Forgive Oneself, Forgive One of One Another

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col. 3:13”

We all experience the desire for a “clean start”. Sometimes this feeling comes from a mistake we’ve made in a relationship that hurt another person; sometimes it wasn’t a mistake but a sinful action or unintended consequence of our anger, jealously, envy, etc.; it could come from looking in the mirror of self; at the beginning of seasonal change, people feel the urge to “purge” and get rid of things or bad habits; it could be a death or an illness. Mostly, however, this occurs when a calendar year begins or a birthday cake is either celebrated or tossed in the trash. Folks are universally motivated to get a clean slate, both from ancient history to current human enlightenment.

The two hardest things to do in adult life are to forgive oneself of our sin or personal doofiness…and to forgive another adult who’s sinned against you, or was a doofus ignoramus and hurt you unwittingly. If you think about it, it’ll be hard to follow one of the two commands Jesus gave us, if we can’t forgive:

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Lk 10:27

How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself?

Forgiving yourself is the foundation of loving yourself. Rather than living with self-hatred and loathing over our sin, God expects Christians to live a forgiven life and to express that peaceful existence as we share the hope “living inside us”. God said to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you”, which means forgiveness begins with us first and extends outward. We should only hate the sin that separates us, Rom. 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Our eyes should not be fixed on the ugliness that our sin-self mirrors, but rather the motivation to be forgiven and help others seek forgiveness, or get it from us. “Fix our eyes on Jesus…” Heb 12:2. He is the image we focus our on in life. He is the best wrinkle-healing, stress relieving, spiritual food conscious choice we can put into our life.

As you search your heart to make sure you’ve forgiven yourself, you’ll inevitably discover another person you have trouble forgiving. They may remind you of a quality you don’t like about yourself, or are such a contrast to you that you have contempt for how they’ve treated you. We all have someone we have a hard time forgiving. It is our nature. The secret to doing this lies in how completely you’ve forgiven yourself for your darkest, deepest sin. Once we can relate to how much love it takes for God to forgive us, we are on the path to giving up that person’s sin as an eternal judgement against them. Their ultimate eternal forgiveness lies with God, not us. Our earthly unforgiveness will only hinder our eternal standing, not theirs. It is better to forgive now than be “forgotten “ later,  Matt. 7:23.

 

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions, 2016

 

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Martyr, Myth, or Son of Man

Our connected world has martyrs on display each week. There are the terrorists who strapped with bombs, scream phrases of worship, as they die in a hail of bullets or explosion; gunmen who kill bystanders to make a statement about their repression or depression; fundraising crusaders sacrificing their time and life, who bring awareness, even funding, to a need and they become the de-facto financial beneficiaries of their martyrdom; politicians and civic leaders claiming to sacrifice their careers, glory, and personal dreams for the community of people they seek to govern, only to have their personal lives explode as the truth of their corruption is exposed. Where’s a good martyr today? Where have all the martyrs gone?

I ask you to consider this thought: martyrs are a human creation, a consequence of our communities and socialization. Our humanity’s frail existence is based on one premise: we are breathing, alive and sentient. Once our earthly life ends…the rest is a mystery we struggle to fathom. We can, however, see our fragile existence as our only reality. This magnifies our need to have heroes who overcome the natural and observed boundaries of humankind, or to have myths explain our human suffering, as Sisyphus, the first true member of the Rolling Stones. The Greeks were major players who codified the use of sophisticated gods to express the human need for myths. The question to consider: is Christianity or Jesus Christ defined by our world by martyrs or myths? Yes, to Christianity and No for Jesus Christ.

