Archive for the ‘Truth and Grace’ Category

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Murphy, the non-disciple, and his wife, Harpreet, have just settled in for the night–kids are in bed and sleeping. Ten feet away.

Harpreet (whispering): You’ve been talking a lot of Jesus who was executed recently.

Murhpy (whispering): Yeah, he’s back. Amazing. I think he’s God… (pause) I talked with him in Jerusalem last week. ‘Said, his way was THE WAY to live and know God.

Harpreet (louder, Murph puts a finger to her lips): God! (quieter) Sounds like India. We have gods by the bundle at home in Cambay. Which god do you think Jesus is?

Murph: Not a god–the god. How many of your family’s gods have risen from the dead and talked with you lately? Have you seen Buddha at the well this week? Jesus is the real deal.

Harpreet:  Hmm. Don’t all religions have the same end–nirvana, heaven, hope and peace with major helpings of health and prosperity? In India, we have–Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, and goddesses like Lakshmi, Durga, Kali and Saraswati–and that’s just getting started. We also have Buddha, who teaches noble truths and an eightfold path.

Murph: Yeah, Buddha had some good things to say about self-denial, but apart from a work-around on suffering, he left you with a wheel-of-life or oblivion. While some of his followers say he passed on nirvana to get people off the wheel–he didn’t do a Pentecost with wind and languages, right?  The other gods haven’t much to offer either.

Harpreet: Well, Jesus was different.

Murph: Jesus was, or is, different because he lived/lives as you’d imagine God would live if he were a human. He was awesomely god 24/7. You met him. I’ve been with his disciples for years.

Harpreet: Yes, such a caring man! He was the nicest person you ever brought into this house. The kids loved him.

Murph: See, you get it–you know him. For those who don’t, he not only lived truth and grace perfectly–he rose from the dead! He was too much for a grave to hold. He couldn’t not live–the Jews and the Romans couldn’t put him down. They got rid of him and he came back! Everybody in Jerusalem and Judea know this story. And it’s spreading. How embarrassing for the Temple dudes.

Harpreet: Well, that does put him in a class above all the other gods and religious leaders I’ve ever heard of. So, he can’t not live?

Murph: Yep. He can’t be stopped. Not only that, he told me that if I abided in him, I’d also be unstoppable. I believe him! No grave for me–I’ve hitched my cart to him and trust his word. Ultimately, I’ll be with him, wherever he is.

Harpreet: What about me? I, too, have met him. And after what you’ve said, I believe he’s God, too.

Murph: You repent and–his words, not mine–“Love God with all you have and love your neighbors as yourself.” Most of his group were baptized, some maybe twice, when they repented and put faith in God for forgiveness. John the Baptist baptized me before he was taken to prison and executed.

Harpreet: Well, I certainly repent of my sins and I know God’s forgiven me. Who’ll baptize me?

Murph: We’ll ask the disciples who should do it, but they’ll have trouble with you, not being a Jew and all. Barnabas might help us out. Right now it’s kind of a Jewish thing. Even so, they’ve heard all the different languages when the Holy Spirit descended. That ought to be a clue. They also saw how Jesus loved me even though I’m not a Jew or a disciple. Jesus told me to wait ’cause Peter was going to have a dream and us non-disicples were going to be allowed to join The Way.

Harpreet: I guess there are lots of gods and religions, but they all have different ends. Only Jesus gives me a personal relationship with God, his Father. My faith reveals truth and grace for application in my life. I never got that through faith in Hindu gods, Buddha or the sacred rocks and trees at home.

Murph (giving Harpreet a hug; she reciprocates): Our mutual faith increases our mutual love. Love you, honey. Have a good night’s sleep.

Tr8: Pick Jesus (see the Gospels).  Jesus offers unconditional love, unmerited forgiveness and comprehensive peace.

Homework: What do other religions offer? With whom do you wish to walk at the end of your journey? Moses, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Buddha, Maitreya, Caesar, Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Yoda?

