Saturday, June 30, 2007

United Methodist Church and Universalism

I go to a United Methodist Church on a fairly regular basis. Although they seem pretty traditional in their view of hell, the following is from their official website. Seems they consider it a "gray" area and that there are persuasive arguments on both sides of the issue. Hmmmm. At least that is not a "no way Jose" like some churches.

Beliefs and Social Issues
Question: Does The United Methodist Church believe in universal salvation
Answer: The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church includes a section titled Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task, which records the official theology of The United Methodist Church.

The section on Distinctive Wesleyan Emphases includes a description of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. When a Christian, by the grace of God, accepts God's "pardoning love," he or she enters into a transformational process whereby there is every assurance of salvation.
The Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church make the same point. Article XX - Of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished Upon the Cross affirms the salvific act of crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for salvation for all persons. The added Article "Of Sanctification" states that position in other words. The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church echoes the beliefs stated in the doctrinal statements of The Methodist Church (see particularly Articles VIII, IX, XI, and XII).

While these statements of doctrine state that salvation is AVAILABLE to all persons, they stop short of saying that salvation is GUARANTEED to all persons. There is the stated or implied condition that, while God's grace is necessary for salvation and that humankind cannot in any way attain salvation without God, that there is certainly an element of awareness and cooperation on our part to order our lives after the image of Christ if we have the capacity to do so.

There are persuasive arguments that include the faithful, thoughtful, and respectful use of Scripture on both sides-- affirming and denying universal salvation. The Book of Discipline, which is the only official printed voice of the UMC, does not make a statement specifically about universal salvation. This places the question in a possible gray area, but the Discipline says what it says. One must read the doctrine there and attempt to understand it as well as possible.
Rev. Dr. Diana HynsonDirector of Learning and Teaching Ministries in the CongregationGeneral Board of Discipleship

Preaching Peace Nonviolent Atonement Conference

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, there was a box of DVD’s sitting on the porch from the Preaching Peace Nonviolent Atonement Conference held last January. They are available from the Preaching Peace website at the following link:

Following is the list of topics covered

Michael Hardin
“Out of the Fog: New Horizons in Atonement Theory”

Tony Bartlett
“Wide Open: Atonement as Human Re-Creation”

Sharon Baker
“The Repetition of Reconciliation”

J. Denny Weaver
“The Nonviolent Atonement: Why the Violence Is Not God’s”

Mark Baker
“The Fullness of Christ: Changing the Way We Think about Atonement”

Tom Finger
“Anselm & Anabaptist Renderings of Atonement”

Peter Schmiechen
“Are There Only 3 Theories of the Atonement?”

David Eagle
“Anabaptist Considerations for Atonement Theory”

I am going to post a short summary of all of the DVD’s as I watch them under the tag of the Nonviolent Atonement Conference. Take note, however it may take a while.....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

With a Song in My Heart

While "researching" this post on google, I came across the lyrics to a song by Frank Sinatra that comes very close to describing the reaction Christian music has on my heart. The name of the song is With A Song In My Heart. I thought that it was rather interesting that this is a secular song, yet it describes the experience of praise and worship so well. I have no idea what the tune or the tempo might be. I tried to find it on Project Playlist (to no avail). I know it is an old song. The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are:

With a song in my heart
I behold your adorable face.
Just a song at the start
But it soon is a hymn to your grace.
When the music swells
I'm touching your hand
It tells that you're standing near, and ..
At the sound of your voice
Heaven opens his portals to me.
Can I help but rejoice
That a song such as ours came to be?
But I always knewI would live life through
With a song in my heart for you.

Nothing can make me more aware of the real and tangible presence of the Lord than hearing a praise and worship song or an old time hymn. I am transported to the throne room in an instant. Just like that. 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds. A song at the start...soon becomes a hymn to his grace. Heaven opens its portals to me. I behold his adorable face. He's standing near. My eyes fill with tears, an invisible force pulling my hands upward like a magnet. . I'm touching his hand. Can I help but rejoice??

Granted, my “rejoicing” is somewhat low key. I go to a United Methodist Church afterall. Charismatic they are not. But I go to the 11:00 “contemporary” worship service which is a bit more charismatic than the other services. I swear that I feel the presence of the Lord there as much, if not more, than at the most boisterous, charismatic, slain in the spirit services I have attended. Mere volume and fever pitch excitement is not always an indicator of his presence. I credit the praise team there for exposing me to Christian music that I might never have listened to otherwise. Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Mercy Me….and others. I truly had never heard them before I started attending church there regularly.

A few months ago, I bought an MP3 player. After some initial software glitches and frustrations, I managed to get most of my online music and CD collection saved on the player. That is a post in itself. Computer savvy I am...gadget savvy I am not. The "Not Savvy" list includes digital cameras, cell phones, MP3 players, I Pods, DVD players and recorders...even VCR's...and the list goes on. If someone put a gun to my head and threatened to pull the trigger, I doubt if I could figure out how to program Keith's DVD recorder. But I digress. Anyway, I just recently figured out how to sync Windows Media Player and my Sansa MP3 player. This opened up a whole new world of musical possibilities and portability. It amazes me that I can carry all those songs around in my pocket. Technology. You gotta' love it!!! I don't understand how most of it works but the fact that it does is downright amazing!!!

Since this blog is a menagerie of loosely related posts, (which means that nothing is really disqualified as the topic dujour) I thought I might start a series on and old...which evoke strong feelings. Please feel free to chime in and comment on any favorite songs you might have. I do appreciate comments, so do not hesitate if you have anything to add or ask or dispute. This applies to any post you find on this blog. I’ve tried to make it easy to comment by not requiring registration. I, also, clicked off the option that forces you to decipher a row of letters and numbers….some on their sides, in different fonts, and colors, upside down (is that a capital letter???) and then type them into a little rectangular box above or below. I guess this is to prove that the comment is not from an automated spammer since only a human eyeball can read the letter/number combo. So again....comments WELCOME!!!

