive me for fearing him instead. And help me today to love him as my enemy by doing the only thing I can in this moment: by praying for him as my enemy.

I pray today in the faith my own mind holds firm: believing the human mind is itself the very computer you have installed within our human body’s master organ, our brain. You will know already of my belief that the world’s virus has entered every human brain affecting our networked computers’ operating system. You will know this is what I call sin. And you will know that I believe Donald and I both have some form of this same deadly, destructive virus.

I pray for your help with Donald’s computer virus, which I belief has corrupted his data and caused him to make choices that carry harmful consequences for your entire world. I fear for those consequences in my own life, but even more for the lives of the majority of world citizens who live within the margins. Those human citizens who need better food, better educations, better healthcare, better incomes, better justice, better freedom of speech and religion and press, or just better human rights in general.

Lord, please work on Donald’s computer today. Please empower it to manage data and make decisions in line with truth and not the viral lies of corruption. Empower him, inform his choices, that people in America and around the world might be freed from the margins that otherwise enslave them. The margins of hunger, ignorance, disease, poverty, injustice, intolerance, and oppression.

God, you know of my faith in your love to do that which love always does: helps to empower. Help to empower Donald this day to be the President Donald Trump who chooses truth not lies, love not fear, and good not evil. Love and help him as only you can. Just as Jesus asked you even from the cross to forgive his own enemies for their presumed ignorance (or computer virus), so I ask you to forgive Donald Trump. Keep his own mind’s and body’s operating system from crashing in ways that crash all others networked with him. Do what only you can do and we cannot do. Love him by helping to empower him for good today.



Is false equivalence false?

The cartoon character I perhaps most easily identify with is the marriage counselor for Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn. Some of you recognize the Lockhorns from “The Better Half” comic strip. Their long-running marital squabbles have taken them all over the map and then back again for an office visit with D. Pullman, the marital counselor.

One of my favorite scenes, causing me to most easily identify with Pullman, is when he suggests Leroy and Lorreta are both to blame for their marital problems. To which Leroy retorts, “We’re both at fault??????  Well, I should’ve known you’d side with Lorreta!”

Which raises a whole new argument in my own mind about whether, when fault lies on both sides, both sides are really equally to blame. I say no. I say that states a false equivalency.

I’m no Dr. Phil, but I’d be wealthy enough myself if having a dollar for every time I’ve had to tell some couple, “however much either one of you is to blame, you’re making things even worse whenever you work on her faults and she works on yours. If you’re going to solve this thing, you’re both going to have to commit to working on your own faults and nobody else’s.”

I bring this up today because, in the sick and highly dysfunctional family that is today’s United States of America, I’ve about had it with listening to everybody blaming each other. Are we both to blame? Of course! Are we equally at fault? Hell, no! But however much either is wrong, fixing each other’s wrongs is a total waste of everyone’s therapy hour. Why not just go out and spit into the wind as a way of taking a bath? Makes the same amount of sense.

At some point in life, we simply have to say STOP! Either we’re going to work on solving our own problems or else we’re going to waste our entire lives spitting on ourselves.

After 50 years (from 5/27/67, thank you) of having to work on my own problems in my own marriage to Sue, I’m going to boldly offer an assessment on what’s wrong with America in general and the Christian Church in particular. Folks can agree or disagree. I’m retired so not getting paid anyway. No problem if the whole world disagrees with me at this point.

Both liberals and conservatives are to blame for the mess today’s USA and today’s Christian Church finds ourselves in.   I didn’t say equally to blame. Nowhere close to equal in my opinion as a moderate. But both have contributed to problems they can only solve for themselves and not for each other.

Because I blog as a pastor, I typically use Christian metaphors. One that is easily familiar are the disciples of Jesus named Peter and Judas. Peter denied Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus.

Following me so far?

Listening as a pastor to Christians squabbling about whether all sins are equally bad is almost as annoying after awhile as listening to married couples squabbling about whether all marital misdeeds are equally bad. Suggest to me that denying Jesus is just as bad as betraying Jesus when it came to getting Jesus beaten up and crucified, and I’ll suggest “NO WAY!!!” right back to you. Both are bad, but not equally bad. Not even close!!!! Not even in the same time zone close?

In my humble opinion, today’s Christian liberals are to blame for denying Jesus even now. They’re often the last to defend Jesus from today’s worldly attacks against Christianity in general. The world today needs to hear a defense on Christ’s behalf asserting that Christ is no Christian. But today’s liberals are denying Jesus. Repeatedly so. They’re also denying his divinity or his singular authority to speak for God. And that’s making things at home in this world even worse!!

