Tag Archives: healing

Jesus Christ Superstar

Read Philippians 2:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God. ” (John 6:67-69 NLT)

JCS-iconI have always been a fan of plays and movies about the life and teachings of Christ. One of favorites, which started as a play and has been made into a movie, is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. The story starts off toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, and it opens with Judas Iscariot questioning what the Jesus movement has become. They had followed him for three years, hoping that he would be their Messiah, and hoping that he would overthrow the Romans and establish his kingdom and reestablish Jewish sovereignty.

Yet things had seriously changed since that day that Judas first joined the band of disciples. Back then, everyone thought of Jesus as another human being, albeit a holy, prophetic, and kingly human being. Since those first days, weeks, months as Jesus’ disciples first joined him on his mission. He started performing miracles, he started developing a following and, according to Judas, he had started developing a God-complex. In the song, “Heaven on Their Minds”, Judas belts out in his high Tenor voice, “I remember when this whole thing began, no talk of God then, we called you a man. And believe me, my admiration for you hasn’t died. But every word you say today gets twisted ’round some other way, and they’ll hurt you if they think you’ve lied.”

While no one knows the real reason behind Judas’ decision to betray Jesus; however, it is clear that all of the disciples followed Jesus with their own hopes and expectation of who Jesus was and who he was going to be. They were hoping he would be a superstar, to use today’s terminology, and they wanted to ride that wave into the Jewish history books. Of course, Jesus certainly did become a superstar and he certainly etched his way into all of the world’s history books; however, Jesus was not the kind of superstar they were all hoping he would be.

He amassed tons of followers, tons of notoriety, and gained a ton of attention; however, Jesus’ message was not one of violent revolt against the Romans, but a peaceful revolution of his own people. While he was no “friend of Caesar”, he also became no “friend” of the political and religious leaders of his own people. He felt that, as the Messiah, his revolution was one of the heart. It was one that would reestablish the greatness of GOD through love, compassion, sacrifice, discipline, justice, mercy, and humility. This kind of revolution made enemies with the Romans and the elites among his own people. Consequently, this Jesus Christ Superstar made enemies among his own friends and followers. Jesus was a superstar for sure, but that superstardom would not result in people crowning him…but crucifying him.

As we are in Lent, let us challenge ourselves to reflect on who we see Jesus to be. What are your hopes and expectations of Jesus? Are they realistic? Are they self-serving? Are they based on what others have told you about him or are they Biblically based? Do you see Jesus as being in your image? Or are seeking the kind of transformation that will lead you to look more and more like Jesus? What’s more, will your hopes and expectations of Jesus lead you to continue growing in your love, admiration and service of him, or will it lead you to grow more and more frustrated and disconnected from him? Remember that Jesus is the King of kings because he cannot be corrupted, manipulated, or bent to our ways. Jesus is Lord because he is unrelenting in his mission of hope, healing and wholeness, and he is uncompromising in his revolution to transform the heart. I pray that, in your Lenten journey, you come to be transformed by this divinely radical revolution.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Neither you, Simon, nor the fifty thousand, nor the Romans, nor the Jews, nor Judas, nor the twelve, nor the priests, nor the scribes, nor doomed Jerusalem itself understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all.” – Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar

PRAYER
Lord, become a revolution in my heart and transform me with the power of your world rocking love. Amen.

Antichrist Superstar

Read Matthew 18:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” (Mark 3:28-29 NLT)

tumblr_static_antichristsuperstarIt was October of 1996, I was 18 going on 19 years old, and I remember the religious fervor that was being struck up by a band that had just hit the mainstream airwaves a year before with their cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These).” Though this band came out in 1994, it was clear that this latest album would become it’s defining moment; for some Christians, choosing to listen to that album would be a soul-damning moment, one that had eternal consequences, and this is just what the band Marilyn Manson was banking on.

It’s not that they were banking that their album, Antichrist Superstar, would send people to hell; however, Marilyn Manson were banking on the religious fervor that inevitably ignited against it, and they rode that money train all the way to the bank. The album, to date, has sold over 7 million copies, with 1.9 million of those copies being sold in the United States alone. That’s probably not what the protesting Christians were hoping for, but it was an unintended consequence of all of their protests.