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followerMurphy, the non-disciple, stood speechlessly steaming as his wife, Harpreet, walked away. He’d just smacked her a good one in the middle of an argument. Harpreet, from a former abusive relationship, also just smacked him.

This was something both thought would never happen. But, in the heat of the moment, under the circumstances, both vented their frustrations physically. This was not the first time either received a smacking, but it was the first time between THEM.

Murphy (to himself): I can’t believe this…

Harpreet: I can’t believe this.

Murph: I’m sorry, I…

Harpreet: Either the pub goes or I do!

Murph: There’s nothing wrong with the pub! It’s how I make a living and take care of you!

Harpreet: No, it’s how you avoid me and leave me on my own!

Murph: You know I love you. How else am I to pay the bills?

Harpreet: Find a way that doesn’t require you to tend bar all hours of the day and night.

Murph: This isn’t fair…

Harpreet walks out.

Murph (as she goes): I’ll work something out. I promise.

Harpreet: Yeah, sure. What’ll you do?

Murphy, moodily locks up his pub and heads up to the nearby highlands to seek wisdom from the Oracle of Galilee, Madam Roberts. She lives in a cave and is locally known for her wisdom.

Madam Roberts (rubbing her brow knowingly): Ah! You have a problem and come for the Wisdom of the Oracle. Sit.

Murph (sitting across from Madam): Wow, how did you know? My marriage is falling apart. I need you to help me.

Madam: The Oracle needs inspiration.

Murph (pulling out a few denari): Here’s an offering. My problem is…

Madam (holding up her hand): Stop. The Oracle knows all. You have fought with your wife.

Murph: Well, duh. She thinks I don’t…

Madam (closes her eyes, sways, rises and lifts her hands: The Oracle speaks: “Love not the circumstances dictate actions.” Go. Next.

A man with a goat enters the cave.

Murph (startled; as he’s leaving): Hey, can I buy a comma?!

Murphy is pushed out of the cave.

Murph (heading down the hill): Well, crap. Love, not the circumstances, dictate actions?Love not, the circumstances dictate actions? Love not the circumstances, dictate actions?

When Murphy returns to his pub he turns around and finds Jesus following him.

Murph: Hey, Jesus. What are you doing?

Jesus: I’ve been following you.

Murph: Really? I’ve been up to the Oracle. She wasn’t much help. Wouldn’t give me a comma.

Jesus: Well, what did you expect? I’ll give you the comma–it goes after the first word.

Murph: Love, not the circumstances dictate actions.

Jesus: Yep.

Murph: I love Harpreet but that doesn’t change the circumstances.

Jesus: If love can’t change your circumstances, you are stuck.

Murph: Why can’t Harpreet change and work within our circumstances?

Jesus: Whose love do you control? Figure out what part of the problem is yours and begin working with that.

Murph: Harpreet will only be happy if I give up the pub!

Jesus: Love is most evident in sacrifice. Think about those who love you and you’ll be thinking of those who have made sacrifices for your sake. They’ve followed you all your live. Only love can inspire such sacrifices–it’s not natural or rational.

Murph: Hmm. You’re right, but I don’t know if I can make the kind of sacrifices needed in my case.

Jesus: Follow me. You and Harpreet, follow me.

Murph: But what if she won’t?

Jesus: Love follows. It’s the sacrifice. You follow me, she follows you, you follow her, I follow you…love follows. If she loves you, she’ll follow you. If you love her, you’ll follow her. If you love me, you’ll follow me. If you follow me, I will care for you.

Murph: How can I follow you AND follow her?

Jesus: Murphy, we are good friends, right? Do for Harpreet as I would do for you. You found me here for you today. I’ll always have what you need. You be me to her. The key: Start over. Whoever follows, always gets another start–another chance to get it right.

Murph: Okay, I’ll restart. I’ll follow. If all goes well, we’ll both follow, but no matter what, I’ll follow.

Tr8: Love follows.

LLHJesus is sitting at Starbucks drinking a tall French roast – black. Andrew and Peter walk in, order a couple of double-shot espressos.

Peter (looking at Jesus): What if I didn’t pay for my drink?