Today’s Christian conservatives are to blame for betraying Jesus even today. And, yes, I suspect money is again involved. Some of our more prominent evangelicals today are trading pieces of silver with our world of corporate capitalism even when it means killing Jesus all over again. They are betraying everything Jesus ever stood for. They are close to being for everything Jesus was against. And that’s making things at home in this world even worse!!

However, let’s be realistic about something. Judas who betrayed Jesus was the far greater sinner. He got Jesus killed before turning the whole mess into a lousy murder-suicide. It didn’t have to be that way then, and it doesn’t have to be that way today. Conservatives can say “we’re wrong and we repent and we’re going to fix ourselves by from now on agreeing with the teachings of Jesus instead of arguing against them or trying to put our own words into his own mouth.” They might start with admitting that Jesus was against heterosexual lust, not homosexual marriage. Do that, confess their own sin of betrayal, and they stand a great chance of making our world more like the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus still intends for it to be.

Peter was a mess in his own right. But he got over it. He didn’t go out and hang himself. Rather, he confessed his sin and went to work feeding Christ’s lambs for the next 30 years until executed by the Romans for still proclaiming the Gospel. He fixed his own problem. And if today’s liberals will do the same, they stand a great chance of making our world more like the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus still intends for it to be.

Will today’s church end up in divorce court, liberals vs. conservatives? Perhaps. That’s not up to me. My role is just to call out both sides for the ways in which they are both making this earthly home a worse place in which to live. Unhappy. Tense. Insecure. Bitter.

My role is that of D. Pullman, the comic-book character who feels little choice but to tell the Lockhorns why their marriage is so messed up. And why he’s really on both sides.


What the world needs now is……………….

Have a serious question for my readers today. Feel free to answer from wherever you may notice your own mind going as you follow along here.

Is it more important to believe in God’s existence or in God’s essence?

And a follow-up to boot: can one deny the existence of God and still affirm the essence of God?

Oh, I know. Some of you will have a mind’s eye that has already turned green and set to go with this, while others will have already turned red and slammed on the brakes. Either way is fine. As is that yellow light that tells you to proceed with caution.

So here’s where I’m coming from. Quite literally, I’ve been praying this early morning. (You may or may not believe in prayer. Makes no difference to me.) In my prayer I was expressing to God my sense of global doom as triggered by the American election of 11/8/2016. I noted its comparison to my sense of global doom ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the impending crisis I then knew in my own mind would follow that gigantic blunder.

So I’m asking God this morning if, as in the ancient days of the Hebrew prophets of Judah and Israel, there was any oracle or message that could come at all close to being accurate enough for me to share with other people today. I often regard myself, some of you may having already suspected, as some lowly and even reluctant prophet who may or may not be gifted in that area by God’s Spirit. I’m never quite certain which it is.

Now you may not believe in prophetic oracles, whether old or new, and that’s okay. But in my prayer letter this morning, these are the words I wrote that did speak an actual answer to my question. I will leave it up to you individually whether you deny or affirm the actual oracle. Either way will serve to answer my earlier stated questions and invite your own comment.

“I, the Lord your God, do not care who gets the credit or blame. I’m the opposite of a selfish and jealous Donald Trump. I have never been a jealous God. I only care that love wins out over fear. If the American people cannot trust in me, that’s fine. Americans can experience good consequences without trusting in God. Or even without trusting in my Son, Jesus. Rather, they and the whole world will have good consequences if Americans choose to trust in love.

If Americans will permit themselves to doubt their fears and to instead trust in love, to doubt their ancient and outworn myth of redemptive violence and to instead trust in enemy-love for their redemption, then I don’t care that my name is even mentioned at all. You see, it’s not about me.

I, the Lord your God, don’t need your praise or crave your compliments. I sent Jesus so you could see first-hand, in concrete example instead of abstract theory, the good and redemptive consequences of enemy-love alongside the bad and destructive consequences of enemy-violence. Most people who first followed Jesus got that message. Most who claim to follow him today have long ago lost the plot and now are some distance past even being clueless about my message.

So forget it. Don’t worry about it. It’s not even about Christianity. It’s about humanity. It’s about human survival with blessing on earth as it is in heaven. It’s about the choice to trust in love instead of fear. And right now America is headed toward a self-fulfilling doom for having chosen to trust in fear instead of love.

America can still turn things around for herself and for the whole world that depends so much upon her. Or America can remain on this present course and receive a self-fulfilling prophecy of hell on earth that will be of her own making.