One of my favorite songs off of the album is the title track, “Antichrist Superstar.” In it Manson writes, “You built me up with your wishing hell, I didn’t have to sell you…cut the head off, grows back hard. I am the hydra, now you’ll see your star.” Many Christians feared that Manson was the Antichrist, that he was leading kids to Satan and ultimately to hell, and that the end of the world was near with the rise of someone who seemed so blatantly Satanic. But when you look at the lyrics, we find some substance beyond all of the theatrics. It is Christians who created this “Antichrist”, and it is Christians who were now protesting his rising like a star.

Brian Warner grew up going to a Christian school that taught him all about the devil. It taught him to fear Satan, but to fear God even more. He was taught that if he didn’t do the right things, think the right things, say the right things, and pray the right things, he would end up going to hell. He grew up having nightmares of the Antichrist coming and devouring him, he grew up having nightmares of God damning him to hell for not living the “good” life. This was what Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson) grew up believing Christianity was. The lyrics to his song, “Antichrist Superstar,” are a mirror of how Christianity represented Christ to him. It was Christianity that had built him up to fear, it was Christianity that taught him God was a God of wrath, and it was Christianity (sadly enough) that helped drive him away from Christ. Of course, it was only a certain brand of Christianity; however, it was the brand he grew up knowing and fearing. Though he attempts to show he’s broken free of that fear, his album is really more of a reflection of how that fear still consumes him.

As Christians, we are not called to be driving the “fear” of God into anyone. Satan only has as much power as we give him. If all we do is focus on evil, on the possibility of misstepping, of the possibility of damnation, then we imbue power into our fears of such things. God has not called us to do that; rather, God has called us to focus on the hope, healing and wholeness that comes through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. What saddens me is that Marilyn Manson, and countless others, have not gotten that memo because the ones who were representing Christ were too busy pushing fear rather than love and acceptance. Let us not be such a people. Let us not fail the little ones who look up to us and model themselves off of us. Let them see within us the light of God, rather that the fear of darkness. Let us not build up antichrists by our wishing hell, but let us build up Christians by showing the love and the light of heaven in all we do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“This is the culture you’re raising your kids in. Don’t be surprised if it blows up in your face.” – Brian Warner

PRAYER
Lord, teach me to move beyond fear and into your eternal arms of love. Help me to grow in that love and share it with others. Amen.

Repent and Believe

Read Hebrews 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSV)

repentAndBelieveToday is Ash Wednesday, and we are entering into the Christian season of Lent. During Lent, which is a forty day period that lasts from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, we enter a period of fasting and of reflection. Christians have traditionally marked the beginning of the Lenten journey by having Ash imposed on their foreheads, a dark and gritty reminder that we are both mortal and tainted by sin. As the ash is marked on the foreheads or hands of the faithful, people are told to “repent and believe the Gospel.”

This year, Ash Wednesday is having a different meaning to me. When I think of the ash that I will no doubt be imposing on the heads of countless people, and of the ash I will have imposed on my head, I cannot help but think of the Jordanian pilot who was lit on fire at the beginning January. When I think of the ashes today, I cannot help but think of the twenty-one Christians who were mass-executed this past weekend. When I think of the ashes today, I cannot help but think of the countless people who have been killed throughout the centuries and millenia for religious differences.

Recently, at a Christian breakfast, President Barack Obama called on Christian leaders to show humility in the face of the imminent threat that ISIL poses to the Middle-East and beyond. He called them to remember what Christians did during the Crusades, during the Inquisition, during American slavery and segregation. Some Christians got upset at this because, while there is no denying that some Christians have done some pretty evil things in the name of Christ, they believed his call to humility only served to play into the propaganda of the ISIL organization.

While this point can be argued, what can’t be argued is that many terrible things have been done by many people in the name of their religion. Honestly, with or without Christian history, people would be killing and maiming in the name of their beliefs. What is sad about this is that most of these belief systems speak much more about the need for peace, love, compassion, humility and mercy than they speak on the need for killing and maiming. But all religious systems can be, and have been, interpreted in ways that “justify” doing great acts of evil.

