Category: Peace

“Happy Birthday To Me!”

2004 vacation 09536 years ago today I experienced my spiritual birth. Over the years I have learned new things and been challenged in many ways. I was a 21-year-old living at home with a dead-end job, substance addiction, little hope and no direction or purpose. I had declared that I would be dead before I reached 30 but what is really scary is that I didn’t care.

I have been encouraged and I have been declared crazy because of my encounter with Jesus of Nazareth that night. During that encounter with Jesus I felt as though a warm shower had washed over me removing all of the doubt, despair and hopelessness that had haunted me.

Joplin_Thank_You
Tornado Relief Team!
Me, Larrabee & Vido
Lifelong Friends!

Since then, I survived my thirtieth birthday, been blessed with the best family and friends any person could dream of. I have been trained and conditioned in all of the “correctness” of religion and have wrestled with the tension of thinking and believing what I understood I was supposed to think and believe.

Wedding Photo
August 11, 1984
Lisette & I
The Best Daughter EVER!
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The Best Son EVER!
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Happily Ever After!

My theology is still pretty orthodox but my relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are more important than the components of my doctrine and theology. I found tremendous freedom in understanding that God will continue to be a wonderful mystery to me and that He will never run out of ways to amaze, encourage and inspire me. “…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”

I knew that I had reached what could be considered spiritual “maturity” when I became complacent in my journey. I felt I had learned and experienced everything there is to experience and that there was nothing new under the sun.

Then one day, when I read King David’s words in the 51st Psalm, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation”, I realized that God doesn’t want me to be “mature” to the point of complacent haughtiness. He wants me to continue to experience the joy, peace, hope, wonder and amazement that I experienced 30 years earlier. He wants to amaze me – and He continues to do so.

Blitz & Me - McKinnon / Kruze Wedding
Me & “Blitz” At A Wedding

Jesus said, “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. I want to always look at God and all of creation with the wonder and hope of a child. Maybe that makes me immature, childish or even naïve, but it also brings me peace, joy and hope.

People can argue my theology and my experience. Other believers can question my doctrine and theology, people of different faiths or no faith can question and doubt my experience but the simple beauty is this: No one can take it away from me! It’s mine – it’s in my heart, mind and spirit. And that can never be taken from me!

Steve-Preaching-010608
I Get PAID To Talk!

Thank you, Jesus! I love you!

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“The Zen Of Jesus”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgI had an interesting thought. How might the teachings of Jesus line up with the teachings of Zen Buddhism? I began to search the Gospels for teachings by Jesus on peace, love, contentment and the avoidance of worry among other topics.

Then I figured that there must be others who have had the same thought so I Googled “The Zen of Jesus”. On the first page alone I found six books available on the subjects of “The Zen Teachings Of Jesus” and “Christian Zen”.

I am not advocating doctrinal synchronization among world religions but I am so confident that Jesus truly is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” that I am compelled to present Him as more approachable to individuals hindered by preconceived notions resulting from the toxic rants delivered by a few of his vociferous followers.

There are countless individuals who are struggling so deeply with the trials and tribulations of this life that they aren’t concerned with theological discussions about the afterlife; like, if there even is one.

Jesus said that He was anointed to…

“Proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”                                           Luke 4:18-19 / Isaiah 61:1

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Anyone who is grieving, disenfranchised, marginalized, depressed, ill, confused, in pain and / or simply wondering why they exist would do well to consider examining and meditating on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Even if one is not searching for salvation or eternal life but simply for some meaning to life and relief from the pain that can be so prevalent in our world, Jesus will meet you where you are. I am confident that one will be surprised and even impressed by encountering Jesus apart from the “trappings” of religion and just might find something even deeper and more wonderful than the existential meaning and relief they are seeking.

“So, I Guess I’m Purple”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgThe death of “ism” is exceedingly liberating.

Somewhere in American history, Republicans were painted “Red” and the Democrats tinted “Blue”. Republicans aligned with conservatism and Democrats sided with liberalism. (Of course, they have traded positions from time to time.) Based on this palette I have euthanized my “isms” and assumed the color “Purple”.