Either America will trust in love or it will continue to trust in fear. I, your God, am fearless. I am all about love. Trust in love and you will have trusted in my very essence even if you have doubted my very existence. If necessary for your sake, America, just leave my name out of this. I’m fine even with people denying my existence, so long as they rightly trust in my essence which is love. Choose enemy-love, instead of enemy-fear and armed conflict as you do now, and you can still bring about a very different self-fulfilling prophecy. You will have then finally trusted in my true essence and, with that truth, will finally receive your own freedom.”


The Lesson of King Abimelech

I don’t have the greatest memory when it comes to the Christian Bible.

Which is why I have to read it many times over in order to grasp the lessons of its many stories and parables throughout its 66 books dubbed scriptural canon.

So this morning in my private time of daily devotions, as I still call them, I’m reading the story of Judge Gideon and his son, King Abimelech of Israel. And I find in my mind this little hole or blank spot where I had long ago forgotten that Israel had a King before Saul. Yep. Abimelech was successor to his father, Gideon, yet not as Judge but rather by assent of the governed he was named King. King Abimelech. Long before King Saul ever assumed such power.

How could I have forgotten that?

Well, therein lies a lesson perhaps not just for me today but for you upon reading this, or upon re-reading Judges 8-9 if you are so inclined.

I wonder, dear friends, if there are not two types of power in this world that we humans are capable of drawing from.

First is the power of fear, which leads us to take control over other people or situations by either “fight,” the choice made by such biblical heroes as Judge Gideon and his son, King Abimelech, or by “flight.” The Hebrew parable tellers and later biblical writers remembered the ones who chose to “fight” for control. They were called heroes. Those who used “flight” were forgotten and not remembered at all. They probably outlived the heroes and died a peaceful, natural death for all they knew or we can ever know.

The lesson of King Abimelech is that the power of fear that leads one to choose “fighting” for control over others is a power lasting all the way to the grave. But beyond the grave is most easily forgotten. Among those who chose mostly to fight out of fear, we find Judge Gideon who, despite his life of heroism before the grave, left Israel to live on as a nation that worshiped Baal-berith as their god (see Judges 8:33). Men like Gideon and his son, Abimelech, achieved a fair amount of control during their earthly lives. But they bore no lasting influence. They become forgotten figures in the long run. Meaning I am probably not the only one to have forgotten King Abimelech.

The power of fear to help us gain control over other people and situations, whether by means of fighting or fleeing, is short-lived. It is easily forgotten. It has little lasting influence.

But there is a second power we humans are capable of drawing from.

In my mind this power comes not from the body but from the soul.

This power bears lasting influence well beyond the grave and is never to be forgotten, unlike King Abimelech. It is the power of love.

Unlike fear, love always seeks influence and never control. If you doubt me on this, think of two different people you have known in your own life, one who sought always to control you and speak for you or decide for you or manage your life from morning to night, and one who sought never to control you but always to influence you by first understanding and then informing you in ways that added to your own understanding. Now you choose: which of those different people loved you most?

Love is what Jesus is remembered for. Fear is what King Abimelech, who lived and then died by the sword, is forgotten for. Love carries lasting influence forever, well beyond the grave.

Each of us has this important choice to make in this life. Do we want to be remembered or forgotten beyond the grave? At the risk of over-simplification, there is from scripture this critical lesson about power that is later forgotten because it came from fear and led to “taking control.” This was the consequence of King Abimelech’s own choice, but a noteworthy lesson for ourselves as we still live on to make new choices for ourselves.

Love was, and still is, the lesson of Jesus’s own choice and one we can still learn from if we prefer the consequence of lasting influence beyond our own grave. His is the lesson of power that is never forgotten because it used love that led to giving influence, in total opposition to the forgotten power of fearful control.

Each day………….yes, even today……….each of us will have a choice to make. Which source of power should we use to get through this day and the night to follow? The power of fear that will lead us to take control in the short run, whether by fight or flight? Or the power of love that will lead us to give influence for the long run, by helping someone out even today in their own time of hurt?

Today will we choose to be more like King Abimelech? Or more like Jesus?


Where’s the Christian Social Gospel when we need it?

WWJD?   What would Jesus do?

My first exposure to that question came back in the mid 1990’s when I was teaching an adult Sunday School class using Charles Shelton’s 1890’s classic, “In His Steps.” Back then I had some concern that coming out of the 1980’s we American’s were now in the throws of what political scientists call a new “corporatist oligarchy” replacing our former social democracy.   Likewise, in the throws of what historians call a new “gilded age”   —  much like the one Shelton lived through when writing his book 100 years earlier. For those unfamiliar with such terms, America’s original “gilded age” featured the emergence of industrial corporations that brought severe disparities in class, wealth, and living standards.

