I am participating in Christians 4 Ramadan / #Christians4Ramadan to the best of my ability

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Earlier this year I found out about a movement among some Muslims called #Muslims4Lent; essentially out of solidarity and interfaith appreciation there were those who partook in Lent despite it not being part of their faith tradition. When I found out about this I was deeply moved and resolved to partake in Ramadan when it came.

And it has started, as of sunset June 17th, and will continue through until July 17th. My reasons for partaking in Ramadan are similar to that of those who participated in Muslims 4 Lent, solidarity & interfaith appreciation, but I am also partaking to allot more time to prayer and other practices within my own faith tradition.
I admit, I haven’t fasted before for more than a week, and so I am not sure how my body will handle it given that I won’t be eating (with the exception of at night fall and before dawn.) for a month. As a result I am going to be diligent in participating to the fullest extent, but if health issues occur during my time of fasting I am going to postpone it and pick it up when I can provided I can (which is acceptable when it comes to fasting during the month of Ramadan).

Ramadan Mubarak y’all!
~Nathanael~

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Happy Spirit Day 2014

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Today is Spirit Day, which is a day to stand in support and solidarity of the LGBTQ Community. I too stand in solidarity for the LGBTQ Community, as a follower of Christ / Red Letter Christian I am compelled to.

One of the verses in the Bible that speaks to me about love is found in John 13:34-35, in which Jesus said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Here’s the thing I’ve found to be true in all situations pertaining to people that are either similar to me or different than me:

Love requires proximity.

If I have choose to avoid certain individuals, if I keep my distance, how then will the love of God flow out of me to those individuals?

If you’re going to be intentional with someone, you should want to BE with them, you should want to hear their stories, you should want to break bread with them and so on…because in doing so, the differences that you might have thought existed have now become less than before. You connect with them on a human level and you realize not only their humanity but yours as well.

I’m not saying you ought to do what I do, think what I think, or even believe what I believe. All I’m saying is get to know people in proximity and allow your posture to be one of grace and humility. Otherwise you’ll find that you’re there but not there, and others are bound to pick up on this fortified wall you’ve surrounded yourself with and they might not be receptive to you.

***
It is for these reasons I choose to model my life after Christ’s; for this I choose to position Jesus at the center of my life, in him I find a purpose to live, in him I have found ways to “go and do likewise”. And what does that look like? Well I would hope that it is in alignment with Micah 6:8, that I “act justly…love mercy and…walk humbly with…God.”
For this I choose to be an ally to a community that has been marginalized and picked on by the church. For this I choose to be outspoken for those who sometimes do not have a voice. For this I cannot keep quiet. For this I choose to love instead of hate or show indifference or apathy.

May my love be louder,
Nathanael

Unity, Liberty, Charity

In the last few weeks with my youth ministry students we have been going The Apostles’ Creed, which in most churches and among most followers of Christ this is a creed that is a unifier. How fortuitous that shortly after starting this series I have found a quote from a 17th century Lutheran by the name of Rupertus Meldenius who said the following; “In essentials Unity, In non-essentials Liberty, in all things Charity”.
The various students that make up my small group bring a lot to the table. I recognize that a lot of them ask questions that I didn’t think of at that age and at the same time I don”t think that I was allowed to vocalize such questions. In my younger years I realized that my questions and doubts weren’t going to be allowed, or they would be and I would be looked upon as a decenter. I realize that in some Christian circles questions and doubting makes you out to be rebellious, or perhaps even a heretic when you think outside the box , but in the church I’m a part of now there is liberty and freedom to think differently and even bigger.

Yes there are parts of the Bible that are certainly black and white, but there is a lot of grey. I recognize that where I’m at as a follower of Christ has been shaped in part by what I learned growing up but there’s also what I have experienced in my life, hence the grey areas of the Bible that I am led to lean on in faith.  The experiential model is the way most people read and engage what the Bible has to say, and granted there are times I scratch my head and wonder “how the heck did you get THAT out of reading the Bible?” For instance, when people speak of a vengeful God, a God who’s out to “get them” in anger and in fury…really? Have you read any of the New Testament, or are you still offering up regular sacrifices of grain and livestock…Still, some people make God out to be feared to a point that’s very unhealthy, but it’s views like these that only the person can resolve and workout on their own with the help of God.

I think that’s why there’s over 30,000 denominations across the globe. That differences are maybe not allowed and so a new denomination starts, and maybe sometimes differences are allowed but some individuals would rather split than be united despite the differences…these are mere guesses as to what might cause schisms amongst followers of Christ.

