Before having my little Ivey Jo, I looked like any other 20-something conservative evangelical Christian, and was fully accepted by many as this. Life was easier then. I went to church every Sunday, read my bible, prayed for me and my family. But something was lacking. I still knew there was something more to life and I was still missing it. Actually I ached for it. And my faith was slipping because of it….
Thankful that we found my church Renovatus at just the right time in my Christian walk. By this point, I was holding on to my faith with the last grip of the rope although I was still in no way ready to start pulling myself back up. It was a little glimmer of Hope for me at a time when I had none. I was starting to lose interest in my faith, and I hated myself for it. Why couldn't the bible speak to me like it did others? Why did I really dislike Christian music or anything Christian culture? It was starting to make my skin crawl. Didn't I go through something like this, when I left a legalistic background and found Grace in my late teens. Why was this unsettling happening again in my spirit. Suddenly what I believed in looked Cotton Candyish, paper thin and I was still slipping...
It was a dull pain that followed me around everywhere. Maybe this is what it feels like to pick up your cross daily but why wasn't I feeling fulfilled or at least happy? Or dang, at least have some fruits but I had none and I was withering unless something changed. I would pray over and over after years of getting out of legalism "God, if I'm on the right path, please give me a sign, or stop me if I'm not."
And then one day, my husband Randall told me of this podcast he was listening to, that he really liked. Randall always liked listening to all sorts of different preachers (something I did not care for!) but he was really liking Brian Zahnd's podcast and Brian had also preached at Renovatus one time but I wasn't probably paying attention to what he had preached on since I remember very little of what he said. Anyways, Randall said he just wrote a book called A Farewell To Mars that sounded really interesting. He thought we should read together.
I'm just glad God is a patient God because it took months for me to actually pick the book up and read it, but HOLY CRAP when we did read it. It changed me! Brief synopses in case your wondering: He talked about how we just always assumed that America was God's nation but if you really think about it all nations are more set up as Empires. Empires never follow the Jesus way because they thrive on Us Vs Them mentalities and Jesus demanded that we love our enemies not kill them. Well, what do Empires do? They kill their enemies. But Jesus' Kingdom demands kindness and mercy which doesn't seem to fit well in the Empires of man. Instead we leave Jesus to saving souls for an afterlife while WE handle the business affair of politics. Jesus became Lord of an Afterlife not Lord of our present life. Which is a lot easier if you think about it…
When I read this stuff, I was like "No. That can't be accurate." I've grown up my whole life in church and never heard of this. My interest was peaked and if you know anything about my passion OCD. If I get interested in something, I'm INTERESTED in it and theres no holding back. Soon I was diving into my bible, listening to different podcast, learning from different biblical scholars and preachers, reading endless theology books. I did this everyday and still do!! And yet it was reiterated that Yes in fact, Jesus' Kingdom is now and it is a reversal of what the world glorifies. I just always assumed "the world" meant everything not Christian and I should try stay away. Now I'm finding "the world" is the hidden lens, Christian religion or not, that keeps Jesus on the sidelines.
Actually I was finding a lot of Christian culture in America was keeping Jesus' business just for the saving souls for Heaven afterlife. What I found out about Jesus and have grown to love about Him is that he was VERY political and was VERY much a threat to the way our systems are built. Think about it: Cain after he killed Abel, went and started the first Human Society. Our structures were built on a murderer, the conquerors per say. A very important sign that God did not require this or Human Sacrifice was when he told Abraham not to sacrifice his son. This is a huge moment in our theology because God right there said he does not require that. Then why do we still think we need to kill and why do we trust in Swords more than God's love.
Now remember what Jesus taught? He should be the most central part of our Faith, right? He came so we could see what God is like. No man has seen God but Jesus. What? What about Moses and Elijah? Didn't they see God? Probably fragmented parts but no. No one is God or like God more than Jesus. And remember God never changes so he's always been like Jesus, we just haven't always known that until Jesus came.
Suddenly Jesus' teachings were brought to life in my soul when I started discovering that. The fact that in Jesus's Kingdom the poor, immigrant, outcast and last were first. Started making sense, so did his parables. And poetry. And art. And social Justice. Suddenly life was not as bleak as it was before and I had something to live for. Of course, this new informative thinking (which again actually not new but ancient teaching) did not come without a fight, mostly within myself. Although, I was excited and intrigued, part of me wanted to just bury my head in the sand and forget I ever learned of these things… I mean my beloved America, where I am free to express myself and be who I am came at a price that was found on the bodies of the killed, Native Americans, war, and Jesus had supposedly endorsed all this for the sake of His nation….but only he actually didn't.
