God’s Love For All, Not Gun Violence!

I cannot image the pain and suffering the parents and family and friends are experiencing after the horrible mass-shooting in Uvalde, TX. I can only see a small part of their pain by seeing their tear-filled eyes and hopeless looks on their faces. I see the sadness of puffy tear-filled eyes of all the reporters, reporting on that senseless tragedy. Over the past few days, I have had countless conversations with people; hearing their pain and anger; along with my pain and anger. 

What is it going to take to end all the senseless gun violence in our country? With that said, I know it will never end. With that said, I believe we need to focus even more on ending gun violence or it will only get worse. I am not against the Second Amendment; however, I truly cannot see - any reason - for anyone - outside of the military and police agencies having access to weapons of mass destruction. They are designed to kill people! They are not guns used in hunting.

I heard the Texas Governor and other politicians say that horrible shooting was caused by mental health issues and not by guns. Really? I agree, there is a huge mental health crisis in our country which needs to be addressed. For people who are Pro-Life, why is mental health not being addressed to the extent it is needed? Why is gun violence not being addressed? With 80-90% of all Americans wanting some form of background checks, red flag gun laws, etc., why does our government not do the will of the people?

I do not profess to have all the answers. I strive to follow what I believe to be God’s and Jesus’ way of life, loving and caring for all people. That is how I view the gospels. That is how I view the entire Bible. For me, it truly comes down to this question. “How we view God, whoever or whatever you believe God to be, is how we will live our lives.

I proudly teach and preach at St. John’s Lutheran Church, that God is love. I believe God’s love is a non-violent love. I see that very clearly from Jesus’ Cross. If God were ever to be a violent, gun-toting God of mass-destruction, I believe it would have occurred on Good Friday! God continued to choose the path of love, allowing Jesus to be murdered, to help our world see what non-bullying love looks like.

What if our world could, or would, follow the “way” of Love? We would have a world filled with less gun violence. We would have a world filled with less mental health issues. We would have a world filled with more hope and peace for all. That’s the world I pray for. That is the world we all need. May the God of Love, fill us with compassion and love to bring more peace and hope into all of our lives.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Simply click on Comment/No Comment.

Jesus said from His Cross, "I am thirsty!" What was Jesus' Thirst?

 Jesus said, “I am thirsty” from His Cross. What was Jesus’ Thirst?

When Jesus said from His Cross on Good Friday, “I am thirsty”, what was He “thirsty” for? Was Jesus simply thirsty from possibly not drinking anything since Thursday night? Was His thirst caused from the incredible amount of water loss he sweated away because of all the physical and mental stress he experienced? Was Jesus’ thirst caused by the horrible whipping He endured causing a massive amount of blood loss?

Jesus’ “thirst” could have been caused by all of those. However, I believe, Jesus’ “thirst” went much deeper than just for His physical need. Jesus could have said, “God, I am thirsty, quench my “thirst”, save me from all this pain and suffering.” However, I believe Jesus’ “thirst” was for the world to know and believe-in God’s love for the world by saying, “God, ‘I am thirsty’, to die, to show the world just how much I, and You, so love the world.”

We at St. John’s believe-in Jesus’, in God’s “thirst” for us to see, know, and live God’s love for the world. Because of Jesus’ “thirst”, that is why we do so much for our world through our many social ministries. Check them out on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stjohnsdonelson

With all the pain and suffering going on in our world, in all of our lives, our world is in desperate need of Jesus’ “thirst”, of God’s love. If you are looking for a faith community that strives to live Jesus’ “thirst” for love, for all people, and as we love to say at St. John’s, “All means all”, you are invited to come join us.

            As always, I welcome your comments. Simply click on the comment/no comment button. Comments can be made anonymously.

Learning the Good News of Jesus Coming Again

The book of Revelation concludes with the words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).  I believe many people are worried, if not outright scared to death by those words. Why? Because they believe, or are made to believe, when Jesus comes again, they might not be “good enough” for God. They fear being cast into the eternal burning fires of hell.
I believe, that is an incorrect view of Jesus, of God. Think about all Jesus did throughout His ministry. He went to, welcomed, accepted, healed, fed, forgave and loved all people. When Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, the angels who appeared to His disciples said, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? Jesus will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). When Jesus first came in love, for all, why would He change when He comes again? I do not believe He will.
            Why do people believe Jesus will change? Why do they believe they are not “good enough” and fear Jesus’ coming? Because of people trying to scare them, to have power and control over them, to serve their purpose, and not God’s purpose of love. I know, this might be, or is, a very contrary message about God, Jesus, and faith. I know, I do not have all the answers about God and Jesus’ Second Advent. I also know, in not knowing everything, especially about God, God helps me to continue to learn more about God.        
As I am open to learning more about God, Jesus, and the faith God gives us, what if, my, and our, understanding of Jesus’ “second coming” will be a time of complete love and forgiveness as Jesus demonstrated throughout His life. What if we learned to believe that? What if we started living that all-inclusive love, now, as we pray in Jesus’ prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven?”
Hmm, if Jesus lived love, for all, and heaven is a place of complete love, for all, what could our world look like “if” we “learned” to live God’s unconditional, all-inclusive love?