Still I believe in diversity and sharing from one’s perspective of what one believes about, well, pretty much anything. Yes there are times I do not agree with other followers of Christ’s views but I am sure others can say that about some my beliefs as well. I meditate on St. Francis of Assisi’s “make me an instrument of your peace” prayer when I am faced with the differences of views of others often, because I am prone to foot-in-mouth disease and I need to listen more than talk in such circumstances.

This quote is something I need to dwell on because it will help me out as a follower of Christ in my interaction with those who views differ from me. I need to be charitable in differences, and as a work in progress I am not there yet, but I’m getting there slowly but surely.

~Nathanael~

Christian drama; so much for living together in unity

Psalm 133: 1 – How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
John 17:21 – I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

The other day I found out that one author/blogger (John Shore) on the internet wrote a scathing blog post about another author/blogger (Andrew Marin). The content of what John wrote can be found here, but essentially the issue boils down to that John is verbal about his stance about whether being gay is a sin or not by stating from what he believes which is that it is not a sin to be gay, to which he tried to rip Andrew a new one for not putting it out there. Andrew doesn’t put out his stance in this matter, but it works splendidly for him, as it doesn’t isolate as many individuals as if he put out whether he thinks being gay is a sin or not.

It does piss me off that there’s this e-tension online right now because of Andrew Marin not putting out a definitive stance, I love Andrew Marin very much and interacting with him I am certainly biased in leaning on his side of things rather than John’s. My issue isn’t so much the nature of this e-tension, my issue is that it goes against unity as followers of Christ.

Jesus before he went back to God prayed that we would be one, the Psalmist David acknowledges how wonderful and pleasant it is when we live together in harmony/unity. Harmony and unity doesn’t mean that we as followers of Christ will always see eye-to-eye on issues, but it does lean to that we share a commonality, that is faith in Jesus Christ, we are to be brothers and sisters in Christ and we should love one another as Christ loves us.
Ripping apart someone online hardly demonstrates Christlike love and humility, it’s okay to disagree with your brother or sister in Christ, live in that tension but don’t go e-spewing this to the world because it doesn’t add to the love of God that has been richly poured out on all of humanity, it takes away from it.
How are we going to expect to see change in this world if we can’t learn to get along? It takes away from our witness to others when we bicker and argue instead of getting along despite our differences.

Truth to be told, the only one who is pleased by this is the devil, he wants to us who are followers of Christ fight with one another because that takes away from our ministries (personal as well as public). When we lose our focal point, Jesus and what he did and how we can live to be like him, our ministries become about us and not about God.

John – please engage in dialogue with Andrew Marin in person, he’s a swell guy and even at the end of the day if you don’t agree, learn to accept it and not be hung up about it. I love you and so much of what you write, but it hurts and saddens me that your actions aren’t aligned with being Christlike.
Andrew – Keep the faith, hang in there, I love you and what you’re doing, may God be honored by the actions you and The Marin Foundation are taking to build bridges.

~Nathanael~

There is no elitism in the kingdom of God

I think at times apart from the Us vs. Them paradigm that sadly still exists, the other issue that plagues our churches is elitism. This elitism is hard to pinpoint as there are many forms of it, to which some of them are as follows:
– Denomination
– Version of the Bible read
– Education
– Money
– Location
– Attendance
– Programs
and so on…

But the thing is, no matter how large your church is, no matter how many programs are run, no matter where you are located and the other things I’ve mentioned.

The foot of the cross is level

Paul writing to Galatia said this, In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28 (The Message)

There are differences between our ways of worshiping God, heck denominations are created due to some rift that says ‘we no longer want to be like insert denomination here and therefore we’re creating a new denomination’. I did a quick search on Google and I came across this stat; “There are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations in the world. This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries.”

38,000?!? I wouldn’t have guessed so high a number when it comes to denominations globally, but that seems to show that this unity within the body of Christ…what unity? If we who are coming to God as followers of Christ, why does Jesus’ body have to have 38,000 parts to it?

Elitism and the Us vs. Them paradigm within the church not only keeps us from one another, the ones we’re called to share the Gospel message to, but it ultimately keeps us apart from God. Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and for those who would follow him later on was for unity, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that within our church walls as well as on the outside.

It is my resolution and desire to be a part of the Kingdom work of restoration and reconciliation, beckoning forward perfect shalom, to bring about the part of The Lord’s Prayer that says “on earth as it is in heaven“. I realize more than ever if I’m going to go out into God’s neighborhood and do this and be a part of this, I need to be involved in this inside the church (building) equally inasmuch as on the outside, there’s a stronger pull to the outside for me (I like the outdoors!) but I need to discipline myself to be a part inside. It takes a lot of work to break down the walls of the paradigm of Us vs. Them and elitism, but it is worth it, it is worth striving for unity.

It begins with me,
To truly live out and be the change I want to see.

To God be the glory,
Nathanael

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~