Rather than getting outraged about being called out on the atrocities of the past, we should be outraged about the atrocities of the present. Rather than pointing at the past as a way of reminding others of what people long dead have done, we should be reflecting on the ways in which we can help to stop the sins we are committing right here and right now? We don’t have to look at the middle-east to see that we have been complacent in the face of suffering, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a sagely oracle to realize that such complacency has us far away from the heart of the Gospel.

Today, on this Ash Wednesday, Christ is calling us to repent and to believe the Good News. Let us repent of the ways in which we have been complacent, and let us begin to live into the Gospel as if we ACTUALLY believe in it! Let us begin to live in solidarity with those who are suffering. Let us pray for the countless Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and others who are being put to death because of their beliefs. Let us begin to treat others with the respect that should be afforded all human beings, who are created in the image of God. If we live in such a way, we will have truly received the Lenten message and will have begun our journey to the cross. It is there, and only there, that we will truly die to ourselves and resurrect into a new and glorious life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” – Thomas Carlyle

PRAYER Lord, today I repent and ask for you to reveal your Gospel within me so that I may believe and follow it. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #15: Competition

Read Philippians 2:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (James 3:16 NRSV)

beat-your-ecommerce-competitorsJamie Dornan, an Northern Irish actor known for his role as Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC series “Once Upon a Time”, is quoted as saying that “everyone likes a bit of competition.” In our Western society, and in world history as a whole, competition has been a driving force. There is a truth that we all love a bit of competition, as it breeds creativity, it pushes us to excel, it demands of us our very best, and it has propelled the human race forward throughout the millenia; however, at what cost? As a result of competition, and the desire to compete, some inevitably come out on top as the winners and many come out on the bottom as the losers. As much as competition has driven the human race forward, it has set many in the human race back. Just look at the results of competition including, but not limited to, abject poverty, famine, disease, lack of medical supplies, lack of natural resources, wars, etc. This brings us to Pope Francis I’s 15th ailment of the church.

Ailment of the Church #15: Competition. While Pope Francis named his 15th ailment of the church “seeking worldly profit and showing off”, I think this can best be summarized as competition. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God and the reversal of competition, where the first would be last and the last would be first. This economy of heaven is supposed to be reflected by Christ’s church; however, the reality is that we find that the church is often the breeding ground of competition and that we much more reflect the kingdoms of this world far more than we reflect the Kingdom of God.

Throughout Christian history, the church has splintered and divided. Each splinter church has become its own denomination and each denomination has found itself competing against the next. Of course, those denominations ended up splitting over theological and, sometimes, socio-political differences, which is sometimes a necessary thing. Yet, it has also opened the door for competition between the denominations. Within communities, different churches strive to bring in the most members, in order to bring in the most money in, in order to have the most resources to do the most ministry. What’s worse is that there is competition within denominations for who can have the largest church with the most turnout. All of this to amass status within an organization that is not supposed to be viewing people as better or worse, but as unique parts with equal importance in the body of Christ.

For Christ, it is not about who is bigger or better or stronger or smarter or wealthier or most productive; rather, it is all about faithfulness. Faithfulness cannot be competed for, it cannot be measured in greater or smaller. One is either faithful or they are not. Faithful disciples will produce fruit for the Kingdom, unfaithful disciples will not. God does not care who has the biggest church with the largest congregation. God does not care who has the greatest praise band or who is somehow measured to be the most vital congregation. What God cares about is the lives of those he has created.

Each community is filled with such lives and the church is called to bring them the Good News of God’s presence with them, as well as God’s love for them. Rather than competing for worldly profit and/or status, rather than being show offs with nothing to show for it in the Kingdom of God, Christ is calling us to be faithful in bringing his Good News of hope, healing and wholeness to the communities we live in. Let us stop competing and start recognizing that in the Kingdom of God, we are all winners. It’s time to usher that reality in.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” – Indira Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, help me to move beyond competition. Rather than striving to be better than others, help me to strive to be faithful in all that I do. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #14: Cliques

Read Proverbs 6:16-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” (Matthew 12:25 NLT)

clicks-sand-cliquesDo you remember high school? I remember when I went to freshman orientation, we were all told that we could expect that high school would be the best four years of our lives. Now, that is some promise that comes with a whole host of different expectations depending on who the person with those expectations is. For me, I expected that the best four years of my life would be years in which I was accepted for who I was, that I was treated with respect and love, and that the segregation that existed between the popular groups and the outcasts would cease to exist. Unfortunately, high school did not deliver; rather, it became the opposite of the best four years of my life.

