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Is Jesus Gender-Fluid?

There are many times when we have to go looking for bridges between Christ and culture – those stories that might be a natural lead in to steer a neutral conversation towards Christ.

Other times the stories hit you in the face.

Hard.

Sarah Silverman provided just such a story. Not too long ago she tweeted:

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jesus was gender fluid!

pictogram-884043_1280If you’re like me and are not familiar with the phrase “gender-fluid,” here you go:

Gender fluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.

Naturally it cause a bit of a stir among those who consider themselves Christians. Jesus was not gender-fluid by this definition. He was not someone who identified as a man at one time and then later identified as a woman (or rejected all gender labels).

Silverman defended her “joke” by saying:

I was in Wales w my boyfriend and his family. I was sitting in the car on the way to Christmas at his sister’s and figured I’d sent out a Christmas tweet. Decided to add on a word from our collective vocabulary since, to me, it’s funny, beautiful, and true in that He is all of us.

Wow, Sarah Silverman. Thank you for reminding us that Christ is all of us, male and female. Except if you know anything about Ms. Silverman you’ll know that she’s no friend of Jesus. No, she wasn’t really trying to make a point about Christ in us all. She was playing loosy-goosey with words to provoke people with edgy humor. (If I’m totally wrong, Sarah, I welcome dialogue with you and you can explain how you as a nonbeliever view Christ in us all).

So, provocative humor aside, let’s take the explanation at face-value. Is there any merit in talking about Jesus as gender-fluid?

No, there is not.

The Incarnation is all about God taking on human form. The Gospel According to John says it like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….

And the Word became flesh….

It’s the hypostatic union, the combination of the divine and human nature of Jesus, the Christ. But the human nature was a man. It does damage to the identity of Jesus to make attempts to change the Incarnation to fit ridiculous contemporary categories like gender-fluid or gender-neutral.

horrified-faceThat’s just crazy.

Yes, the Savior came for all, and the Spirit resides in all. Spiritually we are all on equal footing, for “there is no male nor female” in Christ. That does not eliminate gender distinctions.

It simply means that we ALL have equal access to God’s salvation – being male or female is not a basis for spiritual standing before God.

Is Christ in all and available to all? Yes.

Is Jesus gender-fluid? No.

I Think Your Face is Not So Ugly

I recently saw a short video about compliments that are not related to physical appearance. Among them were:

1. I admire your confidence.squint-518072_1920
2. You’re empowering.
3. Your positive energy is infectious.
4. You’re intelligent.
5. You’re a light.
6. You’re so funny.
7. You have a beautiful soul.
8. You inspire me to work hard.
9. You’re so talented.
10. Your passion is contagious.
11. I can always depend on you.
12. I’m happy you exist.

No, they’re not all winners, but I think the folks who put the list together were trying to make a point that it is possible to compliment someone without falling into the usual physical features that we find attractive.
While there is more to people than the outward appearance, physical features are the go-to method of evaluating everything. Our sight tends to be the sense that is first engaged in any inter-personal connection, so of course that will be our default method of complimenting someone. And our sense of sight not only guides our compliments of others, it also regulates how we behave towards.

Think about it.

When you see you’re about to interact with a child you put on a certain persona. When you see a spouse you put on another persona. When you see your boss walking up you have an entirely different persona. Culture itself primes us to behave differently around celebrities than around “mere mortals.” Nobody goes ga-ga when I walk into a room, but when a pop star does – WATCH OUT! The place goes berserk

But Jesus wasn’t like that. Not at all. In fact, he was even complimented on his ability NOT to be like that:

And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. (Matthew 22:16)

Jesus said what he had to say regardless of the identity of the person creepy-157657_1280standing before him. That’s integrity. Can you imagine a world where we lived with that kind of integrity? Can you imagine a place where we behaved the same way I the presence of the high-and-mighty and the low-and-humble?

I have a hard time imagining it – probably because I also have my own fair share of personas for myriad situations. But I think that should be our goal. Forget what culture says about celebrity and popularity. Forget about human standards of power and importance. Let’s be authentic in every circumstance.

That’s how Jesus did it.

