Let My People Think

Happy MountainThis might be fiction, or this might be what really happened. And I ain’t telling which one that is …

MY ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

Invitation

I heard a gentle whisper in my ear: “Come, follow me”. I turned around, but there was no one in the room. But I knew what I heard was real.

“Who are you?”, I asked, in childlike awe and wonder.
“I am Jesus, who you have been reading and hearing about.”

When Jesus was speaking, his lips weren’t moving at all, for whatever reason. I heard and understood everything he was saying, though.

“Follow you? Follow you where?”
“Wherever I call you to”.

This didn’t seem scary at all. Rather, an intoxicating sense of excitement and fascination welled up in me, sending shivers through my entire body. Finally, I was starting to get a sense that all my searches have led me to the One.

Plus, there’s only so low you can fall. And for a while, I have really felt like I hit rock bottom.
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It’s often asserted that at a general level, humans consist of spirit, soul, and body. Interestingly, there is only one passage in the entire Biblical canon that lists the three side by side (1 Thess. 5:23). Even then, that passage has nothing to do with teaching human anthropology. Rather, the Scriptural anthropology teaches humans on the most general level consist of spirit and flesh. These two parts are directly compared, contrasted, and juxtaposed on in dozens of passages – as opposed to just one reference pulled out of context. (Yes, I know that I am going against the orthodoxy here – and I am quite comfortable doing it. Run your own keyword search on the Bible and see what you come up with).

It’s also often asserted that soul is “mind + will + emotions”. Interestingly, this equation originates from Hellenistic theories of the soul, directly traceable to pre-platonic / Pythagorean and early platonic theories of the soul. See Plato’s “Phaedo” (a.k.a. “On the Soul”) and “The Republic” to see where system of thought originated from. Plato’s theory of the soul presented in “The Republic” is:

“Soul = reason (mind) + appetites (emotions) + spirit (will)”.

Plato's Soul - Unscriptural Hellenistic Philosophy
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jediI really like the Jedi. To me, they are a very good representation of what I want to mature into with God. Put Jesus Christ and his power in place of Jedi’s concept of force, and we have here a great metaphor for a holistic teaching that captivates the heart, uses the mind, works with great power, guides you on the path of righteousness, preserves you in your holiness, and keeps you away from pride, greed, lust, and just about any other sin.

Here are the reasons why they way of the Jedi captures my heart:

  • They are persons of honor. They don’t have a moral code that they adhere to in a slovenly fashion. They have an honor code that they are trained to follow as a matter of heart conviction, no matter the cost.
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Inedible Heart (a poem)

I used to read a lot of French classics growing up (Maupassant, Stendhal, Flaubert, etc.) They talk about a certain way of life, extolling a certain subset of humanistic values. While I appreciate their cultural significance – not all of those works line up with the ethics that I personally aspire to.

Modern Hollywood productions with a romantic storyline largely follow the same suit. The problem is that they usually tell you only the first part of the story. Nearly all of their stories end with budding romance. There isn’t a high demand for movies which would teach you how to sustain the fire of love for decades, through the highs and lows of life. Movies like “Bicentennial Man” are more of an exception rather than the rule. Script writers are reluctant to tell you what happens later down the road, when you live from one conquest to the next one, from cradle to the grave. And this is what this poem is about.
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Unthinking respect for authority Albert EinsteinHere’s an interesting passage in the New Testament that concerns submission to governing authorities:

Romans 13:1 New International Version (NIV)
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

On the surface, a translation like that seems to imply that any expression of Western-style democracy is a direct rebellion against God. That reading would also mean that Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot are legitimately examples of Godly leaders. That’s why this reading a very attractive target for abuse by manipulative preachers and “prophets” who don’t shy away from using out-of-context Scriptural prooftexts to prop up their own agendas.

But there’s a little translation peculiarity that’s often overlooked, and yet it considerably changes the meaning of the entire chapter. Here is Romans 13:1 in hyper-literal translation from ancient Koine Greek:
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Minions and GruThere’s no question that a follower of Jesus Christ must treat people in authority with an attitude of honor and respect. With that said – is it godly to submit to any authority without thinking and without asking any questions? In the New Testament, there’s only passage that on the surface seems to suggest such unquestioning attitude toward ecclesiastical (i.e., church) authorities. That passage is Hebrews 13:17. Here it is in a couple of typical translations:

Hebrews 13:17 New International Version (NIV)
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Hebrews 13:17 New King James Version (NKJV)
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Here’s the problem: both of these translations are really inaccurate. Here’s Hebrews 13:17 in a much more accurate hyper-literal traslation from ancient Koine Greek:
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Jesus doing facepalmYou cannot simultaneously state two things:

1) that God personally causes (directly or though one’s agency) and approves (or wills) everything that happens in the world, including all the evil,

2) and that God is love.