Oh…and one more thing….and my family can attest to this; God put a song in my heart, but he did not put a melody on my lips. I couldn’t carry a tune in a five gallon bucket!! But that does not stop me from praising him. In the words of the Psalmist, I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Let Me Explain

Ummmmmm …..Ahhhhhhhhhh……..Well………..

That is sort of what goes through my mind while trying to explain Girard’s theory of mimesis, which often leads to rivalry…..which often leads to violence (whether verbal, emotional or physical) and why it matters. Trying to explain the scope of something that affects all areas of human interaction from full scale country to country (wars) to individual interactions with our friends, our families and those we come in contact with every day. It is so simple yet it is so complicated. An explanation requires so much background information to explain it properly. It runs DEEP all the while pointing out the shallowness of man. In my heart, I know it to be true but when I try to explain it, I am at a loss for words. The words seem so flat, almost two dimensional. And no matter how eloquent the explanation there must be a willingness on the part of the listener to look at things from a totally different paradigm. If one is steeped in their belief in “righteous wars,” penal substitutionary atonement and “God is a Replican” this is almost incomprehensible. God must do a work in the heart to be ready to accept this….because with acceptance comes the inevitability of having to change. Who wants that responsibility? Yet there it is in Scripture. Ephesians 5:1 states it clearly

Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children;

Girard’s theory, with a more theological slant, declares that as mimetic creatures we are doomed/compelled to imitate; to take on the desires of another (although this process is entirely hidden to us) and who we choose as a model is who we imitate. We can choose to take on the desires of our neighbor with the new SUV or we can choose to follow Jesus with the example he sets for us in the Gospels. God seems to have emphasized the story of Jesus by including four different versions of it in the Bible. Four chances for us to get it right. Other verses that say the same thing include:

Matthew 5:48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 6:36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (NASB ©1995)

Keith claims that he understands this theory and can actually see that it has some truth to it, but he thinks it focuses too much on the carnal man, the adamic man….and not enough on the spiritman. The Christman whom we are all destined to (eventually) become. He sees it along the lines of a self help message. In the words of Nike (?) a “Just Do It” kind of thing. Au contraire. Without the enlightenment and empowerment of God through the Holy Spirit, we don’t even have a snowball’s chance in hell (as if there is such a place :) of pulling this off. It is beyond our grasp, beyond our understanding, beyond our ability without divine intervention and empowerment. Paul understood this when he cried out in Romans “Oh wretched man that I am!! Who will save me from this body of death?” His answer is our answer. Christ Jesus.

Following are the links to the two other blog entries on this same subject which inspired these thoughts of mine. I’m not sure if anyone is actually reading this blog….but if you are, you should also check out the Beyond Rivalry blog and the Preaching Peace blog. They are both along the same line of thought as this one (although Beyond Rivalry focuses on a whole bunch more…Simple Living, Gardening, Cooking) and they have been at it a lot longer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Getting Out of the Slammer

Today, Beth is being released from “prison.” She has been grounded since last Friday, when the final straw broke the camel’s back. In the course of one week, we found out she had been drinking at sleepovers, smoking (again), she failed two classes for the year and then she went somewhere without telling me first. This was after I had specifically and clearly instructed her to “TELL ME BEFORE YOU GO ANYWHERE,” and warned her of the consequences of any more “shenanigans.” When I called her on her cell phone, to her credit she did not lie to me and told me where she was….but her reason for not telling me beforehand, “I didn’t think you’d let me go”. She was basing this on the fact that earlier in the day I did say no to the same location. The River Lot. (Everyone in Williamsport owns a river lot. It is a huge summer pastime here….going to the river lot) The first request was to go “night swimming.” Beth, her 15 year old friend, Abbi, and Abbi’s 17 year old step sister. No adults, just the three of them and perhaps “a few other people”, in the dark, in a woodsy area, in bikinis. Ahhhhhhhh…..that’s a classic no brainer there. Absolutely NOT!!! So when I called Beth (who was supposedly just “hanging out at Abbi’s) on my way home from work….no answer. Called again….no answer. So then I called Abbi’s cell phone. She answered. “Where are you guys?” I asked when Beth came to the phone. “At the River Lot.” Totally different scenario. Daytime. Adult present. I would have given her permission to go. But there was the deception again. So I grounded her for a week.

She is a model prisoner. She does not complain much. She is pleasant. I enjoy having her around. No sullen, angry, belligerent teen. She is nice. She is the girl she might be full time if I could woo her away from her friends who think passing around a bottle of vodka at a sleepover and hard rock bands and the “F” word are cool. In a similar vein to yesterday’s entry….I suppose God looks at me (when I grieve his heart) and sees the person I might be….the person I will be when he is finished with me. Pleasant….not angry….not sullen or belligerent. Nice. If God is not going to give up on me….I’m not giving up on Beth. I love her so much. But today, with great reluctance and trepidation on my part, she is getting “out of the slammer.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is His Heart Grieved?

Among the crap that came to light last week, there was a major betrayal by my son. He just completed his junior year and did miserably. He has always been honest and dependable, taking care of his schoolwork, his money and his belongings with little need for parental supervision. Honors classes. His grades have always been good. Attendance good. Never gotten into trouble at school. Now he has a car which he seems to be responsible with and also a part time job, which he does well at. That is why he was able to deceive his dad and me the whole year. If he said it, we believed it (unlike my oldest daughter whose every statement is scrutinized. She has lied to us many times although that does not take the sting away and each lie hurts anew) With my son, in retrospect, there were some warning signs….but when he presented us with a fairly good report card (ala photoshop) I dismissed those signs. I would have bet five thousand dollars he would never do such a thing, especially over the long haul of the whole school year. The fact that the lie went on for three marking periods makes the deception even worse. My heart is grieved.

