convinced

My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and are able to teach each other. But I’ve written to you in a sort of daring way, partly to remind you of what you already know. I’m writing to you in this way because of the grace that was given to me by God. It helps me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. I’m working as a priest of God’s gospel so that the offering of the Gentiles can be acceptable and made holy by the Holy Spirit. So in Christ Jesus I brag about things that have to do with God. I don’t dare speak about anything except what Christ has done through me to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles. He did it by what I’ve said and what I’ve done, by the power of signs and wonders, and by the power of God’s Spirit. So I’ve completed the circuit of preaching Christ’s gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum. In this way, I have a goal to preach the gospel where they haven’t heard of Christ yet, so that I won’t be building on someone else’s foundation. Instead, as it’s written, Those who hadn’t been told about him will see, and those who hadn’t heard will understand. (Romans 15:14-21, CEB)

Paul is convinced the people he has never met are full of goodness, full of knowledge, and are able to teach one another.

Does this mean only the people of Rome that belonged to the gathering to which Paul wrote this letter? That is a simple yes, and no. Paul didn’t know all of the people he was writing to in Rome. He probably knew of them and about the gathering and therefore he assumed (I wonder if Paul knew what happened when you do that? 😉 ) that the people were good, full of knowledge, and able to instruct each other. And that same assumption goes for you.

We are all good, knowledgeable, and able to help others learn about the love of God.

So go into your world and Love Out Loud!

Loving People. Loving God.

Metta Meditation

This was an interesting practice that really was close to giving affirmations, but Oneika Mays explained it was about us and not the person. That we offer words of compassion to a loved one, then to ourselves, then to a familiar stranger, and then to a difficult person. And she told us about how her familiar stranger was her mail person. And then one day she asked his name and then he wasn’t a familiar stranger, but a named friend. And that is the true meaning and work of Metta.

Metta meditation is loving-kindness. It is focusing on loving. Love as a verb. Love is an action, not a thought or an emotion, but an action we do.

Love is justice in the community. It is a celebration because it is not something we have alone but we embody in a community. Love is accountability that my actions have an impact on others.

The thing that surprised me about the practice and discussion was when Oneike Mays said, Metta allowed her to “call people in with love, instead of out in anger.”

Metta is focusing our energy on love. Loving those we love, loving ourselves, loving the familiar stranger, and loving those who are difficult, or our enemies. And isn’t that really what the gospel is really about? Jesus told us to love God and love our neighbor. And our neighbor is everyone other than us. Those we love, the familiar stranger, and the difficult person.

One of the things I strive to do at Treehouse is to love all and accept all. We are a ministry that espouses being all-inclusive. And we say our mission statement is Loving People, Loving God. And I always thought that was backwards. Because Jesus said, Love God, Love Neighbor. But I was told that when the mission statement was written the students said that loving God is easy, we can love God because we know God loves us, but people, Loving people is hard. We don’t know if people love us, but God’s call is not about what is easy. God loves us, even when we have turned away, even when we don’t love God.

One of the things I have been focused on a lot lately is the text speak LOL. Most of us know that means Laugh Out Loud. But I want to change it. I have lately been saying Love Out Loud. Because that is what we need more in the world. And if I can focus on loving my loved ones, myself, the familiar stranger, and the difficult person, then maybe I can show more love in my little corner of the world. And metta wants us to show loving kindness and be love in the world.

If we can all be more love, more loving and share what God has given to each of us. That is my hope for how to incorporate metta more into my life, but being more loving and actually loving out loud in every aspect of my being. And showing that to the world to be an example, as Jesus was. So we can all be a little more loving.

Love Out Loud.

immoral

So then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to keep living the way you already are and even do better in how you live and please God—just as you learned from us. You know the instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God. No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue. The Lord punishes people for all these things, as we told you before and sternly warned you. God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him. Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. You don’t need us to write about loving your brothers and sisters because God has already taught you to love each other. In fact, you are doing loving deeds for all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. Now we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do so even more. Aim to live quietly, mind your own business, and earn your own living, just as I told you. That way you’ll behave appropriately toward outsiders, and you won’t be in need. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, CEB)

What is immoral? M-W.com defines immoral as “not Moral”. Thanks for that. Really?

So it does give a broader definition of “conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles.” Which again doesn’t really say what is immoral it merely tells us what it means. How do we know what we shouldn’t do now today? Because what was immoral when 1 Thessalonians was written may not be immoral today.