15 Ailments of the Church #14: Cliques. In the fourteenth of Pope Francis I’s 15 Ailments of the Church, he writes that one of the ailments is that Christians tend to “form ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole.” These “closed groups” are what are more commonly known as cliques and they are the bane of the church. While Francis is addressing the forming of such groups within the church, I want to bring it to the macrocosom for a moment. The reality is that the church, as a whole, has become a clique. Those who are within the “closed group” of the church are “saved”, “worthy”, “righteous”, “holy”, “pious”, etc. Every one outside of the church are considered “lost”, “unsaved”, “unholy”, “unrighteous”, “evil”, “sinful”, “misguided”, “damned”, etc. This sort of “us” versus “them” outlook at the world is exactly the opposite outlook that Jesus had in his life and in his ministry.

Cliques are a perversion of the community God has created us to form and play a part in. The Kingdom of God is an all-inclusive community that welcomes all people regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, what they do or don’t believe, etc. The only ones excluded from this holy community are the ones who choose to exclude themselves. Cliques, on the other hand, are not communities at all. They are groupings of people seeking to have power and status over others. They are groups that seek to undermine the whole and who seek to destroy those who they consider to be beneath them.

Unfortunately, cliques are prevalent within Christian places of worship, within Christian institutions, and within all aspects of Christianity. There are cliques within the hierarchy of the church, cliques that clergy take part in, and cliques that laity take part in. The church is filled with cliques, with gossip, with slander, and with other forms of evil. All of this, whether we want to admit it exists or not, is to the detriment of the church as a whole.

Christ is calling us to break up our cliques. Christ is commanding us to return to God’s understanding of community. Relationships with others are a beautiful thing when those relationships strengthen and build up the whole; however, when they work to tear down or be better than the whole, they are terribly destructive and antichrisitian. We are called to be the former and to completely avoid being the latter. Christ is challenging us to live as he lived, to love as he loved, and to embrace the world with that love, even if we don’t embrace the ways of the world. Remember Christ’s call for us to be perfect, even as our father in heaven is perfect. It’s a tall order, indeed, and cliques don’t play into it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Try to have as diverse group of friends as possible and don’t get into the clique scenario.” – Andrew Shue

PRAYER

Lord, break me away from the temptation to be a part of cliques so that I may work toward being inclusive of all. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #13: Wanting More

Read Matthew 16:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:12 NLT)

money-grabAh, lucky number thirteen. Yes, you heard me right, I just love the number thirteen. I was born on the thirteenth and have always felt that the number thirteen was kind of my lucky number. It is true that the thirteenth chapter of Revelation is the chapter about the rising of the beast that is to be known by its number, six hundred and sixty-six. It is true that many since the eradication of the Knights Templar have held the superstition that Friday the 13 is an unlucky day. But the truth for me has always been that thirteen is a great number, and there for I am excited to be writing about Pope Francis I’s thirteenth ailment of the church.

Ailment of the Church #13: Wanting More. We are living in a culture of excess. There is nothing, relatively speaking, that we do not have in terms of materialistic stuff. We have nice houses, easy access to whatever stores we want, cars to take us from point a to point b in no time at all, and we have technology to do practically everything for us. We have our food grown and/or raised for us, harvested and/or butchered for us, and often times cooked for us at any one of our many choices of restaurants. Our holidays are feasts that could feed third world countries, our houses have enough power to light up said third world countries, and our lifestyles literally gorge on the vital resources that could majorly benefit third world countries.

