Fragrant Feast

Hidden Valley Hibiscus ©Emmanuelson Photography

Hidden Valley Hibiscus ©Emmanuelson Photography

Peace

greets me

in the morning.

Hummingbird comes to feast

on hibiscus nectar, tasty treat.

I come to drink Living Water

so I can pour it out again.

You quench my thirst daily; I am thankful.

You give me rest from fear, doubt and worry.

Green pastures, still waters are in my heart and home.

Overflowing with Your indescribable peace, Your beacon of grace radiates;

most certainly Your love’s incandescence gleams through my skin.

As I allow this morning’s sustenance to disperse,

this fragrant feast bestows enough to share.

Come as you are, taste, sip.

This banquet is for you.

Fill your hungry heart.

Come, eat, drink,

love, mercy,

Peace.

Just a Seed?

©PicturesofTrees.org

©PicturesofTrees.org

To siblings in the faith who fear their seeds

of love may not be heard or gone astray:

Take heart; like me, I know your hearts do bleed

yet we must not surrender to dismay.

Our call the sheep of Jesus is to feed

and do our best His true heart to convey

amid exclusion, judgment, law and hate.

Our reach with feelings we must not equate.

 

So let me waken memories of note

and lift your cherished spirits as I pray:

Lay down encumbrance; Jesus I will quote:

“Put on my yoke…find rest” this very day.

His yoke is easy, burden’s light to tote.

It is through Him His love we can convey.

As one seed starts to grow into a tree

then twig by twig so many will be free.

 

Those seeds we scatter, God will till the soil.

He’ll water, fertilize, then leave to choose.

While some will flourish, others will recoil.

Although with all His love He courts and woos,

of those there are who choose God’s love to spoil

and let them go He must though grief ensues.

Yet those who sprout His love – those seeds we cast

will bear sweet fruit and freedom’s branches vast.

MustardSeeds2

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a sower took and planted in his field. Mustard seeds are minute, tiny—but the seeds grow into trees. Flocks of birds can come and build their nests in the branches. (Matthew 13:31-32 The Voice)

In Chains

I wonder sometimes how the rules and laws of the first century, Middle Eastern Jewish community have managed to bind chains around this 21st century, Western Christian community in a way that causes the latter to beatify those chains.

©Yeong-Deok Seo http://youngdeok.com

©Yeong-Deok Seo http://youngdeok.com

Until the freedom of God’s love, mercy and grace are longed for, we will not have the unity of faith Christ desired. We as followers must continue through all hardship to build His kingdom here on earth through His love, mercy and grace no matter the cost. I think this is the daily cross Jesus referred to:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

And here we are again, anticipating the 2016 election, tossing words around like weapons. Heaving Bible verses as hand grenades. Instead of offering shelter to the lost and weary, instead of offering mercy to the ones who may feel like weeds in a meadow of flowers, we sling insults and condemnation. We need to give living water to those dying of thirst, not kick sand in their parched faces.

Let’s take one, single, hot-button example.

Is abortion wrong? Does it kill human life? Most Christians would say, “Of course.”

Is our accompanying accusation or condemnation righteous? Not according to Jesus.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3)

 “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:36-38)

“You spend your time judging by the wrong criteria, by human standards; but I am not here to judge anyone. If I were to judge, then My judgment would be based on truth; but I would not judge anyone alone. I act in harmony with the One who sent Me.” (John 8:15-16)

 If we want to end abortion and follow Jesus, what should we do?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

 “If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:26-28, 35)

Our natural instinct is to quote Scripture, declare ourselves right, to allow our passions to kidnap us away from Christ. Derek Flood in his book, Disarming Scripture*, writes,

“Just as Paul’s religious audience in Romans was longing for wrath, so too was the audience of Jesus [in the Temple]. They believed – like so many still do today – that the way justice is fulfilled is by the destruction of their enemies. This violent view was at the heart of the common Jewish messianic expectation which hoped for God to come in vengeance, and thus understood the messiah as a warrior king…However, when they understand that this will involve showing grace and not vengeance to [the enemy], they become furious with Jesus and try to kill him.”

Somehow, we need to hold the dichotomy of loving our enemies in our heads, our hands and our hearts with grace and with mercy, with prayer, and with the power and compassion of the Holy Spirit. Practically?

When we focus on being “right,” quoting “right” Scripture, or determining we have the “right” biblical interpretation, we thoughtlessly marginalize and demean people – God’s people. We must pray for women seeking abortion. We must pray for doctors who perform them. We must welcome them into our homes and to our tables. We must pray for those who don’t comprehend life begins at conception. We must pray for their hearts and minds to be transformed, for their eyes to see and understand. We must engage in civil, loving and respectful conversation without allowing our emotions to enslave us. We must, instead, allow the Spirit’s fruit to reign.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

We must not dress ourselves again in the chains Jesus died to remove.

