heaven here. heaven now.

HEAVEN HERE. HEAVEN NOW.

We are all traveling somewhere. Traveling home from work. From Work. To the mountains. Away from the mountains. To a restaurant. Or leaving a restaurant. Life is a series of arrivals and departures. The days are the gates we go through to get there. It started in a garden with two fabled
characters. We know them as Adam and Eve. Adam was brown haired and had a six-pack. Eve was dirty-blonde and had a knack for eating
fruit. Well, at least that’s what we’ve been told.

We have this idea that life is about coming and going. Arriving and leaving. Since we have arrived here on earth we have been waiting to get out of here. We have been pining away for the red light to turn green. For the seatbelt sign to turn off to inform us that the plane has stopped taxying and we can finally go. Yet, this pervasive language that has writhed its way into our culture and language has left a scar we can no longer see.

The world is in pain. Eleven year old girls in Nigeria have sex so their families can buy groceries. Eight year old boys in Pakistan work in factories that make button-down shirts that find their way into our name brand stores. Some coffee farmers don’t even make enough to afford bread for the family. They end up eating coffee beans to stay alive. Which may stop cancer but also creates bloated helpless babies who can’t even cry, because their bodies are so dried up inside. And we as Christ-followers want to get out of here?

Jesus believes we have what it takes to stop this. A Rabbi was once asked, ” If God is so good then why is there so much evil in the world?” The Rabbi stopped and pondered the question for a moment and then proceeded to answer with a smile. He said: “God’s answer to this question is the creation of man.” If we unknowingly promote a mentality where we always want to get out of here and God created us to be here, then what are we saying about God? What are we saying about the world, and even ourselves? God believes that we can stop pervasive evil.

God believes we that our actions can heal. This is the presupposition in the story of the Good Samaritan. It teaches us that hidden in our acts of compassion is the ability to save one another. To bring hope. To bring peace. To redeem. To restore. To bring light into dark circumstances. But, if we are expending ourselves in evacuation theology then the only one who benefits is the one who is getting out of here. Yet, all over scripture is this idea that we are responsible to and for the “other” who is need.

There was a traveling speaker in the first century who used metaphors in most of his writing. In one of his letters, he is talking with a group of people who just can’t seem to get their act together and uses a word picture of a body to share the importance of our need for one another. And how if we do choose to work together, we can change the world. This isn’t a language of arrogance, but an idealogy of empowerment by the very being the created us. When Jesus says that he gives us his peace, the word for give in the Hebrew is bara. It means to create. It echoes back to Genesis 1 where God is creating. What Jesus is basically saying is that all of us have what it takes to go and create peace where is none. This is the same word that Moses uses in his description of God creating something out of nothing. And trust me, there are a lot of places where there seems to be no peace, no love, no grace and no redemption.

And so Jesus invites us to go into these place and create peace. Create love. Create grace and manifest redemption out of nothing. God believes that we are capable of this. But, to do this, we have stick around We have to be willing to make heaven come here. We have to stay and be with those who are living in hell on earth and create heaven where there seems to be none. This is what it means to experience heaven on earth. In fact, in the book of Revelation the author says that a City (our idea of heaven) comes here. God dwells with man, like in the Garden. He comes here to be with us. And He invites us to be there for others. So, what will it take for you to be here. To be here now.

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In Christ, In the name of Jesus, and realities

so we have this sort of idea that if we end our prayers with phrases like “in the name of Jesus” or “amen” that somehow God has to answer them. that somehow these words hold magic and are supposed to release God’s stingy fingers from heaven down to us. that somehow these words hold power to get us what we think we need or want. yet, is that what the word and phrase mean. the word we get for in is the word Bemo in the hebrew. It means through…maybe a better rendering in light of this context, might even be ‘part of’. And so in light of Jesus’ invitation for anyone to join…in the name of Jesus would be more like a reality that people get to experience or be a part of. It is also important to remember that a name wasn’t just a name to the Jews it was who you were, your character and personality all mixed up together in this one phrase that helped define you. So when one uses the phrase ‘in the name of Jesus’ a better way to say it would be: those who are part of the reality of Jesus…which leaves the invitation open to anyone. it leaves the possibilities for anything to happen. because if you leave or concede to the reality of Jesus than it is place where we get to create peace where there is none. create life where there only seems to be death. create justice where this isn’t any. so when we say in the name of Jesus we are essentially saying that we agree with the ways and worldviews of the Rabbi from Nazareth. Paul uses the phrase ‘In Christ’…again Paul is saying that there is a reality of Christ that we all can be a part of, that we can live out and share with others by just living it out. It is not about an ‘in or out’ language that it is so often gets used to mean. It is about being a part of something bigger than ourselves. It is not a hocus-pocus phrase to get what we want or to help us find out who is in and who is out. It is something to be a part of.

missions revisited.

i recently spent some time in Pakistan. and it was an intense time. but my time there got me thinking about missions. so much so that i think what we now call missions might not be what Jesus meant. the quote in Matthew that has been used for centuries to justify all kinds of creative, positive, and also at time destructive ploys to get people “in” the kingdom was a quote taken from an author in a particular time with a particular agenda.

The apostel Paul was fervent that the gospel of Jesus was about the gentiles. that at one time it was about Jews, but now God has shifted his views toward the Gentiles. We even see a bit of this point of view in his disagreement with Peter. Paul wasn’t being exclusive, but he was also dealing with Jewish extremist within the religious sect, so at times, he might seem a bit progressive in his views. It is important to remember that he is dealing with specific issues, like Matthew was as well. Matthew was written around the same time as some of Pauls’ letters. Their works were contemporaries of one another. Matthew would have known about Paul and vice versa. Matthew disagreed with Paul. Matthew believed that Jesus initially came for the Jews and then essentially redraws the boundaries and includes everyone. This is where we get the so-called “Great Commission” from. So, Matthew included this to challenge Paul and his views that the message of Jesus was for everyone not just a particular group. This was the reason why these words were included. Also, Matthew thinks Jesus is the new Moses. Jesus sends out his friends and some others from the top of the mountain. a commandment of sort. like Moses gave his people 10 commandments. Moses also commissioned Joshua to go to the foreigners and Joshua commissioned others to go out as well. There are many echoes here of Old Testament heroes. Matthew is saying Jesus is a big deal. That He believes Jesus is this new messiah and that He is going to lead his people out of “Egypt” (or this time in history, “Rome”). Or out of a destructive way of life. Jesus is this new leader. Maybe what we deem as the Great Commission was more about who Matthew thought Jesus was and why that its important. i will revisit this again soon. but it seems this verse was placed here to prove the deity of Jesus. God gave Moses the commandments. Jesus gave his followers their command. it is important to remember that most of the NT is a commentary on the old. There is a lot of that going on even in the “great commission”.

conversion.

is conversion necessary? i define the word to mean leading someone in what most might call “the sinners prayer”. nowhere in scripture is there a “conversion of any type”. people follow. people walk away. but not one person says a prayer. they make a decision to join or not join Christ’s mission. he doesn’t force them. he doesn’t coerce them. i think our idea of conversion was adopted from marketing strategies from fortune 500 companies. we might need to revisit the idea of conversion also because the word doesn’t appear in scripture as well. the idea is that we live our lives following our rabbi and our lives will change the lives of other. transference. it is inevitable. we should be okay with that being enough. not numbers. no intentions. just being what god has made us. it is about us converting ourselves constantly. becoming more and more like christ. that is enough to change the world. right?