I can so relate to God’s feelings in Genesis 6:6

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. KJV

The Message Bible says his heart was broken.
The Emphasized Bibles says he took sorrow unto his heart.

I’ve come to the sharp realization that with my shady past, my blunders, my acts of thoughtlessness and deception, I have grieved the heart of God in much the same way that my heart grieves over the actions of my son. In the days of Noah, humanity grieved the heart of God to the point of repentance; to the point he felt it necessary to wipe man from the face of the earth. The NIV renders this verse:

“I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”

Some other versions say

“I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” KJV

“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land” ESV

“I wipe away man whom I have prepared from off the face of the ground” Young’s

In its customary meandering style, the Amplified Bible contains all of the above:
I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground

As a believer in total reconciliation, I fully believe that the evil ones who so grieved the heart of God in the days of Noah will bow the knee and proclaim Jesus as Lord. The Bible says EVERY knee will bow, EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It proclaims this clearly in three different places in both the Old and New Testaments. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How many tongues confess? Every tongue. How many will be saved? Everyone. Specific mention of these disobedient ones is made in 1 Peter 3:18-20 which states that Christ as a quickened spirit went and preached to them in “prison”. A more general mention of the gospel being preached to the dead is made in 1 Peter 4:6. I think it is also interesting to note that all the verses specifically say that mankind was removed from the face of the earth. Existence in a spiritual sphere…in whatever dimension lies beyond the “veil” is not ruled out. Death is not the end of God’s dealings with us. And though our actions may grieve his heart, it is not the end of his love for us anymore than it is the end of my love for my kids. In the words of a country song that proclaims the secret of a father’s love, “It’s a love without end. Amen”.

Teenagers and Mimetic Rivalry

This following is a quote from a book about adolescents that annie suggested. It is called, "Parenting Adolescents" by Kevin Huggins.

Although being purposeful is a characteristic people have in common with God, it is important to note that God's plans are always different from people's in one important way: His plans are never blocked. He has sovereign control of everything and needs to depend on no one else to accomplish his purposes. In contrast, all parents and adolescents experience frequent frustration of their plans, because people's plans are characteristically dependent on using others to accomplish their purposes. Parents often have purposes or plans in their hearts that require their adolescents to act or be a certain way for them. Adolescents more times than not have plans in their hearts that won't work unless they can get their parents to respond to them in a certain way. When both approach each other with these kinds of intentions, conflict and resentment are inevitable.

When people have their plans blocked, they will initially respond by strengthening their efforts to make the plans work.

People do not easily give up the plans they have fashioned for themselves. There is something behind these plans that fuels them and makes them in a real sense a matter of life or death to people. In the book of Proverbs that energizing force is referred to as "desires" or "longings"

This excerpt is from one of the introductory chapters of the book. I think it smacks of mimetic rivalry, the "scandal" Girard talks about, thwarted desires, stumbling blocks etc. Girard would take exception with this author concerning the thought that people "fashion for themselves" the plans they have since a foundational belief of his theory is that we "catch" our desires from each other. This author seems to have a grasp on the frustrations of mimetic rivalry. Perhaps that is why adolescence is such a tumultuous time. Parent and child can become embroiled in mimetic rivalry...a cycle where they continue to prevent each other from obtaining the goal/plan. When the teenage years come, with their infamous rebellions etc, the teenager no longer focuses on the parent as the primary model or "near one" and so the desires of parent and teenager may become totally opposite. The parent continues to have the same goals when the adolescent years come, but the teenager may not. They may now be focusing on friends and other influences as the models from which they form their desires. Another name for peer pressure? And thus the clash. Of course, this line of thinking does not take into account the very real love a parent has for their child or the love a child (even a teenager) feels for their parents. It is kind of two dimensional to leave that part out, although I think there is definitely mimesis at play in these relationships. I need to think about this a bit more and try to figure out how this theory affects my own life and my relationship with my teens. All THREE of them!!!! And I thought the toddler years were a challenge.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Not a Peaceful Week

My mom was seriously ill, two of my three kids screwed up big time....especially my son (with grades...a major, major screw up.) Keith and I had various periods of not getting along or seeing eye to eye on things. There was a lot of discord but nothing new there. So I have been far from peaceful this first week of summer. It has been more tumultuous than I ever dreamed it would be. Probably the best part of the week is that my youngest daughter, Emily, went on a mission trip to downtown Detroit with her youth group.

They went on inner city prayer walks, helped teach Bible school, scrubbed toilets, fed the homeless, passed out hot dogs in the park, helped tear down a condemned house. She was the youngest one there and did great. I am very proud of her. She saw things there that I have not even seen. A hooker propositioned by a "client". Different homeless people...and she came home knowing many of their names. She is the only one of my three kids who has any interest in anyone other than themselves. She is the only one with a relationship with God. Being a universalist, I believe that God will win them over at some point. I am just afraid it might be via "the long scenic route" back to Him. That's the route I took...and I see my daughter heading down that same path. I have been beating myself up about the things I could have done differently....should have done differently. The coulda', woulda', shouldas'. Majorly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus Our Blessed Redeemer

This song came to mind this morning....

And I do so praise him this morning for giving us a glimpse of the invisible God....the exact representation of the invisible God. We see the face of God in the face of Jesus. Let us gaze into that face and let what we see so permeate our being that we cannot help but be changed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Preston Eby on War......

Preston Eby has thoroughly pissed me off at times. He is Keith's favorite writer and all of his writings are focused around the processing of God's sons....cutting away the flesh, turning them into the image and likeness of their heavenly father usually by means of great pain and suffering. He believes in total determinism which is a major hot button topic for me. So today when yet another discussion between Keith and I turned into an argument (the topic was living peacefully....imagine that.....and yes, I realize I have a LONG way to go) and somehow it came up that Preston Eby was a pacifist. I googled it and came up with a few paragraphs out of his series The Kingdom of God (part 19 no less) It is an amazing few paragraphs and I doubt I will ever see Preston Eby quite the same after reading these paragraphs on his views about war.