*Disarming Scripture, Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did ©2014 Derek Flood Metanoia Books, San Francisco, CA

Capillaries

Veins, arteries, capillaries ©Lysergine@deviantart.com

Veins, arteries, capillaries ©Lysergine@deviantart.com

He lives in every drop and vein

Imbues us with the Spirit’s lead

His call-laconic, message-plain:

From law and rule our Christ has freed

 

As we accept His gift of grace

His love immerses every space

And fills our depths, our void; instead

Through capillaries now are fed

 

Compassion waxes; fear does wane

A transformed heart and mind to heed

If we allow His love to reign

From heart to thought to word to deed

 

As He removes the between place

So there is longer no more trace

‘tween me and you, we share His bread

If we allow His love to spread

Jesus and the Pharisees

I am grieved whenever I read a Christian blog and find whole-group condemnation. No love, no invitation, no healing, no compassion – simply exclusion, anger, and judgment.

How can we as Christians pick and choose which of Jesus’ commands to follow? How can we as Christians justify ignoring Him because it’s uncomfortable? Because we think He would be pleased with our “passion?” Because we’ve decided we’re doing His work?

Why is it we think we can choose to ignore “Love your enemy” because our emotions have become a stumbling block? Since when is it okay to withhold compassion from those we hate or disapprove of? How is it we can decide our enemies are not worthy of saving when God wants to save everyone?

God is so real and tangible and we are killing Him. We do Him such a disservice. We tell people how much we hate them and about all of His rules. We use our Bibles as weapons. We use our Bibles to justify our hatred. For God’s sake, be Jesus. BE HIM. Melissa Presser, Work for the Cause, Not the Applause

Matthew ©The Bible Miniseries

Matthew
©The Bible Miniseries

We know the Pharisees were the enemies of Jesus. We know Jesus called out the Pharisees. Did he call them out to shame them and embarrass them? Did he call them out to convince others to hate them? Did he call them out with hatred and anger in his heart? Did he tell any of his followers to hate them or cast them aside? Or did he call them out with love in the gracious hope their hearts would be transformed?

In fact, Jesus formed individual relationships with Pharisees. He had dinner with Simon where he taught humility, acceptance and love. (Luke 7:36-50)

He met with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus suspected Jesus was the true Messiah, was drawn to him and wanted to learn more. (John 3:1-6)

At this time, Israel’s Roman occupiers have given a small group of Sadducees and Pharisees limited powers to rule, and Nicodemus is one of the Pharisees. He holds a seat on the ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, and surprisingly Nicodemus is among those who seek Jesus for His teaching. It appears that he believes more about Jesus than he wants others to know, so he comes at night. (The Voice, John 3:2 note)

While Jesus may or may not have met personally with Joseph of Arimathea, all four gospel writers record Joseph’s attachment to Jesus. Joseph, like Nicodemus, was a member of the Sanhedrin. Joseph disagreed with the vote to cast Jesus as a blasphemer. He became a follower of Jesus who used his own money to claim Jesus’ body and bury him in his own tomb. (Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50-52, John 19:38)

Let’s not forget Saul of Tarsus with whom Jesus formed the most famous of relationships. Saul was a passionate hater of Christ followers. He approved of the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of the faith. He sought and received permission from the High Priest of the Sanhedrin to hunt down and arrest those who followed Jesus. On his way to Damascus to do just that, the resurrected Jesus surrounded him in blinding light. Jesus changed Saul’s heart and mind, and he turned his passion to preaching the gospel of Christ’s love instead of hate. (Acts 9:1-20)

Eventually, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. This apostle brought many to Christ’s love throughout the Eastern world, and wrote thirteen books of the New Testament. But initially, Saul was not accepted by the original apostles. They knew of his past and knew him only as a persecutor. They did not trust him and wanted nothing to do with him. They did not believe he had been transformed by Jesus himself. But another follower – Barnabas – whom the apostles called “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36), spoke up for Saul.

Through love, Barnabas affirmed Saul’s new heart. Through love, Barnabas gave Saul a second chance. Through love, Barnabas ensured Saul was welcomed. Through love, Barnabas assured the apostles did not act as a stumbling blocks to the saving of Saul.

Even though Matthew was not a Pharisee, he was a tax collector, hated and vilified by his neighbors. They considered him an enemy. He was unwelcome in the temple and at the table. Prayer and food. Human staples. Until the love of Jesus came along.

To be like Jesus, we must not be stumbling blocks to the saving of others, whether you like them or not.

Jesus linked anger to murder.

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (The Message, Matthew 5:21-22)

What have you called people or groups of people? Evil? Idiot? Stupid? Think this only applies to believers?

If we are all God’s creation, then He is our Father. All of us. And we are ALL brothers and sisters.

Like it or not.