August 11, 2014
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them. As to the idea of ‘solving’ problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing – or convincing – as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized as the centre of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigour, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

August 11, 2014
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.

This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

August 10, 2014
sunday morning rambling

Often, in an attempt to give myself a stronger sense of control and duty I believe I have created more to do for myself as a christian than I need too.

My battle with depression and anxiety puts me in a unique position of fighting against my own heavy feelings each day.  Add to that my innate testosterone deficiency because of my cancer surgery three years ago and you have a wonderful recipe for downward spirals each day.  

But, what I find to be my greatest trigger is the voice in my head that says:  

“I have to work out my salvation on my own because God will not accept me if I have any sin in my life.”

Other ways of wording it:

"I have to get my crap in order before I can approach God"

"God demands a spotless bride."

And so it goes.  However, the more I read Jesus the more I realize that Jesus himself only got into the whole, “measurements of sin to I-am-super-awesome-don’t-even-try-to-judge-me ratio” with people who wanted to measure their own righteousness with his own.  For Jesus he knew where He stood on the “righteousness levels” meter, the top.  From where Jesus stood he wanted to reach down and bring others up to be with him, but what he found in the hearts of many of the religious leaders was pride.  They thought their poop didn’t stink, that they were better than other people, they were like Dragon Ball Z fans who believed they had actually reached super Saiyan levels.  

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It was mindsets like this that often burned Jesus’ grits.  It wasn’t people who were trying to work out their issues and failed, it was prideful people who were trying to get people to look to them for answers rather than God.  Jesus strongest responses were often triggered by prideful people.  That got me thinking about what things actually got Jesus mad?

Take note of Jesus’ varying levels of pissed-off-ness I can find/remember in the gospels.

Level one.  “Mom why are you using me like your own personal bartender?”

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John 2:1-12

Jesus own mother knows he has the super power juices flowing and requests that Jesus use those super powers to make more wine for the already intoxicated masses.  This obviously annoys Jesus to the point where he refers to his own mother as “woman.”  The boldness of Christ is perhaps no greater than in this passage where Jesus responds to his mother with the most typical teenage/young adult response ever, you know the one where you complain and say something highly sarcastic but still obey your parents anyways.  Mary FTW.

Level two.  “Jesus just wants a little bit of sleep, but these weenies won’t let him sleep.”

Matt 4:35-41

Jesus is asleep, and the disciples wake him up to deal with a storm because they are afraid they are going to die.  They wake him up, scream for help, Jesus obliges their request, they freak out more because Jesus just went all Storm from X-men on the weather itself, He turns to them and chastises their faith levels (they are’t even close to super saiyan ), and then I imagine he just goes back to sleep.  

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Level three.  “Get your ‘What Would Jehovah Do?’ bracelets out of my Dad’s house!”

In the next section of John 2, Jesus just straight up trashes the temple because dudes are selling stuff in Jesus’ Dad’s house.  He doesn’t play.  (note the holy spirit doves flying around him, Jesus has back up.)

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Level four.   “Peter tries to tell Jesus how it’s gonna be and He gets told how it is.”

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(Here Jesus is giving the universal hand gesture for “use your noggin’” and Peter still has a hard time understanding Jesus.)

In Matt 16:21-28 Peter tries to tell Jesus that his whole “dying for the world” idea isn’t the greatest idea and in return Jesus calls him the devil.  In general Jesus and Petey’s relationship is valuable because it shows the true patience of Jesus with us.  Peter is the knucklehead of all knuckleheads and Jesus always scolds him but always welcomes him.  It’s pretty great.

Level five.  “Jesus tells everyone that the religious leaders are big jerks and that no one should do what they do.”

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Read the passage, Jesus goes off on these leaders because they 

“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

He says a host of other things, but mainly Jesus just goes off.  It’s a warning for us of setting high standards for others, but refusing to meet those standards ourselves. 

In all these situations Jesus shows us what really, really, makes him mad.  and Because Jesus is the incarnation we can truly understand what really makes God mad.  Jesus has no big problem with sinners other than the fact that they are settling for a half-life they don’t have to settle for.  Jesus invites them into a rich, full, and true life with Him.  For Jesus the label “sinner” applies to all human beings, but at the same time He also is offering this opportunity to embrace the label we had before we labeled ourselves as sinners, “Children of God.”