Jesus (smiling): You’d be in trouble, but I’d forgive you.

Andrew: What if I lied on my income taxes?

Jesus (shaking his head): I’d forgive you, too.

Peter: What if I cheated on my wife?

Jesus (raised eyebrows): I’d forgive you.

Andrew: What if punched Peter in the face?

Jesus (still smiling): I’d forgive you.

Peter (shoving Andrew): What if I threw Andrew off a cliff?

Jesus: I’d be sad, but I’d forgive you. Here’s the deal: Whatever the crime, I’m lettin’ you know I’ll forgive you ahead of time. The Father and I love you unconditionally.

Andrew: Isn’t that dangerous? We could go do whatever we wanted and then come back knowing you’d accept us and forgive us and everything would be fine.

Peter: Yeah, What’s the point of the rules if we know in advance we can get away with anything? You ARE saying we can get away with anything, right?

Jesus: Yep. And see, everything would be fine…but you’d know it could be better. That’s the whole thing. I want you to see what you’re REALLY like. It’s like watching people when they think no one is looking. My forgiveness produces the ‘no one’s looking’ context. It makes you choose between, ‘Can I get away with this?, or ‘Should I want to get away with this?’ If you go ahead and do something you KNOW I don’t like, you HAVE to ask yourself, what kind of love is that?!

Andrew: Of course, you’re right. As usual. When our love is transparent, others’ actions also become transparent.

Jesus: Ahh, Andrew. Yes. Unconditional love requires grace, mercy and sacrifice, but yields pure love. The Father and I bring you love and life, but it’s not in you, it’s in us because we are the ideal — we’re perfect. You do the will of those you really love.

Peter: Actually, your forgiveness is a little dangerous! It exposes bad love.

Jesus: The unforgivable sin is to not love others in this way — to be totally self-serving and self-consumed. People who can’t think beyond themselves act like god. I am the way, truth and life. No one comes to the Father, except my way — the way of love.

Peter: Jesus, I know you love that cinnamon coffee cake. Can I get you a piece?  Rew, you want one?

Tr8: Love one another unconditionally. Live unconditionally.

god with us“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1).

Adam & Eve: You’re kickin’ us out of the garden?!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Noah: A flood?! Are you kidding?

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Abraham: A nation?! I don’t even have a son!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Issac: Ah! My son, great meal! Come and be blessed (hmm, seems a bit like Jacob).

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Jacob: I hope this fools Dad long enough to get his blessing.

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Joseph: I’m a slave, falsely accused and in prison!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Moses: These people are driving me crazy!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Joshua: Canaan! Ready or not, here we come!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

David: My son has taken over my kingdom!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Solomon: Man, raising teenagers is gonna kill me!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Elijah: These people will never listen!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Elisha: These people never listen!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Jonah: Nineveh?! I’m not listening.

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Isaiah: Here am I, send me!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Jeremiah: Ticks me off! These people won’t listen!

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Ezekiel: God? I don’t think they’re listening.

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Mary & Joseph: A baby?! But how…

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help. You shall call his name ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’

John the Baptist: I don’t think the ‘temple dudes’ are listening.

God: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2).

Peter: Where are you going? Can’t we go?

Jesus: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Disciples: You’re leaving?! Now what?

Jesus: Don’t worry, I’m leaving my Spirit (the ‘Helper’) with you always to help.

James & Peter: How shall we shepherd these sheep?

Holy Spirit: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

Paul: Uh oh, I think I’m about to get stoned…

Holy Spirit: Don’t worry, I am with you aways, to help.

You: [Insert your crisis, here.]

Holy Spirit: Don’t worry, I am with you always, to help.

——-

Tr8: Right now, God is with you to help. Lean into Him.

Holy BibleIt’s 78 and Murphy, the non-disciple, sits in front of his public house in Caesarea. He’s very old. As he sits, his son, Josh, joins him.

Josh (excitedly): Dad! Guess what? A bunch of us have made a book!

Murphy (quizzically): Made a book?