Christianity, the religion, is a creation of humanity’s interaction and response to God’s plan for Creation. For some, the Plan is enough to create and sustain their faith. Often these folks are considered intellectually diminished for their acceptance, belief.  Others need, or have needed, more to prove their faith for themselves or to convince others. This natural longing for more is inherent in our desire to explain things that are bigger than us. It isn’t wrong or immoral in its character or inclination, though it can take on that form. It is simply how we are built. Martyrs and myths are created to fill the void needed for taking leaps of faith, which take us on to the other side of whatever spiritual journey we are traveling. Neither the view of the simple minded faith or the complexity of needing more, should attack or accuse the other of infidelity towards God or Jesus. Rather, accepting how others express faith, is grace. It is letting God decide how best to help those walking toward or with Jesus.

Jesus never was given the charge of being a martyr. The word wasn’t even a part of God’s vocabulary in the Bible. Paul’s reference to Stephen’s death (Acts 22), is the only time the word is used. Stephen did not purpose his death as a martyr, others created it. Jesus did not see his role as being a martyr, but rather a man with purposed conviction to live his life according to God’s words. From the beginning of his ministry as an adult he asked people to follow him (Matt 4) as he followed God. He challenged others to be worthy, by imitating his life (Matt 10). It’s actually kind of wacko for someone to make such a claim, but his true and stated ambition was to show how we could have a relationship with our Creator. Unlike others, Jesus goal was not to die. It was to trust God to bring him back to life, through his death, so that anyone could have a relationship with God. Death and worshiping it’s means, was not the goal, the resurrection was the goal.

So what about the “myth” of his resurrection? Have there been any myths created through the religion of Christianity, because God does know there have been plenty of “martyrs”! Jesus’ resurrection is the quagmire of intellectually substantiation of faith. The realm of history clearly states that Jesus was a real man on earth. Both the Romans and the Jews would have been complete idiots to not display his body to disprove his resurrection, from the date of death onward. It is so improbable that his disciples took the body from elite Roman soldiers, that the recorded history of the empire was that the Jews did it to keep his followers from proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection was true. If there were a bus in those days, you’d say the Jewish leaders just got thrown under it! However, if that were true, they surely would have shut down the whole Pentecost Party in Acts 2 by showing these “believers” Jesus’ body. The man Jesus died. Roman history records his life and death, and does its best to hide his resurrection. Like much with faith in any God, or supposed written word: the truth is 50/50. It either is or it isn’t. It is defined by the historically defined existence of one man: Jesus. Jesus not only existed, he vexed the greatest power of human existence

Jesus said from John 5:16-30:

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Your choice: Martyr, Myth or the Son of Man?

 

 

 

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The True Power of THE Resurrection

There is very little in life that you can guarantee, as long as you are alive:

#1 will always be death; once given life, death is inevitable

#2 the universe is beyond your control

#3 human-kind will be good and evil

Maybe you have others, but these few alone leave one feeling a bit overwhelmed with how these guarantees are so all-encompassing and leave many questions as to how did we get here and why? God believed in His creation so much that He hoped for us to discover His love, embedded in our existence. Setting aside the battle between good versus evil, the other two are ominous as to how our Creator has designed us to be in a position to look for Him and realize that we are as infinitely powerless as the vastness of the universe and the mystery of life’s creation and death. Yes, we know how we procreate and why death occurs, but there’s still enough mystery to keep us honest about the power behind both. God’s design works if you let it hit you right between your mind and heart. He forces us to face who we really are in the scheme in Creation.

The one troublesome area to accept in Creation, that makes little sense at times, is the struggle between good and evil. How is one to overcome such horrendous evil that surrounds our lives, some, in which we’ve participated? Though it is not as ominous as the other two, this battle is also designed to demonstrate how much God loves us. We agonize over the wars, child abuse, drugs and alcohol taking lives, along with violence, hatred and obsessive and indulgent life choices. How can you live in this world and NOT sin, hurting yourself and those you love? How can one person change the world around them?

