Zeal without Knowledge

New DayNot sure why I continue to post my early morning thoughts, perhaps it’s for my internal processing alone; or, some deep in my bones hope that what my life experience has afforded, both in pain and promise, will be picked up by the next generation?  Hope the latter is the case!

I am quite certain after this election, both in NC and at the national level, this sovereign sorting (so it feels) will afford us the need to finally deal with unity among believers.  Whether it be justice in the marketplace, equitable educational opportunities during this transformational societal shift, as well as a plethora of opinions sorely in need of open dialogue within the Body of Christ.

I intentionally used the term Body of Christ rather than the term “church” as I am still compelled by the challenging spiritual “foreclosure word” dropped in my heart on December 28, 2008.  That and, the underlying nausea that follows with the daily rhetoric I hear among fellow “believers” from among both political parties!

This whole internal tirade was set off this a.m. as I read little more than two verses deep into my daily scripture journey, now in Romans 10.

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:1-4, NIV.

I find myself convinced that the church in America is exactly where “believers” were in Judaism during Paul’s day.  I use the word believers because these people were zealous to the point of death, as Paul himself had been.  They were “convinced”; note I used the same word again, owning the fact that I too could be off base in my assumptions?  That’s why I blog “out loud”!

Paul was saying to these believers that a shift had occurred in their then blind faith walk and that what the Law had been designed to provide (an awareness of sin and the futility of attempting sin-less-ness), God had now provided true and full remedy for.  In fact, a model of both righteousness and power was now before them, in the resurrected person of Christ Jesus.  Their remedy would be a righteousness, attainable only by faith, yet a power as was already being fully demonstrated, by way of the Spirit’s residence in many of them personally!

On top of that, it would be a gift by the Spirit through grace, not based upon any one religion.  Even the day of the priesthood and their evident entanglement with politics was over.  All were now both Kings and Priests, and in fact, in a new Kingdom!

Of course this radical position was border line anarchy, and was met with renewed discomfort among the ultra-religious and political.  Eventually, execution would again be their remedy, as earlier experienced by Paul, as he held the garments for those stoning of Stephen.

Religion, humanity’s best efforts, even Judaism, could never produce the love God offers and mankind desires!

Are we there again, when American Christianity has become so institutionalized, now unescapably steeped in her assorted tribes and traditions, that her only recourse for a nation under siege is mere politics?  If so, that option has now surely run its course, in that she can no longer even attract reasonable candidates!  Even the logic used to justify her partisan driven position makes no sense whatsoever, when one looks at the core values professed!  We have become an embarrassment to our nation and out children!

“Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

The Fourth Man

rublevs-the-trinityMorning is my time to reflect, encourage my heart and fine tune my Kingdom efforts on this earth.  For those who know little of me, I have always felt a special favor in my life, always protected and provided for, even in my most shameful moments.  I must admit that life does not seem fair, as some who have contributed far more than I, have passed long before the ripe age of 68!  Perhaps this past weekend has played a part, as I had the privilege of sharing stories with former classmates at my 50th high school reunion!


In my current read through Richard Rohr’s book, The Divine Dance, and given this awareness of my own mortality, along with my limited truly lasting impact thus far, I seem desperate to better understand this thing called spirituality.


Rohr has refocused my thoughts around the Trinity, a Christian concept of a Triune Being, One God in three persons.  Rohr actually implies that our limited understanding of the Trinitarian Theology is part of the problem, in a day when we know so much about science and yet have communicated so poorly the Godhead.  I can only recommend that one read the book, rather than any poor attempt to consolidate his thoughts into one page.


What if we have misconstrued this concept and rather than One Being in three distinct parts, it is Three Beings becoming One?  In other words, it is about a current and ongoing relationship of love between those whom we know as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, being One in purpose; and in fact now, we, Creation being the fourth invited into the circle?  Was Calvary our divine invitation, a full demonstration of the love experienced by the Trinity, destroying all of sin’s need for sacrifice on our part in order to participate?  Perhaps now, the only way not to participate in this fierce love for creation is to opt out, to go our own way.  Is that what true loneliness and lack of purpose is really about?


As I pondered this challenging paradigm shift, my thoughts went to another place where three were together and a fourth showed up, that fourth man was “like the Son of God.”  That description didn’t come from a modern day Trinitarian but from a pagan king named Nebuchadnezzar, and long before Christ!


Why were there three men in the fire?  Why did the King blurt out such a statement, now forever captured in scripture?  Was this somewhat unrelated story actually a subtle demonstration of the Trinity’s purpose: protecting, restoring, and returning all creation back to full relationship with our Creator?  The first Adam now and forever fully participating with the second Adam; the Trinity became flesh so that we might join in the Trinity!


Could our rational objectivity be preventing our full participation in this Divine Dance, mankind back into full relationship as the Four In One, now so perfectly in communion (another Christian concept) that even in the fire of these perilous times, we are not singed!  Doesn’t that sound more like love than a God who would threaten Hell if you do not respond?


Why would anyone opt out?  I hope you’ll dance!