There are still nuggets of wisdom in here, “Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges” and “No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue” and “God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to God”.

Sexual immorality is not homosexuality. We should also not hold our siblings down because they see things differently than we do and have sexual urges that are different than ours. God wants God’s will to be the focus of our lives and not how our sisters and brothers are not living up. Maybe if we focus on our own lives and strive to be who God is leading us to be we will love the world rather than judge the world.

Focus on your own life and share grace and mercy and love with everyone around you, not judging what they are doing, but loving them and reminding them they are loved by God.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

Fruit

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said: The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” (Matthew 3:1-12, CEB)

You will know a tree by its fruit.

I remember when I was baptized a friend’s father asked if I believed that Jesus was Lord and Son of God and I said yes. He said good otherwise you just got dunked in water. Now for those of you who are Lutheran and think I was baptized as an infant, I was not. Even though I am a Lutheran pastor, I was baptized a Baptist when I was 17. It was a cleansing in the water and the sign of a life changed. The fruit was different from this guy.

So how do we see fruit differently from people, because even after I was dunked, people thought it didn’t take because I didn’t fit their mold for what a good fruit is.

The mold to fit in is not of any human, but God’s.

We can not make humans happy, we must strive to follow where God is leading.

Live your life so that God’s grace and mercy flow through you to the world around you.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

Who are you?

This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” John said, “I’m not.” “Are you the prophet?” John answered, “No.” They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied, “I am a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight, just as the prophet Isaiah said.” Those sent by the Pharisees asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize. He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.” This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing. (John 1:19-28, CEB)

Who are you?

Have you ever been asked this question? And your answer could change depending on who is asking the question. However, there is one answer to this question that will work every time.

John told those sent by the Pharisees he was not the Messiah, he was not a prophet, he was not Elijah, he was a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight.

Aren’t we all, “a voice crying out in the wilderness, Make the Lord’s path straight?”

And better yet the answer I was thinking of above was Child of God.

Who are you? You are a child of God.

Go and love the world.

Loving People. Loving God.

His-tory

Standing up, Paul gestured with his hand and said, “Fellow Israelites and Gentile God-worshippers, please listen to me. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors. God made them a great people while they lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. With his great power, he led them out of that country. For about forty years, God put up with them in the wilderness. God conquered seven nations in the land of Canaan and gave the Israelites their land as an inheritance. This happened over a period of about four hundred fifty years. “After this, he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. The Israelites requested a king, so God gave them Saul, Kish’s son, from the tribe of Benjamin, and he served as their king for forty years. After God removed him, he raised up David to be their king. God testified concerning him, ‘I have found David, Jesse’s son, a man who shares my desires. Whatever my will is, he will do.’ From this man’s descendants, God brought to Israel a savior, Jesus, just as he promised. Before Jesus’ appearance, John proclaimed to all the Israelites a baptism to show they were changing their hearts and lives. As John was completing his mission, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I’m not the one you think I am, but he is coming after me. I’m not worthy to loosen his sandals.’ (Acts 13:16-25, CEB)

History is important. The lineages and passages like the one above are important for us to know because they are the history of the people of God. Our people. We are the people of God and this history is our history.

Paul told those gathered the history of Jesus. This is our history and helps us know who and whose we are.

We are all a part of a rich understanding that goes back thousands of years.

As we approach Christmas and work through the waiting for Jesus’ return, let us remember where we come from and whose we are.

Love out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

12

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son— all were united in their devotion to prayer, along with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.” “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:12-17, 21-26, CEB)

12 is a biblical number. When I taught confirmation I told the students if I ask for a numerical answer, good guesses are always 3, 7, 12, or a multiple of 12.

But I also have to say I have always wondered about this text. Why did the one to replace Judas have to be someone who was with them from the beginning? The other 11 were not really great representatives. I mean read the gospels and see how many times they messed up and who was there at the cross? When Jesus got arrested they scattered because they knew they were next.

So of course the replacement for Judas has to be one who was there from the beginning to share what they saw.

Yet we share the good news of Jesus through our lives and none of us were there when Jesus chose the 12.

We are all witnesses to the love God has for the world.

We are all givers of grace and mercy to a world that needs to know they are loved and accepted as they are.

We are the ones who Love Out Loud.

So continue sharing the good news and shining light.

Loving People. Loving God.

