Revelation Update #2

 

I have this painting in my office.  It’s called a pantocrator and it depicts Jesus as righteous and just (holding the book of the Law), as well as offering a sign of peace (a sign of faithfulness and mercy).  

Jesus as a Just and loving Emperor.
Jesus as a peacemaker and faithful Emperor.

Revelation 4 is captures the central image of the whole book:  Jesus is Lord (Caesar/Emperor). The throne room scene is about painting a picture of true reality.  

Reality gets us dealing with what’s at hand.  Sometimes reality feels painful and overwhelming so we hide, try to control it, or give in.  

John is getting a dose of reality:  Jesus rules and reigns with power, justice, and peace.  The invitation to open the door that is standing in heaven is to enter into right reality, which will cause us to fall down to our knees in worship.

May you and I have a vision of reality and surrender to it.  It’s the best good news for our lives that aligns us towards our true selves in Christ and redemption in this world.

Revelation Update #1

Revelation Update #1

Any Star Wars fans on the team?! 🙂

I tripped out when they came out with episodes 1-3, mostly because I couldn’t conceive the back stories they were going to tell. It didn’t make any sense to me so I rely on my son’s, Christopher and David, to relay the stories to me.

John’s writings in Revelation are kind of like Star Wars in the sense that the order they were released in doesn’t make sense. John’s visions aren’t sequential. This means that he could be sharing a vision and then the text says, “And then I saw…” and it’s a completely different episode…maybe episode 7 when he was just on episode 2.

One way to keep the story straight is to remember the main vision which begins at chapter 4: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” (Rev. 4:1)

Paul Spilsbury says, “…John is summoned through an open door in the sky. On passing through this door he comes face to face with a panorama of breathtaking beauty and majesty–the throne room of God (if such a place could be called a room). This initial scene is the hub of the whole book. Everything that happens after it is like spoke, radiating outward from this vision of God on his throne…” (p.45)

If you ever feel lost in the book, go back to Revelation 4…and bow down in worship before the One who calls you his own.

If you want more Revelation resources, message me and I’ll send you what I have. And if you’ve found anything helpful on the book, let me know as well! 🙂

Daring Greatly: 12 Shame Categories

I chose to read Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, for a seminary class because shame sucks.  Her work has been so helpful to many, including myself.  Last night, I was recounting how helpful it is to be aware of your shame triggers so that you recognize the patterns.

Brown says that “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”, (p.69).  I describe it as the feelings and thoughts that tell us “something is wrong with me”.  I remember feeling different when I was younger, asking myself “what’s wrong with me”.  It’s an ugly feeling.

Brown lists 12 shame categories to be aware of.  Her books talks about building shame resilience as a way to cope with the shame triggers:

  • appearance and body image
  • money and work
  • motherhood/fatherhood
  • family
  • parenting
  • mental and physical health
  • addiction
  • sex
  • aging
  • religion
  • surviving trauma
  • being stereotyped or labeled

Giving the 5 minute talk

A piece by Seth Godin on communicating and presenting. Looking for ways to improve my public speaking.

Give a four-minute presentation and take your time.

The alternative is to try to give a six or seven-minute long talk in five minutes. To rush. To get flustered. To go over your time. To act in a way that belies your professional nature.

Nope. Better to stick with the four-minute approach.

The thing is, you’ll never have enough time to tell us every single thing in enough detail. It would take you years.

Portion control is your friend. Figure out how big the plate is and serve just the right amount.

QA Session: Church Struggles and Hopes

Meet my friend Rachel (pseudonym).  She courageously took the time to do a QA with me.  Rachel is someone who loves Jesus in deep ways AND also struggles with church experiences she’s had in the past.

As a minister in the marketplace, I come across employees who have experienced deep pains in church settings and life.  In some ways, we’re not prepared rightly to face the pain of church problems and issues.  We are promised that if we attend church, all will be well.  But that’s not the case.  A healthier spiritual formation will involve suffering and pain IN the church.  Why?  Because we’re humans who are prone to greed, jealousy, and fear when left unchecked.

My hope in doing these QA sessions is to allow folks to share their story and bless us in their journey.


What are some of your favorite memories about being part of a church community?