#SanBernardino and the Only Solution to Gun Violence

By now most of the world has been brought up to speed about the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. San Bernadino ShootingThree people went into a building and killed 14 others and wounded an additional 17. It is an incomprehensible tragedy. The violence is sickening and disgusting. Yet, even before the event concluded, both side of the political spectrum launched into promoting their own agendas.

Ban guns!

More guns!

Ban guns!

More guns!

It was entirely predictable.

The problem with the gun debate as it stands is that nothing either side proposes will provide a real working solution to the violence in America. Because the problem isn’t really about guns.

It’s about people.

A friend of mine commented that violence has been part of the human condition since the beginning, when a single act of rage wiped out 25% of the world’s population (Adam and Eve had two sons, so when Cain killed Abel…). It’s not the guns – it’s the human heart.

This is what Jesus is trying to get at when he says:

“You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder….’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire….”

It’s not about the weapon – it’s about the heart. As weapons change and technology changes, the ways in which we kill may change. When the condition that fuels such behavior remains unchecked, though, we will never see an end to the violence.

This is why the gun issue will never be resolved. It’s not really about guns. ChangeUntil humans are willing to change their hearts we will continue to be subjected to news stories of terror and violence. And this is not a solution that the government can carry out.

It’s something only God can do.

Hello – The Gospel of Adele

hand-977641_1280It’s difficult to go anywhere and not hear Adele. She’s everywhere. The other night my wife and I saw a Target commercial that was simply 60 seconds of the newest Adele music video. Her new hit that’s taking the world by storm is “Hello.”

Hello from the other side
I must’ve called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry, for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry, for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore

The lyrics are rather sad. woman-1006102_1920They are about loss. They are about heartache. They are about a broken relationship. They are about missed opportunities. Those themes resonate with all of us, for we’ve all experienced them in our own way.

In fact, they are actually themes that Jesus speaks to. Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates that his primary passion when it comes to humanity is restoration. From the Garden of Eden to the Book of Revelation, God is in the process of restoring humanity to himself.

But God ALSO cares about restoration when it comes to human relationships! Jesus says:

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Later on Jesus says:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother… (Matthew 18:15)

While the second passage is about a Christian model for handling disputes and conflict, these passages show us the basic principle that restoration of broken human relationships matters to Jesus. Instead of letting brokenness win the day, Jesus calls us to be proactive in fixing broken relationships. Integral in the process of restoration is forgiveness, which the Apostle Paul talks about:

Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

How we treat each other is important to God. Human relationships are important to God. And that means that we cannot be passive when things are broken. Sorry, Adele, but it’s not enough to wait and call from the other side – to apologize long after the fact.

Be active in reconciling and repairing relationships before it’s too late and the damage is too great.

 

The Big 10: Chill Out, Man!

Thanks for joining us on our journey through God’s Big 10 – the ten commandments. We’ve got the first three commandments out of the way – let’s press on and tackle number four. This time we’re gonna hear God tell us, “Chill out, man!”cat-98359_1920 Let’s talk about what it means to rest and what it means to cease from activity.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Sabbath is a Hebrew word that simply means, “rest.” We’re told from the beginning that the context for our taking a rest is that it is the model given us when God created the world. He spends six days creating and rests on the seventh. That’s kind of funny – does God need a rest? Sometimes I get this funny picture of God sweaty and out of breath after spending 6 days working. I can imagine God saying,

“Hey, Gabriel, I just need to chillax for a second.”

We treat Sabbath like a mini-vacay. I’m not going to do anything! God told me to take a break! But that’s not what we’re talking about. God is not so weak that he needs to catch his breath. God is not so puny that he can’t go more than 6 days without a breather.

commandments-159649_1280Sabbath means ceasing from activity. It’s not about God being tired. It’s not about God needing a break. It’s about God having brought to completion all he set out to do, so he simply stops his activity. That is what Sabbath is – to pause, cease, and terminate your activity.

There are no other parallels with any other ancient culture. The idea of Sabbath rest is unique to God’s people. He tells us that it’s one of the ways that his people are set apart from everyone else. It’s not about kicking back and putting your feet up – it’s about stopping our work to focus on Him. It’s holy time.

