Being more than just the hands and feet of Jesus

I do believe the truth contained in the following verses, to which 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

If we who are followers of Christ are going to actively be the body of Christ we need to get over the notion that the only parts of Jesus’ body that can play an active role are the hands and feet, there’s more to a body than that! It strikes me if we’re all going to call dibs on being the hands and feet we’re missing the point, we’re also looking like some bizarre costume that Lady Gaga wears.

In all honesty I want to be the ears of Jesus; I want to actively listen to the stories, the good news as well as the unsettling news, without judging and simply loving on people from all walks of life.

There is so much followers of Christ can offer the world, it does to some extent need our help, but it should come out of obligation and love for others as God loves us. I recognize there have been times where I haven’t done good but for good reasons; if my heart isn’t into it and my ego is raging then any form of loving and serving God by loving and serving others is not going to take place. I get 1 Corinthians 13 with examples of what love is and also the ill effects of not having love in deeds that would otherwise be good for others and honor God all the while.

But if worse comes to worse I am willing, yes willing, to be an asshole for Jesus…now humor aside, the asshole is part of the body and it serves its purpose, most of the time anyway. 🙂

~Nathanael~

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Being unauthentic is exhausting

Everyone needs a place of belonging. Everyone. I see it unfold in the lives of the students in the high school youth group I help out with, I see it in the lives of the people I worship with on Sunday morning, I see it in the lives of the men at the local mosque. We were made for community, we were made for belonging, but sometimes factors get in the way. Maybe in the season of being the “new guy” it’s hard to be authentic, maybe you’re someone who’s “once bitten twice shy” and trust factors get in the way and it takes time to get to that point again (I am one of those people).

But here’s the thing, if you have settled down roots someplace and trust and authenticity is being cultivated, people bare their souls of what’s really going on and none of that “fine” or “good” language that seems to be commonplace, my question is if you have all that going for you, why would you resort to unauthenticity?

I recognize from working with high school students, trust doesn’t come easily when you’re the “new guy”; there’s a lot of flux, a lot of in-and-out leaders within youth ministry as well as other places. So it comes down to seeing if the “new guy” is going to stick around, is not going to leave…because truth to be told, it’s hard to place trust in someone if they’re not going to be around for long, if youth leaders have a shelf life of 1-2 years, that certainly takes its toll on trust earned.

But back to being unauthentic…
Now I am an individual who has been bitten many a time (proverbially) and as a result I am shy for a while, I say for a while because God has given me a desire to be authentic with those around me, and sometimes my authenticity is the nudge that helps people get there themselves, authenticity begets authenticity is what my mind murmurs time and again, and granted I don’t put myself out there with the intention of getting the authenticity ball rolling, but thankfully sometimes…a lot of the time, it does.

I recognized in my early 20s that my life was somewhat of a facade, that for all appearance’s sake I seemed to have my life in order when in all honesty nothing seemed to be right. I also recognized that my lack of authenticity kept me apart from friends that even at that point I had known for a long time, being unauthentic kept me from those I loved and the act of “fine” and “good” was and is utterly exhausting.

Think about it, if you’re in an environment that you can share from your heart about what’s really going no matter how big it is and they’re still there after the dust has settled…THAT is someplace of belonging, that is somewhere where you can grow, the individuals who make up that group can make a world of difference…but the caveat comes when that environment exists and there are individuals who don’t want to “play with others” and so they keep on giving pat answers to silence the masses, which has the power to harm not only the person who’s offering them up but the community at large.
Plus there’s the side of keeping all your stories straight; you have to remember what you said to someone which may have been different from what you said to someone else. It because a verbal juggling event, but there keeps on being an additional conversation to juggle with each person you talk to, eventually the whole thing will fall apart. I like how my friend put it, he said the unauthentic life was like a stage, and what’s going on in front of the audience sometimes doesn’t reflect what’s truly going on backstage, and so it’s a tiring running back and forth of maintaining what’s being sold to others and what’s really going on behind the scenes, eventually the curtain will fall and both facets will be exposed for what they are, with that in mind…let the curtain fall, because it is too tiring to live the double life.