"And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man..." (Lk. 3:14). Love will affect every attitude and action toward men on both the personal and corporate level. I have no hesitation in telling you that I have been a conscientious objector" to war all my life because from a small child I could never believe that the spirit of warfare with its hatred, killing, and violence is compatible with the love of God or the spirit of sonship.
Oh, yes, we have our excuses and a thousand reasons are given to go forth and kill and maim and destroy by warfare. "The government requires me to do it," we say. That's reminiscent of that other time-honored cop-out, "The devil made me do it!" "I must defend my country and our liberties," we explain, "we have an obligation to our families, our communities, and our nation to defend ourselves." So we wield the sword, fire machine guns, and bomb villages and cities into oblivion, blasting thousands, yea, millions of innocent men, women and children out of this world, and call on God to bless! What strange beings we Christians are who profess to follow in the footsteps of Him who said, "For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Lk. 9 56). I tell you today that no son of God is sent into this world to destroy men's lives, but every son of God is sent into the world to save them. No son of (god, no brother of Jesus, is sent into this world to destroy even one life, but to become a saviour for all men.
War is not a matter of one soldier against one soldier. It is now a war of guns and bombs and germs and chemicals and land-mines against soldiers and mothers and children and babes. Any way to intimidate the foe! Scare and blast loved ones out of the fox holes into hell or heaven-that is the way to win. We little realize the awful depths into which the spirit of warfare carries us. As one wrote of a certain war: "I had to aim carefully at the straw roof and only succeeded at the third shot. The wretches who were inside, seeing their roof burning, jumped out and ran off like mad...surrounded by a circle of fire about five thousand people came to a sticky end. It was like hell, the smoke rose to incredible heights, and the flames reddened the setting sun."
War is still ruling our world and it is not spiritual; it is carnal, political, and devilish. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven we pledge allegiance to a higher Kingdom than any of the kingdoms of this world. We cannot fight carnal warfare because we are ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is a representative of another country or person and he is not subject to the political laws of the country where he abides. The King whom we represent has commissioned us to "love our enemies," to "bless and curse not," and "see that none render evil for evil to any man." We are to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering." "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." How directly opposed are these to the rules of war! Under the Old Covenant Yahweh required that His people Israel should go to war and fight and kill, but that covenant has been done away and we are under the New Covenant whereby the law (nature) of God is written upon our hearts, and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God.
Well has Philip Mauro written, "War is an instrument of the god of this world. War stems from greed and political intrigue. Preparing the soldier for war is a godless procedure. Hate is drilled into him. He is taught every trick there is to kill. This must be so for war is a dirty business. War differs from ordinary murders only in that it is on an enormous scale. Every invention and contrivance that men can devise, every deception and stratagem to which they can resort, every cruelty and atrocity which they can perpetuate, are elements of warfare. Hence it is not merely a questionable proceeding-not merely a thing which it is perhaps better to avoid-war is the thing of all things that is farthest removed from the spirit and work of Christ. It is the work of the devil to destroy. War is the great all-inclusive, sum total of everything that is devilish. When General Sherman tersely said, 'War is hell,' he uttered a truth. Heaven is peace. Hell is war. Let us look the ugly fact squarely in the face, that the man who enlists (or is drafted) commits himself in advance to the perpetration of every unnamable atrocity that war is held to justify. He repudiates his individual responsibility to God and man, and pledges himself blindly, by an oath and under penalty of death, to obey the commands of his officers, whatever they may be and to whatever work they may send him. If we then are to go forth and kill our fellowmen, whose lives shall we take? Shall we slay the unsaved, to whom we owe the gospel of Christ? If not those, then are we to slay our fellow saints to whom we owe our love and service? War and the gospel are as far apart as the east is from the west, as far as hell is from heaven..." -end quote.
If fighting and killing on carnal battlefields is right for the sons of God, then the Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek, the priesthood of grace, mercy, love and salvation is wrong; if the gospel of love, even for our enemies, is right, then war is wrong. Jesus showed us clearly that the life of sonship is completely independent of every earthly tradition, custom, and requirement. The life of sonship belongs to the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven which we are to seek first of all. Jesus came to preach the Kingdom. That was His gospel. That was His one and only purpose. There lay His one and only allegiance. All the things that were spoken in the sermon on the mount pertain to the Kingdom which we are entering. Just as the law of Moses given at Sinai was the Constitution of the government and nation of Israel, so the sermon on the mount is the Constitution of the Kingdom of God. All the blessed truths set forth in the sermon on the mount are to be fulfilled in us "that ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven" (Mat. 5:45). These are the principles that govern the lives of God's sons and all who live and walk in the Kingdom, just as surely as the law of Moses governed the dispensation of the law. The Kingdom is the realm of sonship. It is the realm of the will of God. It is the realm of the nature of God. It is the realm of the mind of Christ.
The principles of the Kingdom of God are set forth with divine clarity in the sermon on the mount, where the spirit of sonship is revealed. While living here on earth, our Lord was extremely kind. He picked up little children and blessed them. He healed all who were suffering with pain. While relatives were weeping over dead loved ones, he raised four of them to life again. The Saviour of ALL men said to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more." His KINDNESS made an evangelist out of that immoral woman at Jacob's well. Because Jesus really loved the weak, helpless creatures whom He had created, He wept over them, prayed for them and taught them continually. Can you imagine for one moment that Jesus, even if commanded by the government of Israel, would have taken up the sword and slain thousands of Romans to liberate His people from the cruel, pagan yoke of Rome? Think of it! Even when Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, in defense of the Son of God, Jesus stooped and picked up the severed ear and healed it back on the man. He then turned to Peter and reproachfully said, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." If you can believe for one moment that Jesus, drafted or not, would have gone out to slay men in defense of His country, then you may also justify the sons of God in this hour fighting and killing in defense of their homeland. The issue is really just that simple. "What would Jesus do?"