Everything and everyone is supposed to stop. In the same way that God said, “I’ve done what I set out to do – this is good,” we’re supposed to step back from our activity and say, “God is good.” It’s not to catch up on sleep but to focus on God.

It’s easy to feel overloaded. Our schedules burden us. We are like a crazy little surge protector that is loaded to the max with plugs and wires. It’s a mess, about to start a fire. That’s what our lives are like without Sabbath. We become so overloaded. God asks, “Where do you make time for me? Where do I fit into your life? Let’s create a special place – a sacred space for you and me.”

You get all these days to do your work, but every seventh day humanity is supposed to unplug. We create special space to be with God. There are no other distractions. No one else gets that space. It’s his.

In the New Testament we get a little different picture of Sabbath. All God said in the Old Testament was to set apart the Sabbath – create the space. But there isn’t a whole lot of detail as to what it looks like. So God-fearing religious people set up rules and regulations about what it looks like. What can we do? Is it okay to save somebody’s life? Sure, we can do that. What about if my donkey falls into a hole? Well, if it’s within a certain radius of your home, sure, but if it’s outside the radius, no. What about lighting a fire in my home? No, that’s creative work – no making fires.

More and more I’ve seen that God has given us simple religion yet humanity comes along and mucks it up. Where God says something small, we turn it into a massive thing. Rigid observers of Sabbath law won’t even flip on a light switch on Sabbath. They bring in a gentile to do the work for them.

There’s a story in the New Testament where Jesus breaks Sabbath law by plucking grain to eat.

 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. spike-143373_192024 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

It’s about the heart, not the letter of the law. Are we creating sacred space for God? Are we making room in our busy and hectic world to stop and focus on God? If you unplug everything this world is going to keep driving on. It doesn’t need me to keep turning. What are we REALLY losing if we unplug and say, “God, I’m giving this time to you”?

The New Testament does not give us Sabbath as a command to obey. Paul says, “Some people consider one day special…” but the principle of Sabbath still applies. Are we making sacred space for God? The principle of ceasing is still good. More rest means more productivity later on. More rest now means less stress-related problems later on.

There are physical benefits to Sabbath rest. God’s not trying to demand time because he doesn’t want us to do nothing else. He cares about us! More rest means a better, healthier us. Jesus was in the habit of unplugging and resting. Jesus took time by himself or with his disciples to get away to go rest. But it wasn’t about watching the game and having a cold one. Anyone can have a secular day off. Sabbath is about unplugging from the world so that you have that God-space.

But how do you build Sabbath time into your life? It starts with a conscious decision. We have to decide make that space. In our world we have a disease called “When I have time.” I’ll do that “when I have time.” I’d love to learn another language. I’d love to clean out the garage, sweetheart. I’d love to…

Pretty soon our lives are so cluttered that there is no time for anything! Is it any wonder that God tells us to take Sabbath rest? I’ll focus on God when I have time. God’s reply is, “Hey, dummy, I’ve built that time into the week for you.” So we cease all regular activity so we can unplug and focus on God. Spend the time in prayer. Put on a Christian cd and meditate. Go to worship services. Don’t worry about the world – it will keep spinning. If we let it, the world will keep driving us.

Get centered mentally and spiritually. It’s not about legalistically saying, “I can’t do XY&Z on Sunday.” It’s about finding sacred space. It’s about finding time to unplug from the world and plugging into God.

We will be happier. We will be healthier. We will see better homes, better families, and a better us. This week examine your schedule. Where can you find time to unplug from the regular world and make Sabbath space? It doesn’t matter what day or hour – we’re not going to be legalistic about it. But we need to learn to unplug from regular activity and make sacred space.

Questions for Reflection

  • What controls and drives my days and weeks?
  • When was the last time I tried to unplug in order to create sacred space?
  • Am I willing to drop everything on a regular basis to cease from activity and focus on God?