“Getting involved in serving has given me so many great memories and the relationships I developed through serving – have continued.
Being a part of “Small Groups” has also been some of my most cherished memories. Not only did we meet weekly for a pot luck and bible study, we also did a lot of other things like going on the Horn Blower Cruises, Padre games, etc.
I felt such a sense of “Family” in my church community.”

Is having “practicing” faith something that is important to you? If so, why/why not?

“If I understand this question correctly then “Yes”, having a practicing faith reinforces the core of who I am. I believe in God, I believe that Jesus came to earth and paid the price for our sins, I believe in the words written in the bible and try to live by those words. I constantly have to re-center myself back to my core but because I now know “who” I am, I know where/what my center is. For years, I didn’t know “who” I was so, it was easy to blindly go through life.

I believed in God and tried to live life accordingly but didn’t realize I had the power of the Holy Spirit in me and that is how I could be powerfully guided through life. Instead of following my faith, I eventually learned to live my faith. Practicing my faith is very important to me, I tend to do it more quietly than others, I am very firm in my faith, I don’t feel I have to defend it nor do I push it on others (but will share it with others). I am very protective of my faith.”

What are some of your current struggles with belonging to a church community?

“I had to leave the church community for a number of reasons such as:
Mainly because there was so much going on in my personal life with people dying, suicide, personal struggles, etc., that I went into a depression.
I was serving so often that I rarely got time to nourish myself spiritually and no longer had anything left in me to give.

I started to get very resentful about how so many others never served yet had such high expectations from those of us that did.

I think I was so burnt out, so many things started to bother me, not about my relationship with the Lord but people in general.

We have gone to different churches since then but just didn’t “feel” it there like I did the moment I did when I walked into my past church home from day one.
The church we went to had such a variety of people from different economic backgrounds, ethnicity, tattoos, piercings, etc. I LOVED the diversity of this church!!!

I don’t know how to word it other than, the other churches we have tried since, just seemed so “white” and “middle class”.

I came from a very poor background and even though I am white and now probably considered middle-class, I feel more comfortable around people who grew up with very little.

I don’t want to go to a church where my any of my co-workers or family goes.

When do you most seek direction from God?

More so when I need to make a “big” decision but strive to seek His direction in everything.

edwin-andrade-158050-unsplash

What do you most long for in your current stage of life?

Peace in my heart

What are some reasonable ways one can engage practicing their faith on a daily basis?

I like to have people around me that are more mature in their walk with the Lord so I feel like I’m constantly learning. I like to have friends that will hold me accountable. I like my faith walk to include friends in my journey. Although I have gotten really lax in my behavior, I would like to get back to a place where I walk the walk and let my actions speak for themselves. I want people to just know I’m a Christian by my behavior not me throwing words out there.

Some of the changes I would like to see in todays churches are:

*Different people leading worship (for a variety of reasons).

*I’m not sure if these “mega” churches are healthy for the relationships we should be developing.

*The leaders, especially the pastors, need to be more in touch with the congregation. They need to know our specific struggles, stories, needs, etc.
I don’t like how so many Christians idolize the pastor. Some won’t even come to church if they know the pastor is on vacation (one of the reasons having different people lead is a good idea).

*I would love a church that had smaller groups with different pastors leading (same sermon but delivered differently) rather than one big sanctuary. We all learn differently so there is no “one pastor fits all”. I loved a pastor that was so funky and down to earth. Some felt he was too funny and church wasn’t supposed to be funny. My husband like this one pastor that was extremely detailed, very intelligent, etc., that I couldn’t understand a lot of what he said. It went right over my head. Our main pastor was so anointed, walked the walk, etc., but actually getting “with” the congregation seemed to be less and less (although he was battling some serious health issues in his defense).

Crying out for God’s Presence – Lenten Homily 3.13.2018

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

William Seymour, Azusa Street Revival

Reading 1, Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
GospelJohn 5:1-3, 5-16

In the early part of the 1900’s, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (HS) in a converted Los Angeles warehouse, off Azusa st.  The leader, an African American, was leading a group of people in prayer, bible study, and worship as the Holy Spirit descended upon them [side note:  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence to have the HS pour out over a struggling, pain-filled community…people experiencing racism, prejudice, etc).  There are many stories of people experiencing healing–emotional, mental, spiritual, relational–as well as people giving their lives to following Jesus.  A river was flowing through the gathered community and washing over them.