Pass away

“Then if somebody says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘He’s over here,’ don’t believe it. False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer great signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even those whom God has chosen. Look, I’ve told you ahead of time. So if they say to you, ‘Look, he’s in the desert,’ don’t go out. And if they say, ‘Look, he’s in the rooms deep inside the house,’ don’t believe it. Just as the lightning flashes from the east to the west, so it will be with the coming of the Human One. The vultures gather wherever there’s a dead body. “Now immediately after the suffering of that time the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then the sign of the Human One will appear in the sky. At that time all the tribes of the earth will be full of sadness, and they will see the Human One coming in the heavenly clouds with power and great splendor. He will send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four corners of the earth, from one end of the sky to the other. “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. (Matthew 24:23-35, CEB)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

What does that mean?

Well this whole passage is about the end of time, and how we aren’t supposed to get caught up in when and where Jesus is coming back. It is more about us living here in this time to show the world the love God has for all of creation. Because the word of God will not pass away. The promises we have spoken to us will stand firm forever. Heaven and earth will be done away with, which is actually in God’s word of the Bible, in Revelation, God says Heaven and Earth will be done away with and a new heaven and new earth will be created and God will descend to be with God’s people. (Revelation 21).

What all of this means is we need to love the world around us and live today, and not worry about tomorrow.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

What?!?!

What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection. But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground. All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us. (Hebrews 11:32-40, CEB)

This is the end of the Faith chapter in Hebrews. There are so many in the Bible we look to as pillars of faith. Many were mistreated during their lives. Many died horrible deaths.

Did you see the list above:
Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.
But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 
They were stoned to death,
they were cut in two,
and they died by being murdered with swords.
They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 

Stoned to death, cut in two(!), murdered with swords, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. We are not far from the pillars of our faith. The writer of Hebrews continues, “The world didn’t deserve them.” Just as sometimes I wonder if the world deserves the love of God, and then I am reminded that God loves me and I do not deserve that.

Know in this life you will be mistreated and oppressed and come up needing. You are in good company. Continue to love the world, to show grace and mercy.

Love Out Loud.

Loving People. Loving God.

Spiritual Direction ~ Spiritual Friendship

How can spiritual direction and spiritual friendship play a role in your own spiritual journey?

It is an interesting thought to think about a pastor getting/needing spiritual direction, as most in the membership of congregations would think pastors are the ones giving spiritual direction, but I recall my psychologist telling me that he goes to therapy regularly and it is required of them to do this.

So why is it not required for pastors to go to spiritual direction?

Spiritual Direction is a process of seeking a deepening relationship with God, with someone who seeks to help you understand how God is moving in your life. This is something every person who claims to follow Jesus should be doing. As I type this and think every person who claims to be a disciple of Jesus should have a spiritual director and I do not. How does that impact the statement I made. We all need a spiritual director, and yet I do not have one. I do have spiritual friends.

I have one friend in particular who was close geographically to me in my last call when I was in the East Central Synod of Wisconsin. We were in the same conference and did a lot of stuff together. We were friends and colleagues and had a great relationship. This friend was also one who I knew that I could go to with the hard hard problems of where was God in this situation and what was God leading or calling me to do or be. I would confide in this person and know that they would not tell me what to do, but help me see/discern where God was and how God was moving. We would talk about the situations and say this is the good part of this and this is the bad part of this and this is the good part of that and this is the bad part of that. And just talk about the options and what God might be up to and how we were supposed to go along with God at this point in time.

I have since moved out of the synod and so has he, but we still maintain this friendship. Conversing on Facebook messenger or calling on the phone. I remember as this friend was contemplating between two possible calls a long conversation about the plusses and minuses of each and how that could have an impact on his life and family. We talked about what God was doing and how following one call would be good for a certain reason, but it would also leave a hole in the other call. And yet God would work in and through everything. How do we choose? We discussed it and then and now as my friend discerned the call to take we rejoice in his ministry and how it will impact the church.

We need those people. The people we can call and say, hey I need help discerning where God is at because sometimes even pastors don’t get it. Sometimes pastors are like where the heck is God? And to have a person you can call on to help you, to listen to what is happening, to ask questions, and not give an answer. That person is invaluable and I am so thankful I have that friend.

So has spiritual direction played a role in my spiritual life? Kind of. I have a great friend, who is a spiritual companion who helps me discern when I can’t do it on my own, and that is something everyone needs.