This morning, as I opened Richard Rohr’s newest book, The Divine Dance, I found myself in a moment of introspection.  In just a few pages, Rohr, as he always seems to do, began to challenge my heart both with the loss of intimacy over my 43 year journey with Christ and my awareness of how diminished the beauty of Christ may have become as revealed by the Church.

Rohr uses the religious artwork of Fifteenth Century Russian Artist, Andrei Rublev, as a visual aid in the refurbishment of our somewhat eroded understanding of the blessed Trinity.  As he puts it, “This particular form of artistic expression, attempts to point beyond itself, inviting in its viewers a sense of both the beyond and the communion that exists in our midst.” 1

Though I have yet to finish the Introduction, once googled, his selection seemed strategic not only in genre, but symbolic of my heart as well, given the centuries of preservation’s wear and tear upon this iconic image.  As I read the online description of this multiple times refurbished masterpiece, it seemed to set off a deep contemplative sorrowing within me.

Now displayed in the Tretyakov gallery in Moscow, the words “close to” are used “because, after five centuries, the icon’s painting turned out to be severely damaged. The gold background was lost, the tree was painted anew within the old contours and the top layers of paint were washed off. Even the ground was partially disturbed and cracks appeared, the outlines of the Angels’ heads were partly altered. Notwithstanding the above, even in its present state the Trinity remains one of the best of all the Russian icons.”2

As I enter my 68th year on this struggling globe, now in its third millennia since the time of Christ, I must wonder at the appearance of Christianity as the world now sees it both through the Church, and in my life as well! 

Perhaps we appear like this iconic piece of art, “the gold background was lost, the tree was painted anew within the old contours and the top layers of paint were washed off. Even the ground was partially disturbed and cracks appeared, the outlines of the Angels’ heads were partly altered.”

Godly sorrow works repentance!  My challenge is to daily afford God access to the canvas of my life, so that the Imago Dei originally  intended with the Master’s first brush stroke, deep in my mother’s womb, might always bear at minimum a “close to” resemblance to the art work intended for my life.  

Rohr goes on to say that one artist became a follower of Jesus just from gazing at Rublev’s iconic work, exclaiming, “If that’s the nature of God, then I’m a believer.”
May it be said of me before I pass.

1Richard Rohr,The Divine Dance, Whitaker House,2016, p.29.





I can remember the first time I heard the phrase “Both/And” in a religious setting.  I was huddled among moderate Baptists with whom I had engaged in a Coaching practice.  It seemed they had moved off “center” from their previous “either/or” approach to Biblical reasoning.  Was this the beginning of enlightenment or evidence of the cautions offered in the New Testament Book of Jude?


As I daily ruminate on my ultra-conservative, even Pentecostal up-bringing, I am equally rattled by where my right-of-center friends have gone in this present election season.  I cannot believe the faulty reasoning being leveraged to justify voters more fearful of a Clinton Presidency than the global possibilities of a man with little evident character or predictable morals.  It seems that our faith is more grounded in the Supreme Court than the Supreme Being!


Compound that with the fact that the historically stabilizing forces in America, the institutional church and the concept of inalienable rights, are also eroding.  Civil Rights issues loom large, legitimized by the visual transparency and immediacy of often undeniable information provided through social media.


Then there is the oncoming train of scientific evidence that challenges the bedrock of our religious brotherhood, Creation Theory, while yet on the other hand, reinforces the idea that we are one!  Jesus sought after that same understanding and received a death sentence by crucifixion.


“In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.


“I think all three studies are basically saying the same thing,” said Joshua M. Akey of the University of Washington, who wrote a commentary accompanying the new work. “We know there were multiple dispersals out of Africa, but we can trace our ancestry back to a single one.”1


I find it ironic that religion and science both agree and disagree though equally refusing to offer middle ground.  Fear seems to mount as the evidence of evolution challenges religion’s simple creation story; meanwhile culture seems to fulfill the scriptural prophecies which so aptly describe these “last days”.  Paul’s second letter to Timothy offers this description: “For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.” (NLT).


How does one reconcile his/herself in this mounting tension, maintain a love that casts out all fear, honors one’s neighbor, hopes for freedom, distains war, respects Civil Rights and shares life’s spoils in the midst of a greedy society?  For me it is my personal faith.

I find my assurance anchored in an undeniable grace filled journey with God, the God who is love.  Had I not experienced this unmerited favor, witnessed the “Hand of the Lord” so evident in my life physically, financially and within my home, I would have great difficulty at this moment in time given my personal failures and my “deep in the trenches” experience with both church and state.  All this faith is bounded by an information bank of 53 years of scriptural pursuit, scientific study and leadership theory.


“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!” (NIV)



1 http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/science/ancient-dna-human-history.html?smid=fb-share&referer=http://m.facebook.com/

The Sheep Pen

Hindu Event

Occasionally in my read through scriptures, a phrase will leap out at me and remain present throughout the rest of my reading, almost a distraction.  After a while, I will circle back and study that phrase for further insights.


This a.m. in John 10:1, only eleven words into my read, there it was.  “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.”


Context is important.  Jesus was questioning the newly healed blind man, and of course the religious were always nearby.  Not the well-meaning church folk, but those hoping to catch Him in some flawed statement; kind of the same ilk as our contemporary ultra-partisan politicians!