Except for those religious Pharisees, Jesus never spoke one cross word to the unconverted masses, Israelite, Roman, or otherwise. He was very tender and kind in all His dealings with men. His approach to them was very gentle, delicate, and considerate. Surely, then, we are safer in His hands than anywhere else! The things He has in store for every one of us are far greater than we could plan for ourselves. He will do us only good, and never evil. Does God expect His other sons to be different than His Firstborn? Jesus has taught us, "But love your enemies, and do good...and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be THE SONS OF THE HIGHEST; for HE IS KIND UNTO THE UNTHANKFUL AND TO THE EVIL, BE YE THEREFORE MERCIFUL, AS YOUR FATHER also is merciful." In this instance Jesus plainly says that if we desire to be the SONS OF THE HIGHEST, we must be merciful as He is merciful. THE HIGHEST IS MERCIFUL TO ALL.
The question follows: Why should the Highest be merciful to the evil and the unthankful? The answer is clear-that the evil one and the unthankful one may come to know the mercy and goodness of God! They would never know that mercy in any other way. If Jesus teaches us we are to be kind to those who mis-use us, reproach us, attack us, curse us, and make themselves our enemies, then what kind of a God and Father would He be, whose words Jesus taught us, who would HATE HIS ENEMIES and cast them into merciless eternal hell to burn forever? If such a thing were to be, then God would require us to be better than Himself! Jesus teaches us that we are to be merciful and kind, to bless and do good to all who are enemies. Do we then have a Father whose nature is entirely opposite to ours? Impossible! The sons of God are sent, as was the Son, to reveal the nature of our Father to all. If we see a God that loves only those that love Him, or who defends Himself, and attacks His enemies, banishing them to eternal damnation, torturing endlessly those that curse Him, meting out eternal vengeance upon those that hate Him, and shutting up all mercy from those who persecute Him, then we have a God who establishes His Kingdom in the same spirit, and along the same lines, and by the same methods as the kingdoms of this world. But we are commanded to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to those that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us, and persecute us-THAT WE MAY BE THE SONS OF OUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust...BE YE THEREFORE PERFECT AS YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT (Mat. 5:38-48).
Sons of God are instructed to love their enemies and not to resist evil (Mat. 5:39). In so doing they proclaim the nature and principles of the Kingdom of God which is the nature of unconditional redemptive love. We are not to fight with our enemies, either personal or national-even if they attack us. God is not preparing His sons to be warriors carrying carnal weapons to establish His Kingdom on earth. The weapons of our warfare are mighty through God, for they are spiritual weapons of faith and power and love. There is abundant historical evidence that the early Christians considered themselves citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, ambassadors of the spirit of Jesus, and as such refused to be conscripted into the military service of the Roman government. They objected to war as carnal, political, and immoral.
God is raising up in the earth a Kingdom of Priests-as SAVIOURS shall they come up on mount Zion! It is impossible to love all men while hating some men. And in the "war machine" of the nations it is impossible to go into battle with the "right frame of mind" unless your superiors have instilled in you a sense of outrage, anger, hostility, and hatred toward the enemy. It is not possible to be in preparation to deliver creation from the bondage of corruption while going out in the world's war machine to savagely blow men to bits for whom Christ died. The irony of war is that there are in most cases soldiers who are Christians on both sides. These men, saved, perhaps baptized in the Holy Spirit, members of the body of Christ, who are to love and care for one another, and esteem one another, as Christ does us; and who supposedly are endued with a divine and heavenly love for all men, march out on the battlefield of carnal warfare at the command of their worldly governments and unregenerated politicians-and BLOW ONE ANOTHER'S BRAINS OUT! Brother shoots brother, and brother bombs brother-each sometimes in the name of Christ! Ponder the fact. In international wars over the past 2,000 years, professing Christians have killed professing Christians by the/- millions! I do not hesitate to tell you that it is one of the most ridiculous contradictions in the world.
In that blessed day when the mountain of the house of the Lord is established in the tops of the mountains it shall come to pass that "many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:1-4). The spirit of that blessed day must first be perfected in those who are destined to rule with the Lamb from mount Zion; the swords and spears in our own hearts must be turned into acts of mercy and blessing to all men of all nations now.
When men come to mount Zion they turn their weapons of destruction into instruments of blessing for their neighbors. The characteristic of the holy mountain is the Lamb-sacrificial, redeeming love. The only sword carried by the Lamb is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Sons who stand with the Lamb on mount Zion have surrendered their right to be the aggressor, the destroyer with the sword. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These have the mind of the Lamb, the spirit of the Lamb, the nature of the Lamb. They are rendered defenseless before their enemies, armed only with the power of redemptive love. They can no longer fight any man or any nation with words or attitudes or actions of murderous rage, let alone with weapons that maim, kill and destroy. They come under the rule of the spirit of the defenseless Lamb who is the Saviour of the world. The sons of God belong to a spiritual Constitution. Their foes are spiritual, for they wrestle not against flesh and blood. Their armor is the armor of God and their sword is the sword of the Spirit.