So my e-advice to you the reader is twofold: 1) Do what you can to cultivate a place where people can be authentic to what’s really going on in their lives 2) Do what you can to be authentic in said place, not for selfish motives, but because you want to believe that if others are willing to bare it all you can as well.

These things take time, but I believe that being authentic helps to develop a better community with those around you, as Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world”, it starts with you but it doesn’t have to end with you.

~Nathanael~

Being good isn’t good enough

Sometimes, not all the time, I feel like some people I work along side of at the local soup kitchen do good but with a cap to their goodness. Without going into specifics it seems like there are individuals who do x, who do y, but z? Well they’ve done enough good so “z” can be done by someone else. I have a hard time with people who put a cap on goodness, because honestly good will only get you so far…

Mark 10:17-22

17  And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

As I examine this passage found in the Bible, the way I read into it…good only gets you so far. Jesus tells the manyou know the commandments and while the man does know them he leaves in a sorrowful state, why? He was good but when it came to relinquishing his wealth, he wasn’t able to let go and follow Jesus. His goodness drove him to follow the 10 commandments found in the Torah, but when it came to wealth (to which I wonder how he was able to be wealthy in that day and age) there was the dead end, there ended his goodness…

Jesus didn’t come and live among us some 2000 years ago simply to make us “good people” or to even start a new religion, he came to show us a better way of living, to flip the paradigm of strength and force is power and that’s the only way to get ahead in this life…Jesus came into this world by simple means, his first bed was a feeding trough for animals, none of that points to a Savior who came to conquer and take over. The people who welcomed Jesus into the city with shouts of Hosanna and the waving of palm branches were the same ones who yelled for his crucifixion. Any belief that Jesus was someone who came to overturn the Roman government was shattered, the Messiah did in fact come, but he wasn’t the Messiah people were looking for…and to some degree he’s still not the Messiah people expect let alone want.

But back to goodness; being good isn’t what God calls us to be, because even God knows good will only get you so far. We’re called to follow him, to have faith in who He is and what He did, we’re called to serve others in His name, we’re called to love others in His name. We’re t0 help out and even stand along side the people who have been marginalized, the people who have been oppressed.
Good does have its place, but if we’re just being good for goodness sake, we will eventually reach a wall that stops us from doing more good, because good in itself is not self-sustaining, good paired with doing things for God by way of doing things for others is in fact the way to go about doing good, that kind of good has the power to keep going and going and going.

Do good, but do good for God and for others, because that is how Kingdom work can be achieved.

~Nathanael~

An open question; Heaven and Hell

Lately I’ve been giving some deeper thought into what’s the point of Heaven and Hell, and before I write something here about the subject I pose to you the following questions:

1) What’s the point of Heaven?
2) What’s the point of Hell?

I’m interested in what you the reader have to say about this, if you would be so kind to share this post with others so I can get more feedback I’d greatly appreciate it. 🙂

~Nathanael~

Listening to God

Earlier today I was very hungry, but the thing is sometimes what my body should eat isn’t necessarily what I feed it, with that being said I had a lunch of cheese and tater tots…which due to eating the latter I am still feel greasy and queasy. But at the time my mind and stomach were telling me that’s what I want that’s what I want feed me tots feed me tots…so I gave in (and trust me, it ain’t good to be shopping while hungry).

So while I did only buy tater tots, which I was rather surprised with my restraint for what it’s worth, my stomach was busy doing its thing when it’s hungry, but I had this insight while waiting to check out…

I think that sometimes in Christian circles we tend to throw out the “Has God been speaking to you lately?” question, sometimes it is from the intent of being earnest but at times I  feel like it’s a spiritual badge of honor, that by God speaking to you shows whether you’re a “good” or even “real” follower of Christ. Yet I wonder…

What if we’re asking the wrong question?

What if the question we should ask (for the right reasons mind you) is “Have you been listening to God lately?” Instead of waiting around for some sacred interruption to take place…what if we just took time to shut up and be still before God, instead of busting out with “Thanksgiving prayers” with $50 words…what if we just remained silent?