My main idea in offering up that centennial reading and discussion of the Shelton book back then was to seek a mini-renewal, at least at our local level in United Methodism, of the American “social Gospel” that had emerged in response to our 19th century “gilded age” of class disparity. The 1890’s gave witness to a kind of tall-steeple churchism, if I may coin that term, within American Christianity, losing touch with the basic teachings and behavioral examples of Jesus himself. Hence, Shelton’s fictional book that posed the question, “what would Jesus do?” Or WWJD as his preferred acronym.

The 1990’s, it now turns out, came and went without much of a social Gospel influence. Some, such as my evangelism mentor, Steve Sjogren, worked out of a “servant evangelism” model at a kind of micro level. Yet, nothing on a macro or systemic level really came to occur, and perhaps for that reason our gilded age of corporate rule in government and society has spawned a time in our history of unparalleled inequality between the haves and have nots. Three decades later, our lack of a coherent social Gospel in American Christianity is mostly conspicuous by its own absence.

Today’s best example of such a gilded age on steroids may well be the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) now winding its way through our U.S. Congress. Its unwritten and unspoken goal is to shift the financial risk of illness from the community to the individual. Individuals with good health and great wealth will be taken care of. Those with poor health or great poverty (the two strongly intertwined in virtually every social research study ever conducted) are left, basically, to die or file bankruptcy. Or both. It’s the new gilded age absent any coherent social Gospel response at the larger, national level.  It’s runaway hedonic greed and narcissism without any pushback from the church.

So what would Jesus do about healthcare in the United States today? WWJD?

Most of my fellow pastors and priests would seek to bear influence at the local or more micro level of community. Hire a parish nurse perhaps. Offer some CPR training or conduct weekly free blood pressure screenings. Pay for an occasional medical prescription. Visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes. Or, if feasible, these local churches might throw open their doors for a free clinic in their own neighborhood.

I won’t disparage such reactions to the healthcare needs of today’s and tomorrow’s have nots in America.

But I have to wonder.

Would Jesus be so small as to do something no bigger than this? Nothing beyond the micro level of care?   Is Jesus really that limited in caring-capacity?

Or would Jesus act on a larger, more systemic level to influence and impact healthcare for those marginalized by poor health and intermingling poverty?

Given the thrust of Jesus’s original teachings, centered around the Kingdom of God as a systemic solution to human social and spiritual problems, my faith is 100% invested in Jesus doing something at a systems-level where healthcare is concerned for the masses of our marginalized Americans today. He would not neglect the local village, but as before he would merely use such villages and villagers as a microcosm for the Kingdom work necessary for the greater common good.

I wonder if Jesus would not today support universal healthcare aimed at comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. I wonder if he would not inspire a new social Gospel movement in our nation today.   Just as Jesus did in his own nation two millennia ago. A new social Gospel that included healthcare for everyone, not just the privileged classes.

I wonder if, given the relative success of America’s own public Medicare insurance for the elderly and permanently disabled, Jesus would not affirm a Medicare-For-All plan covering our residents of all ages, classes, villages and states. I wonder if he would not attach some personal risk and responsibility for everyone in that system by imposing a sliding fee scale premium plus co-pay plus deductible, tied to whatever income source one has. Perhaps down to $5.00 per month per person in the three areas of premium, co-pay, and deductible. Given Medicare’s comparatively low administrative costs as a non-profit insurance provider, I wonder if he would not advocate for such a system of universal care, then using the for profit sector only in the area of Medicare supplemental insurance for those wanting more and longer covered benefits. And I wonder if Jesus would not advocate for a non-profit supplemental insurance such as state Medicaid with means tested premiums for those needing more and longer covered benefits. Perhaps also lowered to $5 per month per person for the poorest in our land, no co-pay or deductible charges for service.

The reason my mind wonders if Jesus would not act in this larger, systemic direction is that, by all indications from our biblical Gospel records, Jesus believed healthcare was a right and not a privilege. This was so as regarded mental as well as bodily afflictions. And certainly without regard to wealth or material status. If after reading through the Gospels you can cite indications about Jesus to the contrary, feel free to leave a comment below. I’m willing to wonder in a new or different direction with you given strong biblical evidence.