Dear Franklin Graham, Please Leave the Ministry

Seriously, sir – it’s time to go. You seem more interested in political ranting than in doing any real ministry. Let’s take your recent rant calling for America to stop allowing Muslim immigrants into the U.S. You said:

FranklinGrahamWe must reform our immigration policies in the United States. We cannot allow Muslim immigrants to come across our borders unchecked while we are fighting this war on terror. If we continue to allow Muslim immigration, we’ll see much more of what happened in Paris—it’s on our doorstep. France and Europe are being overrun by young Muslim men from the Middle East, and they do not know their backgrounds or their motives and intentions. Islam is not a peaceful religion as George W. Bush told us and as President Barack Obama has said—that is just not true. Our president and our politicians in Washington need to wake up before it’s too late. This is not the time to be politically correct. Our nation’s security is at stake. The future of our children and grandchildren is at stake. We should not allow any political or religious group who want to destroy us and our way of life to immigrate to this country. Right now let us continue to pray for the victims and family members of the ‪#‎parisattacks.

I have three major problems with your statement.

First, your statement is about American policy and has nothing to do with ministry. You head the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. You are not a voice of a conservative political caucus.

Second, you are conflating politics and faith. You give a very harsh political statement about immigration policy and end it with a call to prayer. Are you NOW trying to switch back into the role of spiritual leader? If you want to play politician, leave the ministry. If you want to be a spiritual leader, stop using a ministry platform to push political ideology.

Third, your attitude is explicitly contrary to the Bible. Yup – I’ll say that part again. Your statement is in direct opposition to the attitude of the Bible. The Bible actually has a lot to say about foreigners. For example:

The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8)

“I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.” (Genesis 23:4)

The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.” (Exodus 12:49)

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

You see, God’s people have been foreigners before. We’re supposed to understand what it’s like to be displaced – living in a world that is not our own. Because of our understanding we’re supposed to be sympathetic to the foreigner and alien. But instead of looking to treat them well, you look to treat Muslims with fear and disdain.

God COMMANDS that we treat well the foreigners living among us. I Turkey syrian refugees kurdsknow, I know, you’re technically talking about immigration, not the foreigners who are living among us. But let’s follow your line of reasoning to its conclusion. What about the Muslims who are already within our borders? You would seem to advocate removing all of them, because we can’t possibly know all of their backgrounds, motives, or intentions.

You say, “This is not the time to be politically correct.” You should change that to say, “This is not the time to be biblically correct.” I’d love to see your proposed plan to airports receiving flights from other nations:

Are you a Christian? Welcome to America! Are you a Muslim? Go, home, terrorist!

Your rhetoric is cheap and encourages both fear and animosity towards non-Christians. Please stop the charade and stop claiming to represent Jesus to the world. Run for office.

Leave the ministry.

My Blog’s 2014 Review (for statistics geeks only)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 53,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners Than Cry With the Saints

The Church Plant

I will admit that I’m a Billy Joel fan. One of his earlier songs is called “Only the Good Die Young.”

Billy Joel

While the content is not admirable, he has an interesting line where he says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”

Today we’re going to see Jesus putting his own spin on that line of thinking as he puts his own spin on Billy Joel’s thinking.

Welcome to church…

Welcome to Church!

At the end of this digital church service there’s a place for comments. We’d love to hear from you. What did you take away from the service? What spoke to you? How can we do better to serve you and your friends and family?

Thx!

Here’s today’s word…

APPEARANCE

Hang around any conservative or fundamentalist Christian and eventually you’ll hear talk about “avoiding the appearance of evil.”

It usually has…

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Christmas to the Cross: A Christmas Eve Worship Service

The Church Plant

Merry Christmas!

Near the end of this service we will take communion together. Go ahead and get your bread/cracker and juice/wine ready now. 🙂

Ready? Cool.

Waiting for God’s Chosen One:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. From that moment on God was not satisfied simply to have started the human story – He wanted to be part OF the human story. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve.
He brought Noah and his family through the waters. He led Abraham away from his home in order to start a new nation

And when God’s people found themselves in desperate times, prisoners in Egypt, God sent Moses to lead them out of slavery and back to the land God promised them. But the people walked away from God and returned to slavery. This time it wasn’t with real chains and prisons – humanity became slaves to our…

View original post 1,061 more words

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