I do think God can speak to us even in our busiest of times, but sometimes I think we need the silence despite how difficult it is sometimes, I mean silence is silence which in its own way is deafening at times…but I think we need it, God knows I need a reprieve of noise, a shutting out of the cacophonous nature of life at times.

I’m not spelling out a formulaic way of a spiritual life, but I am saying that sometimes we need to get away from it all and put in some God-and-I time, because if it comes down to having a relationship with him, how many relationships can be truly healthy if the couple don’t have time to themselves apart from everyone else? If a couple’s livelihood is based upon everyone else, that can only go on for so long, that can only sustain itself for so long.

“God still speaks” is sometimes seen outside of United Church of Christ churches, and I wholeheartedly agree, God does still speak…but I believe that we should give him the space to speak and sometimes that does in fact come from being silent.

~Nathanael~

Learning and wanting to love again

Love, love is a verb. It’s not a verb because old school DC Talk told me so, it is a verb, it must be active and acted upon in order for its sustainability. But love cannot be sustained if it’s unilateral, and the whole notion of falling in love…it’s temporal and a weak perception of love, because if you can fall in love (hypothetically) you certainly can fall out…and I don’t know anyone who likes the latter, it hurts like hell and leaves one in pieces that take a while to gather, it also leaves one guarded and with a mindset of never again will I fall in love and to that I think it’s good never to fall in love again.

But when it comes to acting on love, being active with love, sustainable and bilateral love…I’m ready to learn how to love again.

Love is universal, but how love is acted out varies from couple to couple; a good book that tackles different love languages is The 5 Love Languages, I highly recommend it, and in the same vein of thought to some degree I recommend Sex God.

In the movie Hot Tub Time Machine there’s this dialogue between one of the characters (a product of the 2000’s) and another character (product of the 1980’s) and I think at times it does sum up love;

Jacob: I’m kinda right in the middle of a thing right now, but can I text you later?
Girl at Club: Can you what?
Jacob: Are you online at all?
Girl at Club: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Jacob: How do I get a hold of you?
Girl at Club: You come find me.
Jacob: That sounds… exhausting.

“You come find me” love beckons, love calls and at times love is indeed “exhausting” but for me, it is worth the exhaustion. It is worth the chance of having my heart ripped out and stomped on again…I’m not stupid, I’m not going to give away myself cheaply, I know the kind of girl I am looking for and I hope she’s looking for me as well.

When I proactively look for love, I deem it “praying with my eyes open”; Love won’t simply fall into my lap, heck if that happened how sustainable if it just came to me, but it is something I must search out and take to God in prayer. I want to love and be loved, I am ready to do my part in the process of looking for love…it is time, now is that time for me. 🙂

~Nathanael~

The prayer of serenity

Some of you may be familiar with the prayer of serenity/serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

I purchased a small stained glass depiction of the prayer above earlier today, because I like the prayer and because at times I actually need to follow what it says! 🙂

To which if I examine it carefully and internalize and process what it says… Somehow by the grace of God I will be granted serenity, I will be able to accept what I cannot change, I’ll have the courage to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

The crucial part of this prayer for me is the acceptance of what I cannot change and wisdom for what I can change, because right now that’s hard for me to get, hard for me to grasp, because there definitely are circumstances in my life I wish I could change and maybe…just maybe, they fall in the acceptance box of not being able to change it, and sometimes that is very hard for me to deal with and simply accept. I do recognize to some extent of what I am capable of doing to bring about change, bring about restoration and reconciliation, to help in Kingdom of God work with the strengths and talents God has given me.

Having this little piece of stained glass will help me to remember and perhaps even offer up this very prayer. I am a work in progress, and God knows and I know that I have this one life to get there, and it is certainly by God’s strength alone that I am able to get where I need to be in my life.

So even as I write… God I do so desperately want to have the wisdom to know what I can change and to accept that I cannot change, I need you so much to get there, I need you so much to help me let go, help me in my self righteousness and when I think I am capable of doing it all without your help, help me and hold me…Amen!

~Nathanael~