This is kind of complex, but when you go back, way way back, to Genesis you see that in the creation narrative God is revealing something about human nature.  The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” is the thing we aren’t supposed to eat of.  It grants us this ability to grasp right and wrong, and thus when we eat of it we will try to dispense justice amongst ourselves rather than allowing God to judge us.  In the creation narrative, all is at peace before Adam and Eve ate from that tree, then when they do everything goes cray cray and stuff.  

Now you can take the creation narrative literally or figuratively, I don’t judge *cough*…Gungor..*cough*…I like him…*cough*…Ahem…

But either way this little piece of information is important if you are taking the Bible seriously, it’s important because creation narratives in all faiths are there to establish meaning to our existence and give insight into human nature.  Here we clearly see that GOD DID NOT INTEND FOR US TO JUDGE OURSELVES.  He is supposed to be the judge.  And in the old testament you see the up and down struggle of humans struggling with allowing God to judge them freely.  It’s all really messy because humans get caught up (like we always do) in performance, and God wants us to be dependent on Him, not our own power.  

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Jesus time on earth was not to “show us a new way to act” primarily, (yes he showed us many great example of how to act)  It was to “BE” the new way.  If anything the gospels pretty much show us that as human beings we are incapable of living sinless lives, showing us that our right standing with God has never really had that much to do with our actions.  Even in our best moments we aren’t with out sin.  Our right standing with God has to do with what Jesus has done for us.  (Though its not that “new”, its kind of what we started with but we screw things up a lot… yeah I know moving on.)

What Jesus came to do is flip the whole game on its head and say, “you can’t change your behaviors by simply focusing on your behaviors.  You have to have your hearts changed, humbled, and softened.  I am here to do that for you if you choose to believe in me, I will change your heart because I love you.  Further more, if you engage with that love it will change you into a more loving people, and that does’t mean you are a bunch of hippies who only talk about your feels all the time.  You will be a rich, diverse people, but you will be united by love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and grace.”  We will be able to be that kind of people because we have been shown what that looks like by Jesus.  

We won’t have to have pre-determined plans for people based on sin, we can just walk with everyone knowing that Jesus is going to work in their lives to help them live more richly and fully.

But, it all starts with me remembering as an individual that God doesn’t require perfection, He just demands a heart that seeks him.

Psalm 51:17

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart

    you, God, will not despise.

Jesus wants our hearts to break for the people who’s hearts are breaking, not break hearts with our own demands for righteousness.  Those demands that leave our mouths are often just echoes from inside ourselves: sins, short comings, and wounds that we refuse to allow God to touch, to heal, to mend.  Christ’s judgement of us is simply that we are welcomed, He does address the “good enough” thing by saying no one is perfect accept Him, all He asks is that we believe in Him, but like the crowds in John 6 we often don’t receive Him because of the wounds we haven’t forgiven ourselves or others for.  These festering wounds drives us to create ideologies, theologies, and philosophies that allow us to gestate our wounds full term, and what they birth is not the righteousness of God that reaches low, down to the person who would be our enemy or someone we don’t care for and love them.  Instead it creates boundaries that create reasons for us to not engage, to not love, to withhold, and not welcome.  

To that I end I am the first among the sinful, my heart is dark, full of wounds that demand vengeance.  I am praying that Jesus would penetrate my heart, and that He would soften it.  But until that day I will often have to say to myself “Get behind me Satan.”  Because I have not yet fully welcomed and trusted Jesus plan in my own life.  But, as I see in the story of Peter in the gospels I am ever thankful that Jesus loves me and is patient with me, and welcoming me.

I am made spotless not by my own work, but by the work of Jesus in me.

In other words… 

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And Trust God a little more.

D

July 20, 2014
Conflict

I have never researched this issue well, reading this article and watching this video makes you realize: how polarizing this issue is, how disconnected the American experience is from the reality of those in the middle of the conflict, and how much prayer and attention needs to be given to this issue.

Both sides believe they are right and the other is wrong, and they have been killing each other over it for generations . I will be praying, hope you will too.

http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/1.601112?v=6E9AFB2329D863163C98066529E8BC76

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EDW88CBo-8&sns=em

July 18, 2014
Just thinking.

“Judge not lest ye be judged”

it’s a popular verse.  It’s argued about regularly.  Popular culture likes to quote it in defense of the post modern ideology that states that there are “no absolutes”, that no one person can judge what is best for another person.

Christians like to counter point this verse with other verses, ones that encourage us to indeed judge others for a host of different reasons:

“Christ is coming for a spotless bride! we have to make ourselves right before He comes back.  Therefore, we must become good judges of right and wrong.”