Josh: Yeah, we’ve collected all the Jewish histories, all the gospels and a bunch of letters from James and the Apostles–we call it, The Holy Bible.

Murph: Hmm. The Holy Bible. Sounds impressive.

Josh: See, we’ve put it all together and then we can tell people, “Believe the Bible and you’ll be saved.” It’ll all be in one clean package. You know, all the answers in one place. One-stop-shopping!

Murph: Believe the Bible? I believe–I knew–Jesus and was a witness. I believe in Jesus, who didn’t die, for us.

Josh (exasperated): Duh! Sure, it’s all about Jesus. We believe what you believe, we’ve just made it easier to tell his story.

Murph: I have my doubts.

Josh: Listen, Dad, you believe the Hebrew histories and prophet stories, right?

Murph: I find it hard. After all, we’re not Jews. Yet, I believe the histories and stuff on Jesus’ word. He believed ’em and quoted them, that’s good enough for me. I don’t have to understand ’em. I trust him.

Josh: Well, that’s splitting hairs, isn’t it? Doesn’t really matter why, just that you do.

Murph: It’s different to me. The key is he didn’t die. He lives. In me. Now. Histories don’t really concern me. They didn’t change my life.

Josh (more exasperated): Good grief! Well, you DO believe in the gospels, right?

Murph: I believe the gospels because I know the guys who wrote ’em and saw what they saw. I’m pretty sure John is in Ephesus and I’m pretty sure Matthew is alive someplace. All but James, cleared out of Jerusalem before it fell. Jesus warned ’em to flee and they did.

Josh: So, we agree. The gospels are important and should be believed.

Murph (shaking his head): They’re Jesus’ story. I believe what I saw and I saw what the gospels say. They are reliable.

Josh (getting angry): Why are you fighting? We agree! You always have to be right!

Murph: I know we agree, but while the truth in the stories is important, the grace and love is more important–it’s what HE lived. It’s why he didn’t die.

Josh (irritated): Okay, I’ll concede that. Just work with me on this. The book is a good idea.

Murph: With the right perspective it’s a good idea, with a legalist, it could be disastrous.

Josh: What about the letters? We included James’, John’s, Peter’s, Paul’s, that Hebrew letter and even one by Jude.

Murph: I’m not sure about Jude and I think Barnabas wrote Hebrews, but I’m not sure. Could be Apollos or maybe even Paul in his “Hebrew phase.”

Josh (emphatically): But it’s all good and reliable, right?!

Murph: Yes.

Josh: Finally! It may take a few centuries to catch on, but this book has legs. I promise. All the guys in my small group agree. Your generation seems to be the holdouts–funny how the witnesses seem to resist this project.

Murph: Truth is, some of us have discussed it. Here’s our concern: After our generation this is all going to sound like a tall tale or myth. People will surely say the gospels aren’t true because they won’t know the historical context.

Josh: What?

Murph: Jerusalem, the war, the destruction of Herod’s Temple, the mass crucifixions and genocide. They won’t know that everything changed in the 60s. WE all KNOW about the fall of Jerusalem in 70. What future generations won’t know is what happened in 70 validates the gospels and letters.

Josh: What do you mean?

Murph: I mean, if they knew about the destruction and genocide, they’d know the gospels and letters were written by eye-witnesses. Why? Because the elimination of the Hebrews as a nation would have been mentioned–Jesus prophesied it, then we saw it happen decades later after he went up. Those of us who are still around talk about it and marvel. That’s just how he was when he lived with us…

Josh (thoughtfully): Sorry, Dad. I know it’s tough, still….so, future generations will have the gaul to suggest the gospels and letters aren’t real, or are just stories?

Murph: What do you think?

Josh (thoughtfully): Hmm. That’s something to think about. But surely, if we get the Bible all together, people will believe it.

Murph: Well, I hope so. But you know what the Sanhedrin did with their “Scripture”–they crucified Jesus. He died, then he came back. I saw him myself.

Tr8: Believe in Jesus. The one who didn’t die, for you and me. He lived so we can live in his truth and by his grace and love.

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