I am reminded of the story of a missionary who was trying to explain Christian living to the chief of a primitive and warlike tribe. The chief was very old, and he listened patiently. "I do not understand," the old man said at last. "You tell me that I must not take my neighbor's wife or his ivory or his oxen." "That's right," said the missionary. "And I must not dance the war dance and then ambush my enemy on the trail and kill him." "Absolutely right," replied the missionary. "But I cannot do any of these things anymore," the old chief said regretfully. "I am too old. To be old and to be Christian-they are the same thing!" We may be amused at the old chief's logic, but the solution is plain. He did not do those things because he could not- we do not do them because we will not!
It is time to evaluate our Kingdom walk. The ascended Christ stands at the doorway and bids us set our eyes toward the world above and listen for His voice. We came from that higher world, we are sent as ambassadors of that higher world; let us seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us think, listen and watch for those things of the higher world. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Do not fill your minds with the things of this dark and dying age. Conspiracies, government actions, politics, foreign policy, taxation, terrorism, all are topics of great interest and fleshly appeal, but they are all related to the world of darkness and not that of the higher world of the Kingdom. They are all earthly things that Barabbas would involve himself and others in.
I first learned this beautiful truth from a good and holy man, my natural father. It was his earnest conviction that Jesus taught that a child of God and citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven is required by the Holy Spirit to walk out the principles of the Kingdom in the totality of life. He believed in what he termed "non-resistance" and saw the basis for this principle in the sermon of the mount and in the words of Paul: "Recompense to no man evil for evil. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath...therefore if shine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12: 17-21).
Under the law we have a right to harm someone who has harmed us. It is fair and just to retaliate when someone attacks us. The walking out of these Old Covenant principles range from sibling pinches to international war. If someone takes advantage of me, I have the right to take advantage of them. If someone files a lawsuit against me, I have the right to file a counter suit. If someone swindles me in an agreement, I have the right to swindle him back. In every case it is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If a nation launches missiles against us, we have a right to send missiles back. "You have heard that all of this has been said," Jesus declared, "BUT I SAY UNTO YOU!" Ah, now we are on Kingdom territory! And what is the higher law of the Kingdom that Jesus brought? "Resist not evil...don't retaliate...don't sue anyone...if they take your car let them have your truck also...if they force you into a bad situation, fulfill what they require and more! "
My father lived by these principles. On more than one occasion he was attacked by men who had sworn to kill him because of the gospel. They came at him with bricks and two-by-fours and brute physical strength, and my father was a small man. He fearlessly stood his ground and spoke only the words, "I love you!" Their arms stopped in mid air and they dropped their weapons. On one occasion the scene was less dramatic, but the Holy Ghost was on my mother. As she spoke in tongues and turned the car around, my father was able to jump in and make his escape. He would never resist evil, never retaliate, never manifest any fear, antagonism, anger or animosity. And he was never injured! God was powerfully with him at all times.
In the 1940's my father joined himself to one of the Pentecostal denominations. When he was being examined for ordination to the ministry in this denomination he told the brethren, "There is something I must let you know. I am a conscientious objector. I do not believe a Christian has any right in the spirit of Jesus to resist any evil or go to war to fight against any enemy of our country." He explained in detail his views on this matter. The brethren said to him, "But, brother Eby, what if a thief or rapist entered your house at night with the intent to rob you, or to molest your wife and children, or even to kill you-what would you-what would you do?" He answered, "I would call on God and God would congeal him in the doorway and he would be unable to do us any harm. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, they are mighty through God." "But," the brethren pressed, "what if everyone believed as you do? What if no one would join the armed forces to defend our country? What if our enemies attacked us-what would we do?" My father responded, "My dear brethren, if everyone in this country believed as I do, there would be so much of the power of God in this nation that our enemies would not be able to attack us!" "Well, brother Eby," the brethren said, "we don't agree, but we do admire your faith." They ordained him. My father was a small man, only five feet, one and a half inches tall, but he was a man of courage, fearlessness, conviction, and a man of faith and power with God. He lived, breathed, and walked out what he perceived as true in God. And it worked! God was with him. He was an example of the power of the grace and love of God to overcome all evil with good. That, precious friend of mine, is the power and glory of the Kingdom of God!
Lorain and I have two sons and one daughter. We are blessed that all of them are walking with the Lord and with us in this Kingdom word. I tell you today that we are willing to see any or all of them offered up for our Lord Jesus Christ. We are willing to see them suffer privation, ill health, persecution, pain, or even death for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom, should the Father lead them in such paths. Lorain and I have made great sacrifices (though we did not consider them as such!) through the years in order to fulfill the call of God in our lives. And we are now willing with joy to have our children suffer that and even greater things in the walk of this Kingdom. We would not hinder one of them from following the Lord to any of the far-flung mission fields of the world-even to give their lives there for the gospel. We would be willing to see them die for Jesus-but we are NOT willing to see them die on any battlefield of any nation of this world. We are not willing to see them carrying guns or driving tanks or flying bombers to take the lives of men for whom Christ died. We are not willing to see them blowing to bits men to whom we have been called to bring the Kingdom of Life and Light and Love. I am willing to see my sons and my daughter pay whatever price necessary to deliver creation from the bondage of sin, sorrow and death-but I am not willing to see them, at the whims of carnal politicians, blow men away into hell and judgment. The sons of God must be preeminently the SONS OF LOVE. You cannot love and maim and kill at the same time. The very thought is an absurdity, a horrible blasphemy. "For God so loved the world..." And so will all who are called to sonship! That is the power and the glory of the Kingdom of God!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hit Them Back....

