In the previous post we noted the two foundational skills to move from being a successful-based follower/church to a faithful-based one are our abilities to submit to God and to love others and then briefly examined what submitting (surrendering) to God means. In this final post of A brighter path, we will briefly examine the second skill of what loving others actually means. Continue reading “A Brighter Path #8: Loving Others”
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.” (Luke 6:46-49)
Some years back, a popular Christian movement centered on the acronym WWJD, asking, “What would Jesus do?” It is a great question that evokes the centrality of Jesus. The question implies that our discipleship journey today should reflect Jesus’ actions in the Gospels. I would love to see it make a sweeping return in a thoughtful manner but I would call it WYRTGWPDEPOJ (yeah, I know, my branding needs work). Because I think the better question is asking, “When you read the Gospels, what portrait does each paint of Jesus?” Asking that is a great litmus test to expose beliefs of successful-based communities, those practices not found in the Gospels which hinder and undermine bringing about the “kingdom of God” on earth that Jesus came to establish.
Successful-based beliefs/practices in the church today continue to undermine Jesus’ desire to bring about “the kingdom of God.” And the successful-based belief/practice on sin has arguably had the biggest negative impact on that. We conclude our look at sin by contrasting how faithful-based communities view it.
Successful-based beliefs/practices in the church today continue to undermine Jesus’ desire to bring about “the kingdom of God.” And the successful-based belief/practice on sin has arguably had the biggest negative impact on that. We continue our look at sin (from the previous post in this series) by examining how successful-based churches view sin.
Successful-based beliefs/practices in the church today continue to undermine Jesus’ desire to bring about “the kingdom of God.” And the successful-based belief/practice on sin has arguably had the greatest negative impact on that. Because of that impact, it is critical to understand as fully as possible what we mean when we use that little ‘ol three-letter word that is at the root of so much difference between successful-based and faithful-based churches. We will therefore spend three posts on sin (or you could say we’ll be “sinning” for the next few weeks). In this post we will engage in a brief overview of the concept of sin and a related spiritual concept, holiness, and introduce how successful-based and faithful-based churches differ on them. The following two posts will each explore in more detail how each side views and lives those concepts. Continue reading “A Brighter Path #3: Sin”
When we look at the nature of the church through the lens of Mother Teresa’s spiritual maxim that “God doesn’t call me to be successful, but to be faithful,” it might appear at first glance that both qualities should not only be acceptable but encouraged. It seems counter-intuitive to think we should not be successful for God. But the two concepts are opposites. One relies on God, and the other relies on ourselves but puts God’s name on it. Many churches today preach a life of faithfulness but their actions reflect Christianity’s long struggle with striving for success in its own human-derived standards.
An old joke I first heard while at seminary in the late 80s goes something like this— “Jesus came to earth in order to establish ‘the kingdom of God’… but all He got was the church.” The punch line can be self-deprecating humor for life-long church members but it also reflects a painful indictment. The history of the Church over 2,000 years is the record of an institution that has done some good (along with some evil) but overall has fallen far short of bringing to fruition Jesus’ mission proclamation to break-in “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:15).
We conclude both this series Walk Just as He Walked and our look at Gospel stories that support Mother Teresa’s spiritual maxim that God calls us to be faithful, not successful, with the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus found in John 3: 1-21.
We continue this series by looking at a third example of a parable from Jesus to uncover how it reflects his teaching to serve God faithfully, not successfully.
We continue this series by looking at a second example of a parable from Jesus to uncover how it reflects his teaching to serve God faithfully, not successfully.
“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)
The contrast of living a successful spiritual life versus a faithful one was not only in Jesus’ actions but also in his parable teachings. Over the next few posts we will meditate on three parables to uncover how Jesus taught to serve God faithfully, not successfully.
To learn how to “walk just as (Jesus) walked” (1 John 2:6), we must look at Jesus’ sayings, actions, and teachings. The Gospels portray Jesus as faithfully walking where God leads instead of seeking success in God’s name. We will spend the remainder of the posts in this series looking at examples of that.
As I wrote in the previous post, decades ago I adopted Mother Teresa’s spiritual maxim that God does not call me to be successful, but to be faithful. Though it rang true, it would take years of studying to see its origin in the various pieces of the Bible’s truth. The final piece that drove home the meaning was not from any one passage or story from scripture but kind of a finally-seeing-the-forest-amidst-the-trees realization. Though not explicitly stated in the Bible, it was finally seeing how Jesus lived this truth in the most powerful and dramatic way at the end of his life, a way that was very different from what we would expect from leaders today.
Once upon a time, a new shoemaker and his apprentices came to a village and set up a booth at the edge of the marketplace. The other more established shoemakers looked at them with contempt and told each other, “Surely, he will fail.” After all, shoemaking is a difficult trade and this shoemaker was not known by any of them.
But the new shoemaker spoke of how his shoes would make the people feel renewed. Slowly, people came and tried on the new shoemaker’s footwear. And each time, they were astounded! They had never felt this way before.
Many people today are seeking after God and/or spirituality. Christianity has a simple invitation to this search for everyone: follow Jesus. It is fashioned after Jesus’ own call— a two-word summons sprinkled throughout the Gospels (emphasis added):
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” (Mark 1:16-17)
As (Jesus) was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” (Mark 2:14a)
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
By Scott Anderson
Genesis is an origin story, a glimpse into our common past. In Genesis, we find a description of how the world was formed, how humans were created, and how the bond of marriage was instituted. We have an explanation of how evil entered God’s good creation and of our responsibility for our alienation from God and from one another.
By Scott Anderson
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus claims that He has come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it, (Matthew 5:17). In fulfilling the law, however, Jesus distinguishes between the ethical (the way of law) and the experiential (the way of love). Jesus undertakes a series of distinctions between what the people have been taught by the religious leaders and what He is teaching. In chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew, Jesus corrects the customary interpretations of the law—“you have heard it said”—with his own interpretations—“but I say.”
By Scott Anderson
Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus did not speak much about a terrifying and dictatorial God, one who spoke to humans only through fire and smoke and who would decimate populations whenever it served His unknowable purposes. Jesus believed that God was immanent, a God who chose to create the world and then inhabit it, who chose to create humans and incarnate Himself in them. “The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus assured His disciples, “ is within you.” Luke 17:21.
By Scott Anderson
We have reviewed two ways in which to interpret God’s seven distinct attributes. We can view God through the lens of righteousness, or we can view God through the lens of relationship. We have scriptural evidence of what happens when we view God through either of these lenses. The Religious Leaders of Jesus’ day – the Pharisees – tended to view God through an ethical lens. And Jesus tended to view God through an experiential lens. Here, we will look at the Pharisees’ religious habits. Continue reading “In the Shade of Two Trees #9: The Religious Leaders and Their View of God”