John 3:16 is so very true, He loved us so much that He sent us His son to show us how to live in the midst of evil. God had faith to believe Jesus could live a life without sin; He hoped for mankind to follow His steps and He loved us so much, that He let Him die so that we could have an example of a human being tempted in everyway, but never choosing sin. Jesus had no special powers to resist sin, just faith in His Father to get Him what He needed; He hoped for His people to gather with Him and He hoped to be rescued by His Father; Jesus loved us so much, that He laid down His life, He loved His Father so much that He stayed on the cross and waited…His and Our Father raised Him from death to live forever as His Son and Our Savior.

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions 2015

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The Temptations: A singing group from the 60’s & 70’s or the Real World?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

If we want to understand the foundations of music history in America, The Temptations are some of the roots to modern American Pop, Soul and Hip Hop music. They were not recognized, at that time, for their cutting edge use of lyrics, music construction, harmonies and beats, though their influence changed the way music feels and sounds, across a wide spectrum of musical genres. If you want to understand the foundations of our humanity and the uniqueness of choice for our mortal soul, Jesus is the key to unlocking that mystery. I know you are wondering: “What in the world does Jesus and this music group have in common?” The answer is: the temptations.

It amazes me that this aspect of Jesus’ life is taught and preached so infrequently and one of the areas least considered by theologians and everyday disciples of Jesus. It’s a stumbling block for most because to accept it as reality, impugns our commitment to imitate Jesus, to die to our sinful nature and choose righteousness. Acceptance declares we have no legitimate excuse, because Jesus’ pure humanity, without sinning, means we don’t have to choose sin either. Just as Jesus wiped away all of our sins in baptism he also wiped away all of our excuses for choosing sinful thoughts or actions.

I admit, I like to have an excuse when something goes wrong or I have chosen wrong, or simply made a mistaken choice. Probably 99% of the world feels the same way. I left out the 1% that are infants or young children who don’t understand that concept yet! Though the overwhelming majority of humanity would like it to be otherwise, Jesus’ way, truth and life encourage us to get back to being the innocent 1%…to become like the child we once were: carefree, learning, not worried about mistakes because they are loved and protected, nurtured and guided (1Pet 5:7, Matt. 6:34, Phil. 4:6-8) as our Father has promised us. Jesus’ perfection should bring us humility, which submits to God’s power, not fear or anxiety of becoming perfect, but an absolute surrender to accept His love.

Copyright 2015 TwoHills Dood

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Welcome to the Priesthood!

Most folks want to be viewed as unique and/or special. A few might want to be recognized and notable to others, while some people choose to be anonymous or “under-the-radar” while still being known for their individual traits. In most cultures that have religion or worship, there is a minority of people who are given the title, responsibility or have earned the calling of being the “priest” or “medicine man”, “empress” or “witch doctor”. These individuals are set apart for their ability to connect their culture or community to the spiritual realms that influence their earthly, and sometimes, after-life. It is important to note that, in virtually all instances of such arrangements, these individuals are small in number and not ever in the majority…with the exception of one religion…New Testament Christianity.

1Peter 2:4-10 is very clear AND specific. Followers of Christ, true disciples, true Christians are being built into a “holy priesthood” and they are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood”, according to the apostle Peter. Though they may be unique to their broader village, community or culture, among other Christians they are all viewed the same and equal: priests. What does that mean? I’m glad you asked! To understand the full role and responsibility of being a priest, it would take many pages to explain, so let’s zoom in on the key role of a priest from the Bible, which is to represent God to mankind and to represent mankind to God.

From Melchizedek, to Aaron, the Levites and to Jesus, their main responsibility was to represent God’s communication and man’s connection to their Creator and Father of their lives. Others words for this role might be: mediator or channeler or medium. But that is not the word God uses to describe because the definition of the word “priest” is rooted in sacrifice; one who offers sacri-fice. This is more than a mediator, it is a position of sacrifice in a variety of ways that are supposed to help make God’s and mankind’s communication and relationship with each other better and best; a solid definition for a Christian.

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions, 2015

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Christmas Celebration Brunch

We will be at the Granby Building, Sunday Morning December 21st for a 9am Brunch and then communion worship afterwards. Please contact Cookie Hastings to sign up for food and drinks items.

