/*Adopt Ye, One Another, Even as I Have Adopted You: June 2007*/

"Adopt Ye, One Another, Even as I Have Adopted You..."

Not Shaker Theology, not a cult and not any sort of propaganda. An approach, by Heaven's Grace, to the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. Do you want to see it? Do you want to see the Kingdom Of Christ? Say yes.


Hopeless, Pointless, Useless except for the Grace of God

Monday, June 25, 2007

Relationships of Reconciliation

"Love The Lord Thy God", "Love your neighbor as yourself", "Love ye, one another. Even as I have loved you, so love ye one another".

To me, all of these love commandments represent the pursuit of the original state of reconciliation. This "state of reconciliation" is, I believe, what Moses was trying to describe to us in the ancient story of God's creating. Now, maybe you don't believe in a literal garden of "Eden". Well, I'm not here to argue with you but could you believe that the ancient writer was trying to describe the very real possibility of a status of "reconciliation"? A status of creation in which all living things and all of creation exist in harmony and balance? Is that too far fetched for you to accept?

Okay. So, when I write about "relationships of reconciliation", what I'm trying to describe is a state of relating - between you and me, or, between you and someone else, or between your ethnic, cultural, racial, genetic group and someone else's group or a state of relating, even, between political entities. That very state of relating I'm trying to describe also amounts - I believe - to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, right here among us.

Now, let me try to describe what I mean by a "relationship of reconciliation". There will be numerous updates to this post and probably many posts following it that are closely related.

A relationship of reconciliation is (at least) -

  1. A circumspect relationship (if you're at all like me, you have to make a real effort to keep sex from unduly influencing the relationship). Starting with this ground rule, the relationship has a chance - perhaps - of being something that can deepen and grow, spiritually. Keeping sex out of the way (Darn!) we're allowed to view the relationship for what it is and to recognize the real needs of those party to the relationship.
  2. A mutually respectful relationship (and this is STILL one of the things I'm learning and that I expect you are learning as well). But do we even know how to respect ourselves? And do we really know how to respect the other in the relationship?
  3. A mutually assertive relationship (and if you aren't familiar with assertive relating, I highly recommend that you become familiar with this practice, A.S.A.P.) Both parties in the relationship take responsibility for their own feelings and self-actualization. Now, there's nothing wrong with one member of the relationship coaching the other, if this enables the other to become stronger in the practices of assertive relating. However, the best option is for us (the church) to teach assertive relating to the last, the least and the lost, to the youngest and to the most vulnerable so that we all have this relating tool on which we can call.
  4. A God centered relationship (sharing discussion about the One Eternal, His Holy Word, His purpose of reconciliation, His Christ, His people and all that other "God stuff", sharing service to His vulnerable ones, sharing the extension of His reconciliation to those who don't yet have the privilege of a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus). It's just hard to beat God as the center for a relationship. He really does rock! (Ummm, and He's a solid foundation - ouch!)
  5. An 'other oriented' relationship (each of the parties to the relationship continually seeking the good of the other). Believe it or not, this can work between men and men or between women and women or between women and men! An other oriented relationship can always reach out to the other in offering, in forgiveness and in lifting the other closer to God.
  6. A sustainable relationship (neither of the parties demands of the other that which would disable or diminish the other). This, the better to enable the relationship to be long lasting and mutually beneficial.
  7. A Holy relationship (wholesome, reconciled, mutually uplifting, spiritually deepening). Holy habits, Holy relationships, Holy communion (as in community).
  8. A bridge of safe passage between persons (yes, well, any good relationship should be a bridge of trust but a relationship of reconciliation MUST be a bridge of safe passage and trust to qualify).
  9. A precursor relationship to all other types of relationships. This is part of what I want the church to teach. We must learn and practice relationships of reconciliation to inform and precede all other aspects of relating.

Now, what do relationships of reconciliation have to do with adoption? In answer, I say 'try to realize that Jesus of Nazareth - who adopted you and me into the family of God - lives in relationship of reconciliation with The Heavenly Father and lives in relationship of reconciliation with those who were /are called to Him. And, He lives in a reconciling relationship with you and me' if we have any sort of relationship to Him at all.

As you already know, it is in relationship that we will reach the lost. All the preaching and do-gooding in the world won't make a bit of difference if you and I are unwilling to live in relationship with those who don't have a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. The One Eternal will do the 'saving' and we can leave that up to Him. Our job is to love honestly and to relate sincerely and I sincerely believe that our relationships MUST be relationships of reconciliation. On those kinds of relationships, I believe He can build His Kingdom.