Jesus was becoming more real but my Christianity was looking more fake. If I didn't change, I knew I couldn't call myself a Christian anymore even though I was looking less like a Good ole moral republican and more like ekkk! Might I say it: A dreaded Liberal (the Them side)! And it was all Jesus' fault too! If I had my way I would stay that way but I knew now kinda like Peter Parker learned in Spider Man: With great power comes great responsibility. Because now the power of the cross shamed what I had been taught were the 3 great powers to possess: Policitcs, Religion, and Wealth. Only if you think about it, representatives from these 3 very things killed and scapegoated our Lord and Savior: Pilate, Caiaphas, and Herod.
The Cross is a threat to these very powers that rule our world. But how do we overcome this world and the representations of it? Through Geo political force? No. Through war? No. Through Christian empire? Definetly no. The answer is being like a little lamb. A lamb, who's kindness beats the big Big Empire Powers through Sacrificial Love. Did you know, we too, can possess the same mentality that Jesus had? To have a love that doesn't even fear death but forgives even while the perpetrator is acting against us. What does that kind of love look like? It looks like fruits and this is why I harp on fruits so much more than cultural Christianity. Because look around you. Do you see fruits in that? I didn't nor did I have any myself. Because what we have been built on is a religion that is only obsessed with after life suddenly we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off wondering what a real Christian looks like and calling out anything threatening, usually anything that threatens our systems and we scapegoat it or them. Yikes! Don't you see? We take on the same Satanic mentality that scapegoated our Jesus because he didn't fit into any of our worldly systems or views of it.
Maybe I'm above your head and I'm making it spin. That's okay. I've been there too. But I know that I just can't sit back before and not do anything like I did before. I can't keep a cheap religion that plays on the powers of Man's empires and not be/think different. Before I had very little interest in Polictics but now I realize, even though, Jesus' Kingdom doesn't come through Geo political force (its a matter of our hearts) our politics plays an important role in what we think are important in our lives. I do not judge republican or democrat nor do I subscribe to a certain side. I think we need both wings to make the bird fly.
I think we need to uphold the standard of pro-life more but even to the point of every human being and their rights. Pro-life has become a deeply intricate part of my faith. For every human being needs to be recognized as that: a human being. Not a Them to be wrote off as not important or as evil, but as suffering humans who need help and compassion. That is how Jesus looked at each human even the despicable ones who were profiting by exploiting his own people (tax collectors) He treated them with kindness not indifference and yes there is a difference!!
Do you know what a luke warm religion/love looks like? It looks like loving the ones that are just like you and not the other, which even the worst of sinners find easy to do. I still remember the night, I felt so convicted by the Holy Spirit after wrestling with this new found knowledge. I knew by that still small voice that I had been luke warm for a long time. And after 16 years of trying I finally broke free. That's when you really learn about Grace too. When you've been so blind and preoccupied with your own idols of selfishness, ego and greed that you didn't realize you weren't even putting Jesus as Lord of your life, ever!
Hey to be honest, I was just worshipping what everyone around me was worshipping too. And when I stopped. People noticed and became uneasy around me. Religious, non-religious, liberal, conservative. Now I don't feel like I can fit in any circle but the small narrow one. Actually still to this day I get scapegoated every now and then but now I'd be worried if I didn't because I know the way is narrow and it cuts into my own ego too so I understand when the gospel cuts into other's as well. I understand the uneasy feeling of coming out of religion and into the deep sometimes dark waters of Grace. It's frightening but yet freeing all at once.
But that's the thing about Grace. It doesn't play by our rules. It doesn't have laws and that's the most terrifying aspect of God. To not have him pinned down or to not know his heart. Read Jesus' parables. They are disturbing!! I mean the Prodigal son and the worker's getting paid all the same, like what? But that is their intent to get you disoriented. To wake you up out of sleep. To ask more questions. I always related more to the elder son and the workers that worked all day. I recently heard we should try to play ourselves into the story as the prodigal and the hour long workers then we might understand Grace a little better. I think the fact that we think we enter the Kingdom before anyone else means we really haven't found the Kingdom to begin with.
Only the Kingdom comes with a backwards mentality this world doesn't understand. It's a lot easier to fight than ignore and retaliate with kindness. But that's the way of Jesus taught and that's the way we must go. It's a lot easier to write someone off with a label then actually seeing them as a human being. Especially if they are a different nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Compassion, humility, and Grace must turn us into Jesus and that kind of Love can only come from him.
…Now, these days, it's pretty neat looking back years on Timehop, my little inklings I posted showing that I had wanted a better way somehow, somewhere and I am so thankful that at last I am finding it because I know that there was NOTHING extraordinary I did except be open, wait and pray. So if you find that you are in limbo with your faith or just life in general and don't really know what will become of it just know in our Weakness (even in Faith) he is made strong!!