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Let’s Keep Love Simple

What are the two greatest commands? Jesus was asked this and gave us: #1 Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; #2 Love your neighbor as you love yourself…simple, straightforward, and not too complicated, right? It only becomes complicated because of how each of us defines the operative word in those commands, “love”. We can examine the root meaning from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic language and try to parse out the definition, or, we can simply try to live out the word itself, as best we each know how. I like that idea and I hope you do, too.

The reason practical demonstration of living out love is encouraging to me is that this it’s the way we live everyday. We do what we love to do, or have to do because we love someone or something. People around us experience our passions, whether we intend them to or not. If we are in love with food, clothing, partying, our children, whatever, people will see it and its manifestations. It will be what we talk about, what we spend our time doing or planning to do. It would be highly unlikely for someone to say about a fellow, “yeah, he really loves his grandkids…” if the person didn’t have any grandkids, right? The obvious is so much fun because it’s easy! Our adult children show us what they learned from us as parents, by the way they live their life. The other day one of my sons saw my guitar and picked it up to play and stated he hadn’t touched one in several years. He began playing a song I wrote when he was a very young child, played quite a bit through his time at home, though I never taught him. As he worked though the chord progression I stated that I didn’t remember teaching him the song and that was pretty “stud” he could play it after so much time. He said to me the unforgettable words: “I remember it because I watched you play it, I liked it and wanted to play it because it was a good song.”

How did I feel? Warm fuzzies, at first…then it hit me afterward, I hope when he watched me do the important things in this temporary, earthly life that he wants to imitate the way I’ve lived my life because it’s a “good song” too. Time will reveal that. Wow, I’m getting more grateful every day that following Jesus is not complicated; sacrificial, yes, but not complicated. Two commands, one God, one Jesus, one Holy Spirit, one faith and only one life I can live at a time.

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The Art of Living: Jesus Style

The Art of Living: Jesus Style

Is it fiction or is it true? Jesus said in the Gospel of John chapter 10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Other than Jesus saying He is the Son of God AND that He would save us from our sins, this promise of a full life is audacious in its essence. It may actually be easier to accept the ethereal truth of intangible deity and forgiveness than the real-world tangible results of living on this earth. Someone could say that He is only talking about eternal life but that would put the context of when he said it out of kilter. Rather, the two concepts of life, eternal and earthly are tied together as to the purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth as a man, and as the Son of God.

You may ask (and I hope you ask yourself) the reasonable question: “Why is it important that Jesus’ intention is to give us a full life is both eternal and earthly?” That is because without one, you cannot have the other. They are tied together. If you aren’t born into this earthly realm, you cannot experience the forgiveness and grace of living in the flesh and overcoming sin, yours and others. If you experience an earthly life but deny the eternal power of God, then your earthly life will end and you will still experience eternity, but not to the fullness that God wants or designed for His creation. If you experience earthly life and follow Jesus, there is a promise that you will have a full life, learning how to love God and mankind, the two greatest commandments. In fact, Jesus promises that we can know His voice and that He will be our Shepherd. This meaning implies that He will feed us, keep us safe and lead us to the best pastures for our lives.

The thieves of this worldly existence try to lead us as well. They influence to want “things” or to place value on objects, possessions, people and ideas that keep us focused on the self and its wants. Promise after promise is heard across the sound of radio, tv, movies, music and written on the pages of books, magazines, newspapers, blogs and the like. These commitments are shallow and can be life-sucking or destructive. Pursuit of these dreams is not the problem. It is the belief that by obtaining such we will find our happiness. Pursuit of happiness begins and ends with finding the balance of power we give the competing voices for our ears and minds: the voice of the thieves of this world and voice of Jesus calling to us. God uses all things to teach and guide us, but not all things are profitable for one’s soul. May God grant us the continued grace to find His truth, to find the right balance.

