Some people experience a lot more pain and tragedy in life than most. Religious cliches, flippant anecdotes, and lectures on how to process extreme hurt that you've never felt could very well do them more harm than good. Approaching such people with non-judgmental Love, humility, kindness, and holy silence will go much further than the "sage wisdom" of Job's comforters.
What's depicted in the picture above is NOT THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS!
Here's how I see it: God Loved us so much that He became one of us to show us what humanity was created to look like (Love). We rejected Him and killed Him. Nevertheless, The Power of Love and forgiveness triumphed over the power of hate, sin, and death. This forever incarnate, glorified, risen, and ascended representative of all mankind shall forever be one of us. God Himself formed this union to totally identify with us so that we could forever totally identify with Him. His Life is now our Life through His Spirit. We are now free to receive Love, be Love, and give Love! The message of the cross is one of pure Love...not anger, bloodlust, vengeance, and appeasement.
I don't have to wait for God to "show up" and I never have to "enter His Presence" or pull Him through the roof. He's always HERE...in me, above me, below me, and beside me...extending beyond what the universe can contain.
I don't need to take a pilgrimage or worry about special buildings. I worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! My body is His Temple! I'm also a precious, lively stone in His corporate Temple...not made with hands!
I don't have to get Him to Love, Value, Cherish, or Accept me. He always has and always will.
I don't have to get Him to speak.
I must simply rest and listen to what He's saying vs. trying to conjure up what I want to hear. If the melody that I'm hearing isn't accompanied by a harmony that screams, "Abba (DADDY), Father!", "You Belong!", "You, My Beloved son, are Deeply and Infinitely Loved, Perfectly Accepted, and Highly Favored!", I'm either not hearing Him or my partial hearing has tuned out the most important frequency.
He can't possibly Love me any more or less than He does at this moment. God is Love!
While I desire to be sensitive to His guidance, I don't have to be paranoid about being at the right place at the right time with the right people. The right Person dwells in me and Loves every person in every place. I have simply been given the privilege to let Him Love them through me as He directs.
My prayers have nothing to do with conjuring up a distant deity and begging Him for stuff or to do stuff. I simply get to participate in the perpetual conversation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I don't have to worry about titles or the praises of men. He calls me His son! His delight and affirmation are more than enough!
The Virgin Birth shall forever convey the truth that the womb is far greater than the publishing house and the Son is far greater than a book that is filled with accounts of humanity's contradictions and misunderstandings of the Father while masterfully pointing us directly to Him through the Son. Jesus is not ink on paper. He is Divinity wrapped in Humanity!
I'm reminded that Jesus is greater than the Law and the Prophets whenever I think of the Mount of Transfiguration. Like Peter, men are bent on building three co-equal tabernacles for Moses and Elijah but the Father will have none of it. In that Biblical account, the two disappear and only THE LOGOS (The Word of God/God's Perfect Logic) remains, and His Name is Jesus! We can appreciate the Law and the Prophets, but the Father commands us to HEAR THE SON while assuring us that His Voice is all-sufficient and far greater than the Law and the Prophets who were groping in the dark while longing for Him Who ALONE is the Brightness of the Father's Glory and the Express Image of His Person. Jesus is the only One Who could say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father".
The Bible is like a series of love letters that invite us to the marriage bed. We should deeply appreciate our Bibles and be lifelong students of its texts, but not at the expense of behaving like a newlywed bride who is more obsessed with a book that whets her appetite for intimacy than intimacy itself.
When I look back on my life, I find that the seasons of greatest spiritual and intellectual growth have occurred when "believing to belong" was not a mandate or condition for receiving Love and enjoying fellowship. That "season" is now a perpetual way of life for me, and has been for quite some time.
Conforming to any organization's dogmatic doctrinal demands (many of which are highly contested in other spheres of Orthodox Christendom) in order to maintain a position, a paycheck, and prestige never brought me true freedom and kept me within the constraints of the understanding of the highest man on the denominational totem pole, whether he was dead or alive.
Jesus never shuns those who approach Him and the Scriptures with doubts and serious questions that are not welcomed in much of the Western "Christian" world.
Refusing to be conformed to "this world" (systems...See Romans 12:1,2) includes a refusal to be conformed to religious systems which will not allow for personal and collective transformation (i.e.- Growing in Grace) through the ongoing renewal of the mind.
I can tell you from experience that coming to God with serious doubts, fears, admitted ignorance, and tough questions regarding the Scriptures hasn't destroyed my faith (I understand that it is His Faith. Nevertheless, I am speaking in terms of personal growth in His Faith to the best of my understanding...along with what the English language will allow). It has only solidified it and made it stronger.
I have also learned that all of the answers to my questions don't come directly from God. He has designed his Ekklesia/Body in such a way that we must rely heavily upon inter-dependence. An understanding of that has brought me greater experiential Joy and caused me to find great treasures outside of my own formal Theological training and limited ecclesiastical, and personal experience and studies.
Another important lesson that I have learned is to be wary of environments where Monologue is King, Entertainment is Queen, and Meaningful Dialogue is the Neglected Peasant.
While I may expound upon this topic in a more lengthy writing or video, these are my brief thoughts for today.
1. There were no buildings called "churches".
2. "Preaching" was synonymous with dialogue, not Greco-Roman, "Sage on the Stage Sermons". EVERY member of the family was welcomed as an active "joint of supply".
3. Overseers/Bishops/Elders didn't "control the show" and were not necessarily synonymous with the "five-fold" equipping ministry of "pastor".