With all of that said, we are living in a culture that is literally eating iteslf to death. No, I don’t merely mean this in a literal sense with the high rates of obesity, heart disease, and preventable cancers (though that is a part of it); rather, I mean this in a much more all-inclusive way. We are so full to the brim with everything we could ever want, and yet we are always hungry for more. What’s sad is that this is not just pervasive in our society; however, this sort of disease is prevalent in the church as well.

As the church, we should be content in all things. Whether we have tons or we have nothing, we should be grateful for everything. We have been given, literally, the keys to eternal life and the power to usher the Kingdom of God into this world; however, that’s not enough is it? We have found ourselves wanting of more. We want bigger churches, with bigger and more sustainable budgets, and higher attendance. Individually, we the members of the church want the same sort of lifestyle found in the world. We want more stuff, we want more status, we want more power. But Christ, has called us to deny such things, to pick up our cross and to follow him.

So, which is it? How long will we continue to be mired by the stuff that consumes us and, if we continue to be stuck in this mire, how much longer can we really call ourselve Christians? Are we still Christians at this point? Are we still followers of the Christ who forsook all status and power in order to bring us redemption and life? Christ is calling us to something better than the stuff we are seeking after! Christ is calling us to something better than the mire we find ourselves in. Christ is seeking to heal the disease that we have brought on in ourselves through our covetous desire to have more. Today’s challenge, perhaps our life’s challenge, is to stop coveting, to stop wanting more, and to be content in all things.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Happiness consists not in having much, but in being content with little.” – Marguerite Gardiner

PRAYER

Lord, create in me a contentment in all things that I may move forward and being a living example of the abundance that is in you. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #12: Having a Funeral Face

Read Romans 15:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 NRSV)

Dead-RosesWhat does a Christian look like? Can you tell one a part from anyone else in the world? What sets a Christian a part from the non-Christians, apart from the Christian’s profession of belief in Jesus Christ? Are we joyous, happy, loving, caring compassionate, understanding, patient, and forgiving? Or, when the world looks at us, does it see a reality that is far different than  our own self-perception of ourselves? I could go in a different direction with this, but for now, I will stick with the next of the Pope’s 15 Ailments of the Church.

Ailment of the Church #12: Having a Funeral Face. The church is supposed to be a people of hope, a people of unending joy, a people are are moved by compassion, and a people that are driven by love. Yet, in reality, the people of the church fall well short of that. First, let me remind you that by church I do not mean the building that people worship in. That is a place of worship, but that is not “the church.” Yes, most of the time when people enter our places of worship they see a happy people. But happiness and joy are two different things. I am not so certain they find joy when they walk into our doors.

When people see the church, whether it be within a place of worship, within a Christian organization, or within our community and/or the world, most people see a people who are angry, judgmental, manipulative, cut throat, filled to the brim with deceit and overflowing with the unholy art of slander through gossip. What’s more, they see a people who are cynical rather than hopeful. They see a people who are sullen as opposed to a people who are filled with God’s joy. They see a people who are fearful rather than a people who are faithful.

This is what I believe Pope Francis I calls, “Having a Funeral Face.” Christians, if we truly believe what the Bible and our own collective experiences tell us, should be acting as if they are at a great wedding celebration…not as if they are sitting at a funeral waiting for the body of the dearly departed to be brought out for burial. We should be joyful, hopeful, faithful, full of excitement and inviting of others to join us. Everyone LOVES a good party. Everyone loves to get invited to a great party; however, no one loves attending funerals and no one is bound to get excited about a funeral dirge.

We, as the church, need to get excited again. We need to take off our funeral face and throw it into the fire. We need to remember that we celebrate a RISEN and LIVING CHRIST. We are called to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and to partake in it, so that others may share in the same hope we have. Christ is calling us to be the people the church was called to be. Christ is inviting us to leave the funeral and rejoin the wedding. The door is open and the opportunity presents itself. Will we be a people consumed by the death of our very own faith, will be consumed by our own funeral sores? Or will we be resurrected with the LIVING CHRIST and live a life of pure and eternal joy and peace? Will continue down the road of hopelessness, or will we be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. The choice is ours to make.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The dead do not know the value of white sheets.” – Haitian Proverb

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for breathing life into me. Guide to a better way of living and expressing my life in you. Fill me with your joy, your peace and your love! Amen.