Of late, I have become personally aware of the brokenness of humanity, to include myself!  Even those most conscientious about following the ways of Christ have a dark side.  In fact, John commented on this earlier in verses 2:24, 25:  “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them (speaking of believers), for he knew all men.  He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (NIV).


I am a sheep, a smelly one at times, and though occasionally I try to lead (shepherd) I quickly become convinced of “what was (is) in a man.”  We are broken at best.  Thank God, we have a Shepherd.  Thank God for the security of a “pen.”


The Gate, Christ himself, who was God our Creator, is and ever shall be our Abba Father!  He was and is the Way.  His lifestyle, his demonstration of mercy and love, is the way.  What greater love has no man, than to lay down one’s life for another.   Sinning, the falling short of the glory of God, we do well!  Forgiving, accepting, inclusion, not so well!


With sin always comes guilt and the need of “redemption” (chose your on word).  Perhaps guilt, that sickening feeling is more a part of our brokenness than God’s demand, for God knows we are “sheep.”


The Good News, He became “sin” for us!  The Shepherd became a sheep, a lamb, one sacrificed, once and for all; ever resolving the sin imposed need of redemption!  Let’s not make this difficult.


That is always good news in my darkest moments!


This is by no means my attempt to say that American Christianity is the Way, nor that the “Jesus” often presented by legalistic evangelicals (perhaps the Pharisees of our day) is the only way.  I’ll let the reader percolate (coffee in hand) on that one.


In fact, the Gate Keeper Himself was by no means an exclusionist: “I have other sheep that are not a part of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.” John 10:16a (NIV).


Sheep or Shepherds

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jn 1:1-5,14 NIV

In a recent conversation, after just having read these refreshing  words from the Gospel of John, I was made aware of just how far we as Christ followers may have strayed from the role model of The Christ.

Christ was God become flesh, that’s the model, The Chief Shepherd became a lamb!

My point is our apparent promotion mentality.  We want to become shepherds working the sheep, and though I understand the agricultural leadership allegory, I sense a loss of perspective. We are the sheep to whom the Chief Shepherd came!  We did not become him, we are still sheep, smelly sheep!

Perhaps the structural hierarchy of the church has deluded us?  It seems that no one wants to bear the image of a sinner saved by grace.   We want to be above “them” while drawing our spiritual esteem from serving among “them.”  In fact, even those who would emerge as true spiritual leaders are too often quickly promoted to the esteemed rank of Bishop, Archbishop, even Overseer.  Pecking order was not a part of Jesus’ model, though rightfully all titles were His!

Jesus resisted flattery, even the well deserved title of Rabbi.  In fact his reply at one point was “there is none good but God!”

If He became flesh, a lamb among sheep, a model of God’s truth and grace, should we not also be comfortable in our own sheep skin as we walk and love within the marketplace of our personal calling?

One Day

Picture 1

I seem to be writing less these days; inconsistent might be more truthful.  With the grands now rightfully capturing any flex time, not to mention the bizarre political climate that has seized the institutional church, it’s hard to write with a positive bent!


Yet, when daily compelled by ever present thoughts around a particular theme, I will eventually be driven to process, the purpose of my blog.


The words spoken to me at age nine, “One day you will preach the Gospel” are forever etched in the recesses of my mind.  How does one escape calling?


Regardless of that sovereign voice, my life has never taken on the vocation most would assume.  Now at age 67, when most are considering retirement, I continue to wrestle with communicating the Gospel, howbeit in non-traditional venues. Maybe my childhood orientation toward “preaching the Gospel” behind a pulpit was part of the challenge?


Maybe “this is the Day the Lord has made” and so I must get on with it.


What is the Gospel and if platforms for its preachment have been erected on almost every corner, how have we produced the national leadership deficit we now face? Think about it, if “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”…?


The answer perhaps is a Gospel based not on fear but grace alone.  Fear brings torment, the tool behind the many terrorists who believe themselves agents of God!


As we sit on the cusp of a choice between anarchy and socialism, the Gospel message is quite simple and when demonstrated in love, equally compelling. “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” was the writer’s summation in the Book of Romans.   Contextually, a definition of the Kingdom of God, yet the Gospel, at its best is exactly that: the declaration of another Kingdom come among us!  One that so stretches our faith that we often err in communicating this beautiful reality.


True righteousness cannot be learned but rather is “imputed”, an alien righteousness offered from the only true standard bearer, our Creator!


Peace is the gift bought on our behalf by the One who reconciled sin, not mine alone, but the sins of the whole world.  Simply put, God became flesh and bore the brokenness that we perceive within ourselves, now our sins are no longer entertained by the Creator!  Sin was put  to death, nailed to the cross as at it were!


Joy, that flood of awareness and freedom from our dreaded lost-ness, now back-fills the void, without one pence of cost to us!  We who have been made whole are now free to “become”, rather than being tasked to “do”, as our faith based institutions so often require!


Perhaps the frustration of our politics is certain evidence that the message we have preached has fallen short of the glory of God?


This day, I have preached the gospel!