I’ve been rethinking something in light of this glimmer of revelation I have about nonviolence. I’ve been rethinking a lot of things…and seeing things in myself that I don’t like. This particular thing has to do with a rule they have in our school district concerning fighting. I imagine they have a similar rule in many, if not all school districts. The rule concerns fighting. If someone hits you, you cannot hit back. You can use only the amount of force necessary to get away from them…but you cannot hit back. Once you hit back, it does not matter who hit first and both students involved in the fight are suspended for three days.

My daughter’s friend, Abbi, found herself in just such a situation. At the lunch table another student reached across the table and slapped Abbi across the face. Abbi is very athletic and cocky and outspoken and very pretty. I am sure the girl who hit her thought she had a good reason to do so. Abbi paused, pullled her hair back in a ponytail, walked all the way around the table (all the while one of the lunch monitors was saying, “Abbi, you don’t want to do this, Abbi, sit back down” Not sure why they did not physically restrain her at that point) Well, she walked around to where the girl was now standing and they got into a fist fight amidst the cheers of all the kids in the cafeteria. Teachers broke it up. Both girls were suspended.

At the time, I sided with Abbi. All along I have advised my kids that they were never to start a fight (and they are not fighters; as in picking a fight….but I think they could all hold their own…especially my 6’ 3” son who weighs 250 and is a front lineman for the football team….but then who would be stupid enough to start a fight with him) but if someone hit them first, in spite of the consequences, to have at it.

Now I am wondering about that advice. It is one thing to think of being persecuted myself; but it is an entirely different matter when I consider someone persecuting my children. So could I now, with this different understanding of what Jesus calls us to, advise them not to hit back? I don’t think so. Although I know that “turn the other cheek” is ultimately the only way to peace in the world, I think my advise to my kids would still be, “Hit them back.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Did Jesus Condone Sacrifice?

Why did Jesus tell people to sacrifice at the temple???

Mat 8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

Mark 1:44 and Luke 5:14 are both very similar.

Seemingly that is a point scored for the view that God DID demand blood sacrifice I did some poking around with the help of google....and from what I read the following was what "Moses commanded"

Though healed of his leprosy, the man was not legally clean until declared so by the priest. The priest alone could readmit him to the congregation. The local priest inspected the healed leper, and if he was found clean or cured, he was purified by the use of two birds, cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop, razor and bath. After seven days he was again inspected, and if still cured the priest repaired with him to the temple, where he offered the gift for his cleansing, which was three lambs, with flour and oil; or if the leper was poor, one lamb and two doves or pigeons, with flour and oil (Le 14:19-22).

No doubt about it....there was animal sacrifice in what "Moses commanded" but then it occurred to me when rereading the first line of the excerpt above.....

Though healed of his leprosy, the man was not legally clean until declared so by the priest. The priest alone could readmit him to the congregation.

And another excerpt I googled upon....

But what, it may be said, doth this saying, "Show thyself to the priest," contribute to the keeping of the law? No little. Because it was an ancient law, that the leper when cleansed should not entrust to himself the judgment of his cleansing, but should show himself to the priest, and present the demonstration thereof to his eyes, and by that sentence be numbered amongst the clean. For if the priest said not "The leper is cleansed," he remained still with the unclean without the camp.

what stands out to me in the above snippet is that the leper could not entrust to himself the judgment of his cleansing but should show himself to the priest......for if the priest said not "the leper is cleansed" he remained unclean. So if this leper had not submitted to the "legal machinery of the day" though healed of the disease he would have still been a leper in the eyes of the community and in the eyes of the law. He would have still been an outcast. Of course Jesus knew this and acted accordingly. In another snippet I came upon it points out the following:

At times Jesus works outside the system. He either violates or ignores ritual laws re: healing on the Sabbath or cleaning his hands. Here he works within the system. Go, show yourself. This is the difference. Whatever is best for the person involved. If there is a rule against healing and a person needs healing, he breaks the rule. People first. This time, however, it is better for the man to be identified. He has had a very serious skin ailment, one for which there was no known cure. Therefore the leper and all like him were quarantined. They had to stay away from other folks. The one who could allow him back into society was the priest. Go show yourself to the priest so he can give you the ok to be a part of society again. With the priest's ok the man can return to communal life, including life in the temple.

So it is not that Jesus is endorsing the sacrificial system as it stood...but that he was in this instance working within the system to restore the man to complete wholeness. And then I happened upon another snippet that pretty much summed it up for me...

Wherefore he saith, "Show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded." He said not, "which I command," but for a time remits him to the law.

I think the process to bring mankind out of the sacrificial mindset could not occur overnight and had to be a gradual process. That is in keeping with my beliefs that the ordinances and directives about sacrifice were to LIMIT it....not to initiate it. Sacrifice was so deeply ingrained in the hearts of men that it was an instinctual requirement of continued existence. If Girard (and like theories) are right and this scapegoating, sacred violence, sacrificial mindset was from the foundation of the world...and is what actually ensured that mankind did not destroy itself with its cycles of chaos and violence caused by mimetic rivalry then without a great deal of enlightenment, it is not something that could be eliminated by Jesus simply saying, " more sacrifice." Jesus provided that enlightenment by his example and his willing sacrifice of self to in part uncover the ugly little secret hiding in mankind's closet.....although it is a long, long process which is still in progress to this day) So anyway...that is how I reconcile those verses in which Jesus seemingly condoned sacrifice when he very clearly and blatantly proclaimed, ""But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless." -- Matthew 12:7

My Visit with annie

I met my good friend annie on the Wider Universalist yahoo group about two years or so ago. She is the co-owner of our little group of heretics…..Emerging Universalist. In spite of the fact that she lives in St. Louis and I live in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, we have managed to get together three times for a visit. Her husband’s job has taken him to Philadelphia. Whether it is a permanent thing or not remains to be seen so she has not actually moved there with him. They have been living apart for nine months. When she comes to Philadelphia to spend a few weeks with him we get together. Twice she and Jim have come here to my home (a four hour drive for them) because of commitments I had with the kids etc. This time we met about half way at a state park in a little town called White Haven…..a little “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” town somewhere in the Poconos. It took 3 tries to find a park with a shaded picnic area. There were three parks in a ten or fifteen mile radius. We found one called Hickory something or other. Small lake….shade….not really crowed….picnic tables. We got settled at one of them and then it started to rain….into the car we went until the rain stopped….then back out again and not long after we got settled with a light lunch of Sam’s Buffalo Chicken and grapes, it started to storm. Off in the distance at first so we sat there till the lightening started to seem really threatening. We ended up stopping for coffee and dessert in this little “honkey tonk” inn right outside of town. Our waitress/bartender was very nice….made two pots of fresh coffee (regular and decaf) and the desserts were homemade and very good.