In the Ezekiel passage, there is imagery of temple/water/river/flow/life/fruit.  That’s the flow.  But it starts with temple, which represents God’s presence among the people.  From God’s presence among the people, there is healing, life–a picture of a community flourishing.

Charismatic belief has held that when we seek God’s presence, the river flows!  Pentecostal/Charismatic movements are the fasting growing in the world.  What might a deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit look like in our lives?  And what might happen when we are intentional about seeking God’s presence (temple/river/flow) in our lives and with those we do work and life with?  The promise and picture is that we will see healing, salvation, wholeness, and the community flourishing.

The other day, I was really struggling with a relational issue.  I couldn’t shake the feelings that were messing with me.  I went to our bedroom, closed and locked the door, and threw myself on the floor to cry out to God!  I asked God for a breakthrough in this area.  A breakthrough of wisdom, a paradigm shift, a revelation and insight into next steps.  After some time (it felt like hours!), I wiped my tears and sensed God’s presence and words of wisdom.  I had a new perspective that was not my own.  I cried out to God for something beyond me.  I followed this up with a trusted friend and told him what I was going through and experiencing.  His words echoed what I had experienced with God.

This river stream experience caused gladness and a deeper awareness of God’s presence (temple) in my life.  The promise of the Holy Spirit includes healing, miracle languages, insights, discernment, and words of wisdom.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) has a simple but profound rule:  Look for God in all things/inner movements/relationships/work.  It is a very charismatic approach to life!

 

The Gospel in My Context: Beloved and Belonging (Lenten Homily, 3.11.2018)

Reading 1Second Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
GospelJohn 3:14-21
Reading 2Ephesians 2:4-10


I remember when I was in junior high school, there was a gangbanger (GB) who was constantly picking on me.  I’m not sure why.  I was a church boy, played in band, and played basketball during my lunch times so I can’t think of why I was a threat to him and his homies.  One day I was playing basketball and this GB comes on to the court hollering at me:  “ROY!  ROY!”  He was getting louder and closer.  So I decided that he crossed the free throw line where I was standing that I was gonna throw a punch.  Sure enough, he crossed the line and I became “fist-a-cuffs!”.

The next day, this gangbangers friend–who was half my size–came and “hit me up!”…with 10 of his friends.  I was all alone, with my drumsticks in hand heading to band class.  I thought, “I’m dead!” but I’ll bust out a few paradiddles on some heads before I go down.

After some pleasantries, I heard a voice behind me and a bunch of footsteps.  By now, a mob of people are surrounding us and the voice says, “Roy!  We got your back!”  It was my friend “Filo” (look it up) and his friends.  The year prior to me being at school, my cousin had attended the same jr high school and told his friends to look out for me.

Sometimes when I listen to a man’s story, it is shortcoming that I’ll hear them allude to a feeling of a parent figure not being “there” for them.  The story somehow conveys a belief:  who is “for me”, who is “with me”?

I obviously do not condone bullying or violence.  But I was sure glad that someone was “for me” and “with me”.  🙂

I think and feel differently about myself and others when I experience being loved and belonging.  One of the greatest miracles that I feel the Gospel has done in my life is transform the way I feel about myself and others.  I know Good News has more far-reaching implications than my “measly” self.  🙂 But I also know that God’s redemptive choosing involves “little ole me”.

When I read these passages, what I hear is “I chose you.  I love you.  You belong to me.”  Thanks to Scot McKnight (his blog is way better than mine) and his book “A Fellowship of Differents“, when I hear the word love, I hear “I’m with you, for you, and unto you”.  It’s not just a “feeling” from God but a disposition that He has towards us.

The readings today convey this sense that God does all the initiating in our lives to love us and chooses us.  I hear way too many stories of people not feeling beloved or that they belong.

What happens when you and I feel like we belong and that we’re loved?  We begin to act that way with God, others, and our selves.

These powerful truths have rearranged my life.  I can look back at this photo of my jr high self and know that I’m loved and belong by a God who chooses us.  May these words bless you as well…because you’re already chosen, beloved, and belong.