And there's more to come! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Choose Today: Growth or Reconciliation?

So, what'll it be? Let me give you a little tip: choosing reconciliation does not necessarily exclude the likelihood of growth. However, choosing fiscal, physical or imperial growth to the point that reconciliation is discounted is a serious mistake. But you knew I was going to say that.

You see, choosing "growth", as opposed to reconciliation, has been the choice of the powers that be (including most of the world faiths) for generations. This misdirected choice is what led us into colonialism and the nightmares that have developed from that era. But go even further back in your "History of Civilization" memories and recognize that there were VERY few times when Queens or Kings or Rulers of any sort chose to pursue reconciliation as opposed to some form of imperialism ('Mammon-mongering', I like to call it). So, the nightmares started a long time ago.

Is there something that can be done about it? Well, yes, that's the whole point of this blog. You see, adoption is a form of reconciliation. We adopt / claim / include those persons who are vulnerable, relative to us, to help ensure that they're reconciled to the family of God. This is how Christians expend God's resources and this is how Christians expend themselves. We INVEST in those who are vulnerable, relative to ourselves (Isaiah 58). And that, very simply, is what I want the Church (and all faiths, for that matter) to teach: Adoption / reconciliation / inclusion / reclamation of the vulnerable MUST come first. (Visit Matthew 6 for more about prioritizing such pursuits as these). And do NOT come to me claiming that you believe the Bible literally until your household is FILLED to overflowing with those who've been included in God's family through His adoptive love, living in YOU.

"But Tom", you plead, "aren't our children important enough that we should invest in them? THEY'RE vulnerable, relative to us!!" And I respond, 'yes, they certainly are'. 'But which of your children are you referencing? Those that you so selfishly begat or those you're required to adopt but didn't?' I'll ask you again, "Are you really even a Christian?"

The Apostle Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 3 that (generally speaking) while Paul seeds and Apollos waters, it is God Who Gives the increase. (An example of reconciliation leading to growth!) I believe that here, Paul is teaching about tending the "garden" of the lives of the converts. Appropriate stewardship is manifested in the reconciliation of those in the "garden". Remember that in the earliest Biblical example of a garden, the people who were placed into that garden were put there to tend it: to "seed and water", to build on and continue the reconciliation that existed - at least for that time. (And the trouble all started when they ignored their relationship with The One Eternal and their purpose of reconciliation.)

Building on and continuing (extending) God's reconciliation is why you and I are allowed to breathe (if we're Christians) and we are NOT here to create our own empires! We are NOT here to discard or sacrifice or ignore the people that're already here nor are we here to discard / sacrifice any other portion of God's creation.

Now, could either Paul or Apollos have chosen to pursue "growth" for growth's sake? (maybe by claiming some miraculous superiority or by exploiting some form of sensationalism? maybe by pushing each other out of the way?) Yes, most certainly but instead, they both chose to engage in reconciliation (neither of them had any inkling of becoming famous televangelists), "tending the garden", seeding and watering. And the early church grew.

When you or I choose reproduction as opposed to adoption, we've chosen a miniature form of imperialism. We've chosen to ignore / discard / sacrifice someone who's already here and we've chosen to prioritize our own genetic legacy over the needs of someone who needs us. This is pretty much what the colonialists and other Mammon-Mongerers are doing: discarding the people and creatures and creation that's already here in favor of replacing it with their own design. Hmmm, have we really made any progress since the Sixteenth Century?

From the left and from the right, from the secular and from the supposedly faithful I meet people almost everyday who choose to reproduce as opposed to adopting. Yet they insist on claiming the Name that is above every name. Did HE insist on His own genetic legacy and choose to discard us? You know the answer. Yet we claim to be crucified with Him. We claim to be His followers. (Aren't we violating the ninth Commandment or something?) Nevertheless, I WANT you to claim that Name in sincerity and I WANT you to adopt, whether you breed or not!

So, this is what I want you to know and this is what I want ALL faiths to teach. We must prioritize reconciliation over growth. God Who Gives will give us growth if we prioritize His purposes. His purpose, I believe, is reconciliation. CHOOSE FOR YOURSELVES THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE. (Pssst! Choose Reconciliation! Choose HIM!)

"Adopt ye, one another, even as I have adopted you..."

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Monday, June 04, 2007

When Canaries Fall

No, I'm not a miner of any sort nor have I even been into any mines. However, I'm referencing the idea that the miners in the old days knew to leave the mine when the canary stopped singing or when the canary died. No, I don't even know if such a legend has any basis in fact but it just makes sense to me.