“We have to make judgements because we must stand for truth.”

“Blah, blah, blah, wah, wah wah.”

Whatever your argument is, I applaud your strong feelings and your passion.  But, it is my hope to encourage you into a new way of thinking.  Thinking about what this popular verse actually states.

Matthew 7:1-3King James Version (KJV)

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Notice the bolded section.  Christ is not giving us a singular statement that He is demanding our behaviors adhere to, instead He is inviting us into a way of thinking that involves inquiry.  Yes, perhaps he is even asking us to be interested in discovering something about ourselves and another person, rather than memorizing rules or theology and acquiring the ability to unleash well thought out verbal assaults at will.

Christ is asking us to think about how we would like to be judged, possibly suggesting to the Christian to think about how “The one whom God sent” has judged them, how He is judging them, and then asking us to gather/receive the maturity and wisdom to discern what is best for certain situations, and certain people. 

Even more, perhaps He is foreshadowing the presence of the “advocate” or “Holy Spirt” to come, asking us to learn to consult the Spirit of God in our walk, always remembering to walk in patience, love, grace, and mercy in our judging because that indeed is what the Lord has always shown us, and continues to show us on a daily basis. 

This is a difficult idea to receive, it sounds nice when it hits our ears but becomes difficult in practice.  Our modern world is short on patience, short on community, and short on creating the space in our lives to truly be able to hear from the Lord’s Spirit in our lives.

Indeed, this asks something of us.  It demands we stop and reflect on what it is Jesus has done for us, what we need forgiveness for, how we need to continue to grow.  It also demands that in growing our identity and knowledge of Christ we then apply it to our outward relationships within our community.  

Yes, to judge with the understanding that the same judgement shall be given to us humbles a person, and as this truth sinks in hopefully it makes us more aware of how we have been un-merciful or un-loving in our own lives.

For me it sparks a host of thoughts, feelings, and memories in my mind of how I need to learn how to become a better forgiver, a better friend, brother, son, and so fourth.  But, that alone isn’t what I believe Christ wants from us.  It is indeed a deeper understanding that Christ’s love is not what I deserve but what I receive because He says so.  His authority in my life allows me to have a peace over the truth that though there seems to be injustice all around me, in the end Christ will judge us all perfectly.  

It is my job to love as Christ has loved me.  To judge as I have been judged.  I have a model, and a benchmark.  That benchmark is patient, kind, suffers for me, and always loves me.  In the same way, I hope to learn and grow in what this mystery means for me and those around me each day.  This mystery is encouraging in that it gives us something to engage with, and therefore to hope for.  

This verses is transformative in that it reminds us that Jesus is not static, therefore truth and love are not static, they are engaging persons, not forgone conclusions.  

So judge on my friends, but I pray we learn to become people who are judging ourselves and those around us more and more like Christ has judged and loved us.

DL Rossi

February 10, 2014
Be willing….

There is this problem of pain within me, this issue of darkness, this struggle with hope, this desire to help, but also an understanding that I mostly just cuss things up.  A self hatred, and a desire to be treasured.  I want to be useful, but believe my efforts are pointless.  

The struggle to hope and believe I have something to offer from within myself, but not on someone else’s terms.  Not “people pleasing” my way to the top and manipulating a system to get power and influence.  Instead, a usefulness that I want to find within my weakness, my darkness.  

I am dark, I am questions, I am faults, I am weak.  

When I see that in others, I marvel at the beauty.  

When I see that in myself, I condemn and hate.  

Why this contradiction?  Why is it easier to look outside myself?  

Aye! Then I see it, my hatred of self pollutes my love!  I value you others because I see you as better then my lowly self!  Even in my humility I find the lacing of pride, of believing myself greater and more powerful then the divine love offered me.  

But then I also look at those around me and judge them in the next breath?

What a contradiction, what a prideful beast I am!

But then with gentleness and grace a voice says, “rest son.  Stop the struggle, just for a moment.  You are wired wonderfully, but the knowledge of “Good and Evil” and the balance of its power will crush you.  Do what I’ve called you too, love.  The weight of your mind and the gears I’ve built to turn in it will constantly make you aware of your weakness, but I don’t need strong hands, just willing hands.”

I look at my hands and speak to them.  “Being willing you tools of hope and destruction.  Be willing, be willing, be willing….”

July 29, 2011

So come on…

July 29, 2011

I need you so much closer…

July 29, 2011

The glove compartment isn’t accurately named….

July 29, 2011

Death cab last night with Ben West. Good stuff!