I am exceedingly grateful for annie on this spiritual journey I am on. Although she has been a Christian for years and years….and was raised a universalist, this path (Girard, nonviolent atonement, nonviolence) is new to her too….and actually is leading her in a totally opposite direction on some issues than what she has believed for a long, long time. She is a compass for me….since I came to Christianity late in life and do not have as thorough an understanding of scripture etc. I fell into some of these doctrines and beliefs (like UR) simply because I was too ignorant about verses that supossedly disprove it (but which on closer examination really do not… The Rich Man and Lazarus parable and some of the warnings of Jesus etc.) I have ferreted out some of these things on the internet ….but she has added her insights (which are always profound) and the things I am learning and reading and pondering go from two dimensional to three many times because of what she has said. We see many things the same way…which is a great blessing since this is not a well traveled path…and fellow travelers are rare :)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

It Starts In Our Own Heart.....

Debra on our Emerging Universalist yahoo group posted the following quote the other day:

To know peace in our world, we must become peace in our lives. from the quantum perspective, it makes little sense to shove people impatiently out of the way to get to our parked vehicle, then dart in and out of traffic rudely cutting off other drivers as we race across town to a rally supporting global peace.

I have been reading through a series I found on “Every Church a Peace Church” called The Class of Nonviolence. The morning she posted the quote, I read an article that dealt with the very same theme. Following is a brief description of the class which can be found at

Solutions to Violence is an eight session class developed by Colman McCarthy, founder of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C. It uses classics in peace and justice literature to teach peacemaking. This course can change your life and you can change the world.

I have these grand plans of reading through the articles in all eight sections (which seem to be grouped by categories) and posting my “review” and summary of each section. Nothing lengthy (as if that’s going to happen) but just an overview with quotes from the articles that I considered noteworthy or profound. I am using Mozilla scrapbook to save the articles and “mark them” electronically. I was using a program called diigo for this sort of thing but there were some quirks I didn’t like about it. (Digressing here) So anyway…..Debra posted the quote above which points out the irony of having violence in our own lives while promoting peace on a global scale. Easier to focus on world peace than to focus on our own violent action of flipping off the guy who takes our turn at a four way stop.

A situation like that will live in infamy in my family, when one day someone purposely took my turn at Confusion Corner (a 6 way intersection…5 stop signs) and I, with a car full of kids, totally stressed out for many reasons, flipped him off out the window….and provided a loud, vocal explanation of the gesture….just in case he missed it. I was enraged. My kids have not let me forget this…..ever….and I am duly ashamed of myself. So I know from close up and personal that it is much easier to focus on why we should not have the death penalty in our country than to focus on what is in my own heart that would cause me to do such a thing. Following are some excerpts from the article in the series called Axioms of Nonviolence by Lanzo del Vasto.

The first thing to learn and understand what it is; the second, to try it out for oneself. But it cannot be learned like arithmetic or grammar. Learning and understanding nonviolence are done from within. So the first steps are self-recollection, reflection on the principles, and conversion, that is to say, turning back against the common current.

For if the purpose of your action is to make the adversary change his mind without forcing him to, how can you do so unless you yourself are converted? If the purpose is to wrest the enemy from his hatred and his evil by touching his conscience, how can you do so if you have not freed yourself from hatred, evil, and lack of conscience? You want to bring peace into the world, which is very generous of you; peace to the uttermost ends of the earth, for you are great-hearted, but do you know how to bring peace into your own house? Is there peace in your heart? Can one give what one does not possess?

As for justice, can you establish it between yourself and others, even those who are strangers and hostile to you, if you cannot succeed with your nearest and dearest? And what is more, if you cannot establish it between you and yourself?
Much more than going into the street, distributing tracts, speaking to crowds, knocking on doors, leading walks and campaigns, invading bomb factories, undertaking public fasts, braving the police, being beaten and jailed (all of which is good on occasion and which we gladly do), the most efficient action and the most significant testimony in favor of nonviolence and truth is living: living a life that is one, where everything goes in the same sense, from prayer and meditation to laboring for our daily bread, from the teaching of the doctrine to the making of manure, from cooking to singing and dancing around the fire; living a life in which there is no violence or unfairness, nor illegal unfairness. What matters is to show that such a life is possible and even not more difficult than a life of gain, nor more unpleasant than a life of pleasure, nor less natural than an "ordinary" life. What matters is to find the nonviolent answer to all the questions man is faced with today, as at all epochs, to formulate the answer clearly and to do our utmost to carry it into effect. What matters is to discover whether there is such a thing as a nonviolent economy, free of all forms of pressure and closed to all forms of unfairness; whether there is such a thing as nonviolent authority, independent of force and carrying no privileges; whether there is such a thing as nonviolent justice, justice without punishment, and punishment without violence; such things as nonviolent farming, nonviolent medicine, nonviolent psychiatry, nonviolent diet.And to begin with, what matters is to make sure that all violence, even of speech, even of thought, even hidden and disguised, has been weeded out of our religious life.

"The training ground for nonviolence is a man's heart"

Is that NOT the truth!!! The training ground for nonviolence is a man’s heart….and home (and in the incident I mentioned above….one’s own car, filled with one’s own children and a few of their friends) How we treat the guy who sneaks in line in front of us with 20 items in the 15 or less line at the grocery store. How we treat our own spouse when they hurt our feelings in an argument…..or when they wrong us (in reality or in our perception of reality). Our co-worker who is so very annoying….a parent who has not parented us the way we think they should….our children when they fail algebra (or biology) when we know darn right well they should have passed. I am not saying we need to ignore these situations (although sometimes letting something go makes the most sense) but to react “nonviolently”. Easier said than done….and I am so “not at that place” but an awareness of what is in our own heart is the first step toward changing it…..with the help of our loving Father, the example of Jesus (the expressed image of the invisible God) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.