The gilded age of modern medicine is once again upon us. I will likely never stop imagining that Jesus would offer up a social Gospel response and responsibility for all of his followers. In fact, my own mind has settled into a long held belief that religion itself is our human gift to God while science, especially medical science, is God’s gift to humanity. God’s gift is far more useful for us than our gift is for God, yet if any of us should hoard God’s gift or deny or refuse it whatsoever, we may well find ourselves on the afflicted, not comforted, end of God’s timeless equation made known through Jesus.

WWJD today in America?




God’s round-abouts

Several years ago I began to notice a trend in local highway construction. Our familiar green, yellow and red traffic lights were being replaced ever so gradually by round-about traffic circles.

And I hated it.

I was in the habit of using the old traffic light signals when making my journeys through town and country. What’s with all these new traffic circles? Whoever thought these were a good idea? These went out of style years ago for some presumably good reason. Why bring them back and cause everyone to be honking at the car cutting into their lane all of a sudden, only to then exit to perhaps the wrong lane ahead? Which is precisely what I did myself by mistake a time or two while getting used to these new intersections. I viewed the removal of my customary straight intersections and traffic lights as some unsettled science somewhere. Maybe even a hoax created by the Chinese to steal our jobs; just kidding!!!

It took me awhile to wise up.

Sometime later on I came to the happy realization that I was spending less time getting places by car. Specifically, I was spending less time sitting still at red lights, or backed up behind a line of other cars waiting for the light to change. I was even burning less fuel by not having so many starts and stops as I learned to slow and yield instead of having to stop and wait or choosing to floor it through the yellow lights, as was also my custom. Nowadays I’m wishing every intersection was a round-about. These straight intersections and red lights are starting to get on my nerves.

Whether any of this resonates with you or not, I share it to simply illustrate how my faith journey has worked over the years. The faith I grew up with was, for points of comparison, a stop and go faith. To get where I wanted to go in life, I had come to believe in a God of straight intersections with red, green and yellow lights. God was for me a kind of hidden camera waiting for me to enter on yellow, oops, now red.


God’s laws were like traffic signals that stopped traffic in one direction even if there was no one coming from the other direction.  Just because God said so, that’s why.

Traffic back ups at those red lights were, well, just part of the way God designed life to be. Hurry up and wait. Stop and go. Go and stop. And, worst case scenario, honk and go around. Tempers flaring. What’s the matter, Buster; you can’t see God’s laws of red, green, yellow?

That’s the faith I grew up with.

But it’s not the faith I have now.

Don’t think it was God that did the changing. Pretty sure it was me finally getting wise to a new reality. God posts a continuous yield sign where there used to be a half-the-time red light tying up traffic in front and behind. That change came with Jesus. And the world is still trying to get used to it. Some of the world really hates it this way.

The Bible has a way, if we read it with open minds, of helping us see the difference between law and grace, between old straight intersections and new round-abouts, old stop and go traffic lights and new yield signs. In the New Testament, Jesus comes along and issues a simple yield sign of Matthew 7:12, “So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets.” You see, Jesus had no intention of doing away with the intersections or the provision of safety for those entering life’s intersections. Jesus came to make the journey safe but without all the traffic tie-ups in both directions. The abundant life Jesus promised is the efficiency we gain for our life’s journey when, by yielding for one who’s already in the circle, we can learn to get where we’re going just as safely but faster and while using less energy. It’s as if Jesus, according to the new faith I grew into eventually, is saying that grace will get us where we need to go much better than if we stopped every time the law’s red light told us to stop. Grace that yields like the Golden Rule is actually a perpetual yellow light that says proceed with caution.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  —  Matthew 11:28-30

This is the grace difference; the Jesus difference. And it’s made all the difference in my own faith journey. I’m not stalled in traffic anymore, like I used to be.

Oh, I realize there are many others who don’t like this faith round-about. To them these reconstructed intersections may seem dangerous and confusing. Or old-fashioned, like how traffic used to be before folks got wise and invented traffic lights. These folks miss the familiar old structures, the easy choices of when to stop and wait or else go ahead. They might say this Jesus stuff with all the grace feels like a free-for-all. Which it is, of course.

The grace to yield and simply obey the yellow sign (Golden Rule) along life’s journey to abundant living does, indeed, take some getting used to. It involves a change, a repentance, a transformation. And building the new traffic circle creates some early construction and congestion that feels like a real hassle for awhile.

Our churches, like our counties and municipalities, have a choice to make in how they want to facilitate the journeys of their people. Leave the old law in place at every intersection? Or switch to the new Jesus gift of grace that always yields yet so efficiently gets us to that abundant life we’re all trying for in the first place.   Using God’s round-about.