4. The role of "pastor" (Mentioned only once in the entire New Testament, where it is plural and listed 4th among 5 equipping ministries...and also LEFT OUT of the list in 1 Corinthians 12) looked nothing like what it does in most churches today. The Bible promises no one the "one-man show" Grace that is needed to fulfill what is expected of Post-Constantinian, 21st Century "pastors". The modern-day role simply can't be defended Biblically or with First Century History.
5. There were no altars or altar calls.
6. There was no "sinner's prayer". The church multiplied through God's Love functioning through His people and by the organic work of the Holy Spirit awakening people to the Truth and joining them through meaningful, family relationships.
7. Denominationalism ("I'm of Peter!", "I'm of Paul!", etc) was synonymous with CARNALITY. This obviously included "Non-Denominational" Denominations.
God is Love. Love/God can't be humanly manufactured. Our union with Love, through Christ, is the only way that we can Love Love and enjoy Love Loving through us. We discover the highest expressions of Love when we reckon ourselves dead and our lives hid with Christ in Love! The key to Loving God, Neighbor, and Enemy is to stop trying to Love and to just let Love in us and all around us Love through us!
A few reasons why this diagram is deeply flawed:
1. The Godhead is the pattern for ALL relationships.
2. The Trinity's Inter-Dependent relationship and function is best described through the Perichoresis (A Circle Dance) example, not pyramids or umbrellas.
3. Unless Jesus' Umbrella LEAKS, why would anyone need the others? Our lives are hid WITH Christ IN God.
4. God's Pattern emphasizes FUNCTIONING IN UNION vs. A Boss Dominating a Subject down the inverted, misogynistic, Patriarchal pyramid.
5. The Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ. Moses could tell you what to do ("top down"), but he couldn't indwell and empower you to do anything! Jesus does! Therefore, umbrellas and inverted pyramids are horrible ways of relating to God and each other. While some of the "principles" may be correct, the implied dualism and multiplicity (vs. union) are glaring misrepresentations of the Christ Life. A man who views himself as ONE with God, His Wife, and His Children will be much more successful than one whose prominent perspective is from a "Husband Down" position.
6. It seriously devalues the Christ in women and children, and is an unnecessary stumbling block for Non-Believers.
7. Some diagrams include "Pastor" (Mentioned only once in the entire N.T., where it is plural and listed 4th among 5 functions), which makes the "LEAKY UMBRELLA/INVERTED PYRAMID" picture even worse.
8. Notice the only place where "LOVE" is listed.
9. What does it speak to broken families, widows, orphans, or women and children who have been abandoned?
10. According to the diagram, Who is closest to Christ (but not even IN HIM)?
Fact: Most "Israeli" Jews today are religious Jews who are of Gentile descent. Science has proven that. They are the seed of Japheth, not Shem (Semitic), and don't have a direct bloodline to Abraham. Therefore, Arabs (descendants of Shem) are more "Semitic" than most "Israeli" Jews.
No one in "Israel" practices Old Covenant Judaism and many don't even follow modern Rabbinical Judaism. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't Love and protect the human rights of all people, but it does dispel many Premillennial Dispensationalist, Christian Zionist myths and reaffirms the fact that God Himself has a Middle East peace plan with justice for all that does not require racism, apartheid, persecution, ethnic cleansing, geopolitical posturing, and land theft.
Do a study on Ashkenazis and Kazars (CONVERTS to Judaism from Central or Eastern Europe) for more information. It should also be noted that Israel's official genealogical records were burned when the Romans destroyed Herod's Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
People have made huge errors while conflating religion with race. There is no religion with "a pure bloodline". Jesus Himself has Moabites and Canaanites in His "family tree". Moses married an Ethiopian. Joseph married an Egyptian. Solomon married "everyone"!
If the Beatitudes don't apply to the land where Jesus was born, then where do they apply? Why should someone of European descent who lives in Nebraska be able to convert to Judaism and become an "Israeli Settler" who steals Palestinian land? Why did European nations not give Jewish Holocaust survivors back their money, possessions, and lands in Europe? Why was UGANDA suggested as a place to send Holocaust survivors?
Western nations most certainly created a mess in the Middle East...as they continue to do to this day. It's time to speak out against Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate; and it's time to MAKE PEACE. The problem in the Middle East wasn't created by Jews or Arabs, it was created by MY EUROPEAN DESCENDANTS AND OTHER EUROPEANS.
Blessed are the Peacemakers! Jesus isn't GOING TO BE The Prince of Peace. He already IS The Prince of Peace! He also manifests Peace through all who truly follow Him.
There are multitudes of Israeli's and Palestinians who desire nothing more than peaceful coexistence. I'm with them!
Added Notes: If many U.S. "Evangelicals" followed their own "moral" eschatological "land principles", they would have given their houses and lands to Native Americans long ago!
The absolute scoundrel, C.I. Scofield was also complicit in the Premillennial Dispensationalist scheme which has caused so much needless pain for both Jews and Arabs.
Peace, Shalom, & Salaam!
When I observe how a large number of professing, American "Christians" behave on Facebook, I have to conclude that many worship at the altars of Nationalism, Politics, and Fear.
Having Jesus as their mascot, a few out-of-context "proof texts", and the talking points of their favorite "news" outlet appears to be their way of justifying hatred, racism, violence, oppression, and war. Their version of "Jesus" has them thirsty for political clout, military might, and the destruction of their enemies. Sick stuff.
Matthew 5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."