As always, I welcome your thoughts, insights, and comments.

The Purpose and Power of Prayer

Here is the YouTube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS1_ni-JYhM

What is prayer? Prayer is our communication with God. I believe, how we define God will define how we will pray, how we will communicate with God. If we define God as self-centered, our prayers will be egocentric. If we define God as judgmental, our prayers will focus on being condemnatory. If we define God as fearful, yes, our prayers will focus on fear. If we define God as love, we will focus our prayers on love. Whichever focus our prayer lives take, that will, most likely, be the way we will live our lives.

What is the purpose of prayer? I believe the purpose of prayer is not to change God. I believe prayer is to have God change us. Whatever our prayer focus is, the more we pray, the more God will change us, to live God’s focus.

There are two questions many, if not all people ask about prayer. One, how do we know our prayers are heard?  And, two, how do we know our prayers are answered? For me, focusing on God as love in my prayers, I can believe my prayers are being heard and answered, by the way God is changing me through my prayers to live God’s love for all.

Having God change us through our prayer life is a life-long process. At different times in our lives, and maybe more often than we will admit to, we pray prayers that are more self-centered and judgmental than loving. Are those prayers bad? No! All prayers, no matter what their focus, are good. We are still communicating with God. Even through those non-loving prayers, God uses them to change us.

That is the power of prayer. In spite of our non-loving focus on prayer, and life, God uses our prayers to continue to change us, to help us define God as love. In doing so, God changes us to live God’s love - for all. I believe, the more we know God as love, God will help us live God’s love for all. What could our lives and world look like if we all prayed for, and were, more loving? Let’s pray about that…

Gracious and patient God of love, thank you for loving me, in spite of all my self-centered and judgmental prayers and thoughts toward you and others. Help change me to know your love. Help change me to live your love for all.  Amen

Defining God’s Radical Love for All in Jesus’ Story of “The Good Samaritan!”

Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) was one of Jesus’ most radical stories of God’s love for all. You hear stories of “Good Samaritan’s” often on the news. As wonderful as those stories are, most, if not all of them, come nowhere near Jesus’ intent in His story of defining one’s neighbor.

 Briefly, when Jesus said the Priest and Levite (the professional church leaders) passed by and did not help the man beaten and left half dead, everyone in the crowd that day knew he was going to say an Israelite (a normal churchgoer) would be the one to stop and help. They talk the talk; we, walk the walk!

When Jesus said a “Samaritan” stopped and helped, there would have been a huge gasp from that crowd. Samaritans to them meant their worst enemy. If Jesus was telling this story to us, it would be like the Grand Dragon of the KKK, in full garb, running into a fire to save an African American. Or, He would have said someone like Osama bin Laden, President Putin, or whoever else you believe to be the most despicable person ever, even those people can do good.

As difficult as it is to believe, that’s how radical God’s love is; always has been; always will be. To prove God’s radical love for the world, for all people, simply look at Jesus’ Cross, hear His words of forgiving everyone, including us, for murdering Him; then, see God’s vindication at the Empty Tomb.

What if, as we learn more about God’s radical love for all, we allowed God to equip and empower us to live God’s love for all our neighbors. What could our lives, what could our world, look like?

If you would like to know more about God’s radical love in this story, please leave me a comment.

Being a Christian versus being a follower of Jesus Christ!

Over the years, the Christian Church has dropped in popularity. I believe, many people have left the Church for a very good reason; we’ve departed from teaching and living as Jesus did. We have become very judgmental, and “law” driven; “You better do this, or that, or else!” We have become very non-Christ-like, threatening people with the wrath and fire of God’s eternal judgment. I believe Churches do that to have power and control over people.

An alternative view of God, found in the Gospels, is the “judgement” of God’s “grace”; God’s gift of forgiveness and love, for all. That view of judgment is seen in all the people Jesus spoke to, called to be disciples, fed, healed, and performed miracles for: men and women, adults and children, religious and unreligious, Jews and Gentiles, all outcasts, and even His enemies. To see the fullness of God’s grace the best, we only need to look at Jesus on His Cross.

What would be the most egregious thing we could ever do to have God condemn us for forever? I believe crucifying, killing God, which we all did because of our sin. And what was Jesus’ response? “Father, forgive them! They do not know what they’re doing!” Since Jesus, God, forgave everyone, for killing Him, who then will God condemn?

As we look at all Jesus did throughout His life to demonstrate God’s love, for all; as we look at all God always did in the Old Testament, to forgive and restore God’s people; what if the Christian Church learned to do the same? What if we were as welcoming, accepting, loving, and forgiving - of all people - as God and Jesus were, and still are?

There shouldn’t be a difference in being a Christian and a Follower of Christ; however, when we don’t follow the way of Jesus, there is. The question is, how we define God, defines how we will live our lives! Do we define God as wrathful and judgmental, “out to get us, or else; bringing pain and suffering?” Or, do we define God as being grace-filled, who came down, to help us see and know, God’s wrath, was on sin, not the sinner, and, to know God has already “gotten” us with eternal love? As Followers of Jesus Christ, may we learn from Jesus’ grace-filled life, to bring God’s peace and hope to the world God so loves.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.