The two are in irreconcilable conflict, and no amount of religious sophistry and verbal calisthenics can make this equation balance out.

The reason that the hyper-sovereignty view of God at the expense of God being love appeals to so many is that humans lust after power and control after their fellow human beings. That’s part of the fallen human nature. Vulnerability is perceived as a general liability, and about the only place one can afford to be legitimately vulnerable in a modern increasingly secular world is on a tear-stained recliner in the psychoanalyst’s office.

One well-known evangelical preacher said this not too long ago:

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”

Wow. Really? Mr. Preacher must have forgotten that Jesus WAS beaten up, hung stark naked on a blood and faeces-stained wooden pole in front of his own heart-broken Jewish mother, in a culture where revealing as much as one’s knees while running was considered shameful for a male. If that’s not utterly vulnerable, I don’t know what is.
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For God so loved the worldThe kind of love which stands above division, judgment, and offense is usually fairly difficult to cultivate and practice. When it becomes our heart culture, however, it has a very real potential to open people up to what we have to say. Then we can usher those we thus love into the very presence of Jesus, so that he can do through us for them what no educational or correctional institution can. But we can get to that point only when we begin with unconditional love and acceptance on the most fundamental human level, before anything else can be offered.

Am I there? Not quite yet, but I know that I am on my way there. I also experientially know that place of judgmentalism and misplaced pride which is the polar opposite of agape-love. That’s a place to which I have absolutely no intention of ever regressing to.

We love playing it safe and talking in generalities. But what if we allow ourselves to get more specific with more general statements such as “God so loved the world”? What would that look like? The poem below attempts to unpack that Scriptural verse within the context of years 2016-2017.
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Left Wing Right Wing Same BirdA few days ago I had a conversation with a young lady, a daughter of our family’s friends. She wanted to stop by to get a couple of pics and a short story for her school project. My wife and I decided to make it a dinner occasion at our place. That young lady is a follower of Jesus. She is also passionately political, and you could peg her fairly solidly on the left side of the political spectrum. (If you want to use that cumbersome and unflavorful measuring stick on a human being, that is. If you try to ever use it on me, by the way – I guarantee you will make a mistake every time you do, regardless of whether you try to place me right, left, or even center. That measuring stick simply doesn’t know what to do with people like me.)

I remember a time when she stopped by a church event where I happened to be a year ago. She and her similarly-minded sister were surrounded by a small group of older piously indignant evangelicals. The two of them pretty much had to endure an hour-and-a-half-long “straightening out” session from the group. They valiantly defended themselves. I wasn’t part of that strange circus, but I was close enough to hear what was going on. In the year that followed, I’ve rarely seen those two young ladies come back to church. (If I were them, I wouldn’t have come back after that, either.)

I do take interest in politics. But I have grown wise enough over the years to discuss my political views mostly in private conversations with even-keeled people who have learned to think for themselves. I could never compress my mind on complex issues into tweet-size slogans anyway, which is what a lot of people seem to prefer these days.
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fiery-hand

Open letter to followers of Jesus regarding divine healing as their birthright.

Dear friend,

Since we are both followers of Jesus, let me ask you – did Jesus ever make anyone sick?  Name one such case from the Gospels.  That’s right, there aren’t any.  On the other hand, EVERY sick person who specifically came to Jesus for healing went away healed.  Not one went away sick.
  
One passage that’s commonly quoted in defense of “God makes people sick for greater good” is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (aka “satan’s thorn in Paul’s flesh”). The passage in question clearly names the source as “the messenger of SATAN”.  That’s as clear as it gets. It doesn’t say “the messenger of God”. This has nothing to do with God “allowing” or “not allowing things”.  God will allow what you will allow. God gave dominion over this planet to human beings, and he still works through human beings. That hasn’t changed. That’s why Jesus Christ had to come as a man. 

Now, going back to the “thorn” passage. God told Paul that the way to deal with the issue was through grace. GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – i.e., that’s something that was already done and made available to Paul, as opposed to God having to do a new thing for Paul individually.  That’s a very important idea to grasp.  Notice how God didn’t say “my grace is NOT sufficient to you”, which is how most people understand it. But the “not” is not there in the text.  So if “my grace is sufficient for you” means “just stay in the despicable condition that you are in”, why should we stop applying this equation only to bodily sickness? Isn’t God the creator of human beings in their entirety? That’s a very shaky and dangerous theological ground to tread on.

God’s grace is something people grow into.  Grace is what’s already given; what you do with it is your choice.
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