 

 

You’re More Religious Than You Think

Reading 1Hosea 14:2-10
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 81:6-8, 8-9, 10-11, 14, 17
GospelMark 12:28-34

Lenten Homily – 3.9.2018

 ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

The greatest commandment that Jesus shares starts with the word “hear” and the strongest word that catches my eye is “Lord”.

There is only one who can be called Lord Jesus Christ so it is right that he receive all devotion.  Religion involves great devotion and as human beings, we love to devote ourselves to all kinds of things.

That’s why I believe that you’re more religious than you think.  We are “devotioners”.  We give ourselves over to people, work, hobbies, ideologies, projects, NFL teams.  We devote our energy, time, attention, and even money to our causes.

What does it mean to love God?  It seems that it starts with “hearing”.  The rest of the mandate seems to spell out “devotion”.  Whatever the call is, it begins with listening.  That presupposes that I have something to hear, to learn, to receive.  This puts me in a posture of being the student.

I was running the other day and when I got to my turnaround point, I felt compelled to stop and listen.  Ears attentive, heart open.  What was being said and spoken?  It’s a great exercise to make room to listen every day.

Religious people are listening people.  What do you hear today?

May you hear that as much as God calls us to love Him and others/self, we are loved with an everlasting love.  That is the first word we all need to hear.

For Research: Here’s How To Prevent The Next School Shooting, Experts Say : NPR Ed : NPR

This article is a great plan and resource for reducing violence and gun related issues. Posting it for future use.

Here’s How To Prevent The Next School Shooting, Experts Say : NPR Ed : NPR
— Read on www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/03/07/590877717/experts-say-here-s-how-to-prevent-the-next-school-shooting

And, these experts say, you remove the major “environmental hazard” that contributes to gun violence: the guns. The eight-point plan calls for universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and something called Gun Violence Protection Orders: a type of emergency order that would allow police to seize a gun when there is an imminent threat.

What sets this call to action apart from other policy proposals is not gun control, however, but the research-based approach to violence prevention and response. This is a long haul, say the experts, not a quick fix.

“No matter what you try to do by just hardening the target, we’ve learned that having the armed officers isn’t necessarily going to stop it,” says Matthew Mayer at Rutgers. “Having the metal detector or the locked doors isn’t going to stop it. The hard work is a lot more effort. You’d better start thinking in a more comprehensive manner about prevention instead of reacting.”

Prayer: God’s Nearness

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
Responsorial PsalmPsalms 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20
GospelMatthew 5:17-19

“…God is near us whenever we pray to him…”
[wind has been a sign of the Holy Spirit]

Are you freaking kidding me?!  Read those words again…slower….
let
them
sink
in.

Big themes in the bible again….one of them is us being made in his image and likeness.  We are very impressionable people, influenced by what we read, watch, think about, and who we allow to speak into our lives.  It makes sense to me to create the space to be with the Lord Almighty–who is, who was, and who is to come.  God, the one who saves, redeems, heals, and imparts wisdom through his decrees and word, longs for creation to reflect His image.

So when we pray, we are promised His Presence.

I don’t always “feel” God.
I don’t always “sense” God’s presence.

But time and experience tell me that God is present–directing, guiding, loving, blessing, healing.

I have a friend’s face in mind.  A family member of his was sick.  He asked for prayer.  We wrote down the prayer and he shared it with the family member.  I received a call a few hours later that all the symptoms were gone…miraculously!  His face went from down-trodden to sheer joy and shock.  “Your God listens to you!”

I am also picturing a young man who is experiencing some deep pain from past trauma.  During our times together, we sat in silent prayer, staying present to the pain but all the while staying present to how God was with him in the pain and what God might be saying to him.  Tears.  Relaxed.  Rested.  Hopeful.  Those are the words he uttered after praying.

I’m also aware that there are some prayers that feel like they’re falling on dead ears.  My friend being shot at multiple times (gun violence).  A friend who has cancer and it’s getting worse (health issues).  A friend who didn’t get a career opportunity because he didn’t fit the typical role (systemic racism and injustice:  he’s latino and NOT aggressively charismatic).

We don’t stop praying when we don’t hear the response we’re looking for.  We lean into God’s faithfulness to hear the words, “I’m with you…I’m sorry…Be strong and courageous”.