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions, 2014

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The Art of Love

The Art of Loving

Every adult has a definition of love, whether they can articulate it or not. Infant children experience love and often express it in terms adults can understand…with smiles and giggles or cries and frowns. Watching a newborn develop and grow from a Grandparent’s perspective, it is clear now I missed this. As a young father my concerns were different and my attentiveness was focused on just providing. Now I can see the nuances of how being loved causes one to react for both infant and adult.

An infant that is warmly loved and has the affections and attention of a mother and father, and others, will experience the care and comforts of their needs being attend-ed. Kept fed, dry, sheltered, kissed, hugged and given almost constant attention, an infant enjoys this stage of life. During this period, when discomforts come, the cries and frowns produce reaction to their needs and response times are quick. The happy faces and laughter come from the “everything is good” periods and quite naturally, these are the times we ALL adore and cherish. However, you can’t have one without the other. This is a reality that affects both sides of this love equation.

As the child ages and the loving parents allow the infant to entertain his or her self, the attention to the cries become more attuned to the parents perception of what is a threat to safety, an irritation of health or emotion, or simply wanting attention. There are no parents that get this 100% correct and thus, the learning curve and the development of the art form of loving as a parent. All the books written about par-enting piled as high as Mount Everest won’t help a parent make a correct decision about a parenting choice, if love for your child isn’t at the center of that decision. Because there are so many competing love interests for adults, parents have difficulty in having perfectly clear decisions. Add to this the human dilemma of not being able to see the future or the past clearly and you now have a major flaw in your choice: you don’t really know how it will turn out. It is not black and white. It is colored with options.

God does have that ability as our Father. He can tie it all together, love us, guide us; give us the choices and work to bring us home to Him. We can learn to love with patience the way He does. We can learn to love the way He allows us to make choic-es and clarifies our options. We can learn to love by the way He forgives and allows us to make mistakes, and still be loved. After all, it is an art form and our souls are the canvas.

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions, 2014

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The Art of Fasting and Prayer

The Art of Fasting and Prayer

Some people want the world to be black and white when it comes to spiritual or religious teachings. Some people want no guidelines and believe our metaphysical existence entitles each living creature an innate key to tapping into the power of creation. Some believe it is nonsense to entertain a notion of the unseen and that all can be explained by mere physical entity. Some believe there are elements of all of the above, and are searching for answers to understand how the puzzle comes together. Others have the jigsaw pieced together and are shocked at how dumb everyone else is for not having figured it out. There are folks who are confident in what they believe, yet remain searching to understand more; open to new ideas and learning; making mistakes, hard choices and exploring for answers, rather than trying to create a religious, spiritual or secular philosophy that will protect them from their insecurities and insulate them from discoveries of other “truth”.

What does this have to do with fasting and prayer? The connection is that a person’s view of what they need from God (the world around them) will affect their fasting and prayer life. Yes, I wrote that… fasting and prayer life. Jesus did assume that fasting would be a part of our everyday life (Matthew 6:16ff), not if but when. The same for prayer (Matthew 6:5ff), it is not if, but when. The problem is the “when” gets caught in definition, because each person has his or her own viewpoint. When several random artists take to painting or drawing a painting or picture, it would be extremely unlikely that any of the renditions will match exactly. From color variations to angles, lighting and mood, the artwork of each will reflect their own perspective…but it is their artwork nonetheless. Figuring out your fasting and prayer life is much the same way. It has to fit your perspective and your relationship with God.

There are many examples of both fasting and prayer that one could imitate in the Bible and ultimately it is up to each follower of Christ, student of Jesus, Christian, soldier of Jesus, disciple of Jesus…however you want to describe yourself…to figure out how and when to fast and pray. Always remembering it is not if, but the when, that counts in Jesus’ teaching and life example. I believe that this takes a lot of pressure off the “religious” aspect and helps one focus on the art of doing it.

©Copyright TwoHills Dood Productions, 2014

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