The problem for you and for me, however, is that we cannot leave the mine except by one of two exits. You and I are required to fix the problems before more canaries fall. That's part of the responsibility we bear because we've been adopted into The Father's household. There is no leaving for us - except to death or to the Kingdom of God - and we're responsible for what happens here. We will answer - I believe - for that which we could have done and refused to do (and future generations will most certainly pay the price for both our sins of commission as well as our sins of omission). If we don't fix the problems, the "mine" becomes less and still less like the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. However, if in the Power of The Holy Spirit, we pursue the reconciliation of the problems in the mine (and the rescue of the canaries), the mine can become the Kingdom of God (in His Righteousness). Do you not see the canaries falling? It appears to me that every day, while there are always more and still more, fewer and fewer are healthy and singing.

Now, where are the canaries that I'm referencing? I see them being abused at home as little children; I see them hopelessly hiding in the back of school classrooms; I see them hanging out on street corners, waiting for someone to give some sort of meaning to their presence here on Earth. Believe me when I say that the drug dealers or gang leaders or terror cell psychopaths will certainly be delighted to give something like meaning - however brief - to their existences. I see them being locked away in juvenile corrections, placed conveniently out of the way, until they can become "someone else's" problem. I see them being lost to the adult corrections system, from which too many times, there is no coming back. I see them deserted in "nursing care" facilities (not that they don't need full time care... but who said they had to be deserted?) and I see them existing in cardboard boxes and in slums too filthy to imagine.

These are just a few of the "canaries" that I see falling. Do you really not see them? How in the name of Heaven's Grace can you POSSIBLY believe that any genetic legacy you might produce or any American Dream that you might pursue can be more important than rescuing those who are perishing? Are you really even a Christian?

Our beloved Senior Pastor and his pastoral staff (and lil' ole me) are all agreed on the concept that we believers MUST love the vulnerable ones (the canaries) as if they are our own. In my terms, that means that we MUST adopt them. We must aggressively CLAIM them as members of our family (cuz' you can believe the enemy is aggressively recruiting them for his evil purposes) . Awww, you don't like the way they smell and speak? (tsk, tsk) You don't like their values or the places they go or the places they live? You don't like their habits or the way they dress? WELLLLllllll, then! Guess who else was pretty smelly and lost and worthless and misdirected when Jesus came to get (adopt) you and me? That would be ME.... and YOU!!

Not all of the government programs or NGO programs or even all of the church programs can substitute for you and me building relationships with the vulnerable. It was through relationship with YOU (and with me) that the Christ of God claimed us! It will be through personal relationships with the last, the lost and the least that you and I will adopt the "canaries" into the family of God! Sure, passing laws is a fine thing to do (if you're willing to pay to have the laws enforced) but it is only in RELATIONSHIPS that we can bring about the reconciliation that MUST happen. No amount of legislation can get us in to the Kingdom of Heaven.

They really are all around us. And sometimes you're a canary and sometimes I'm a canary and sometimes ALL of us just need Jesus with skin on to come and get us and take us home. That's part of the reason why He's willing to share Himself with us, so that we can be enabled to love like He has loved us.

Now, I've said all of that so that I can say this: one of the "canaries" that I don't hear singing is the "song voice" that represents our sincere desire to claim the vulnerable. Get it? The very spirit of willingness to care for the vulnerable is one of the canaries that's NOT singing right now. Remember, we can't leave the mine. We HAVE to transform the mine to the point that that canary (that precious, Holy Spirit) can freely sing and fly among us. Again, WE CAN'T LEAVE THE MINE, except to death. And we cannot go into the Kingdom of Heaven unless we're taking the vulnerable persons with us. In other words, we have to deal with the situation HERE, we have to make straight the highways for The King and we have to pull down the obstacles and fill in the rough places. We have to make the "mine" a safe place for ALL of the vulnerable aspects of God's creation because in a way, those vulnerable aspects of God's creation represent the Holy Spirit among us. No safety for the vulnerable, no presence of The Holy Spirit. No presence of The Holy Spirit, no safety for anyone.

So, we seek His wisdom regarding fixing the problems in the mine (and we REALLY need to get busy). And we seek His power regarding rescuing the falling canaries (there are SO many) but I sincerely believe that as we invest His resources in those who are vulnerable now, they can be enabled to be rescuers as well. We have each other, we have our adopted "children" and we can have canaries singing while we work the mine. The choices are ours.

"Adopt ye, one another, even as I have adopted you..."