My blood may be RED but not RED enough for Fox News junkies and my alignment with the RED Party withers daily. My one-time connection with the BLUE Party as an 18-year-old was merely a rebellious reaction toward my very RED parents and didn’t survive a full term.

My individual opinions are unique treasures.

I oppose abortion – RED.

I oppose the death penalty – BLUE.

I support conservation – BLUE.

I support infrastructure progress – RED.

I advocate for the second amendment – RED.

I advocate reasonable gun control – BLUE.

I cheerlead the search for alternative energy sources – BLUE.

I drive a vehicle that is lucky to yield 20 MPG – RED.

I love Jesus Christ – REDDISH PURPLE.

I respect a Muslim’s right to worship openly in America – BLUISH PURPLE.

Politics frequently inspire division so I endeavor to avoid bitter and futile discussions on the subject. However, responsible citizenship requires one to participate in such muddy conversations in order to further the social and cultural common good. To do so one must occasionally dance into the political ballroom in order to be aware of the issues that affect society .

A possible next step would be to invent new words like “Libervative” or “Republicrat”.  But for now…

I am free! Color me PURPLE!

“Dichotomy”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2

Can east meet west?

Can right meet wrong?

Can love meet hate?

Can light meet dark?

Can wet meet dry?

Can holiness meet debauchery?

Can life meet death?

Can eternity meet now?

Can right meet left?

Can cold meet hot?

Can yes meet no?

Does yin meet yang?

Can right meet left?

Can sky meet earth?

Can right meet might?

Can comfort meet pain?

Can friends meet enemies?

Can earth meet heaven?

Can injury meet healing?

Can peace meet war?

Can judgment meet mercy?

Can heaven meet hell?

Can people get along?

“Silence of the Lamb” (Jesus’ Restraint)

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”   Isaiah 53:7

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2The arguments over such hot button issues as atheism vs. deism, same sex marriage, and the theological differences between various religious groups are increasing. The battle of the Scripture wars would be amusing were it not so heartbreaking. With regard to our position as evangelicals, do we honestly think that there is anyone left who has not heard the Biblical remarks regarding homosexual activity? Members of the LGBTQ community quote scripture with the same deftness as evangelicals. They are well aware and are not frightened by the threat of hell or judgment. The only response is a rejection of the acerbic condemnation that they believe is being rendered toward them. They sense no concern for our opinions regarding their eternal or earthly well-being.

Here is the rub. LGBTQ advocates, if evangelicals treat you with love, respect and dignity even while they hold to their deeply held convictions of marriage being intended to be between a man and a woman, can you also treat them with love, respect and dignity? If we can draw together on the common ground of finding happiness in this life and for serving our communities can you join together in that?

There were times when Jesus demonstrated His wrath such as the account of His overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple courts. He also spoke harshly to only one segment of society; the religious leaders of His day. Those whom He viewed as the “regular” members of the community He treated with honesty, respect and most of all, love. There are also a few instances when Jesus remained silent. Permit me to look at two.

First, when Herod asked Jesus to authenticate his claim through the performance of miracles Jesus remained silent because He knew that Herod only wanted to see an illustration of the hype he had heard about Jesus as well as to goad Him into a senseless quarrel but Herod was not sincerely seeking to known Him.

Next, when Jesus was hanging on the cross between the two thieves one sarcastically and desperately challenged Jesus to rescue them all. Another confessed his crimes, accepted his fate and acknowledged the innocence of Jesus. To the second thief, Jesus promised paradise. To the first, He remained silent.

It might be wise to employ this practice toward those who challenge our faith and sincerely held belief. There seems to be no gain in engaging militant atheists, members of other religions or any segment of society that continually fires provocative salvos at God and His people.

Perhaps we can honor Jesus more by not being dragged into pointless quarrels and arguments. Maybe we would better represent Him by engaging only in constructive and edifying dialogues. When we are asked sincere questions we need to answer with respect, dignity and love. When we are being taunted and accused, silence just might be the holiest response.