Grace Emerges

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fuel for the Decision Engine

by Brad D.

I love to write about what salvation means, and have written previously about the human trinity, capacity and opportunity, freedom and the Kingdom of God.  This article brings these concepts together again and looks at how salvation changes us, providing the fuel needed by our decision engine.

In so many ways, what we believe about ourselves frames what we believe about God and his Good News to transform us and liberate us.  Salvation implies leaving the old behind, and embracing the new; that’s the transformation.  It also implies Freedom, as we were captives before, and now we are free; that’s the liberation.

So, what is the context of this change, or, Who Am I?  And then what is this transformation and liberation, or, What Changes?  If we can answer these two questions we can get to the heart of Freedom, the very purpose of the Good News.

Who Am I?
We are each a trinity of intellect, emotions and spirit.  We are created by God in his image, as points of spiritual light that represent a life of great value, individuality, potential, capacity and opportunity in the eyes of God our maker and father.  Our father longs for us, seeking and calling us, and desiring most of all to establish a meeting of his trinity, with ours.  A meeting of the minds, an understanding of thoughts and emotions, and a joining of spirits.  In other words, intimacy and relationship.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Non-Toxic Gospel FAQ

by Brad Duncan
A new understanding of the gospel is emerging in current theology, a trend toward a non-toxic gospel. It's the Good News that really is good news!

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the non-toxic gospel. The thoughts and opinions are expressly my own, but I also speak for a resonating truth that is rising up across many different groups of thinkers and believers.

Q. What is the gospel?
A. The word "gospel" means good news, and the "gospels" refers to the 4 books of the Bible that describe the life of Christ, the one who is (and brought) the good news. The good news is that a savior has come who is God him/herself. God's kingdom has come, and s/he has left us with the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit as God living within us.

The good news as described in these books does not mean the judgment of God, a new law to keep, or a test of faith, works or goodness. So, we should not expect Jesus or Saint Peter to be at the "pearly gates" stopping inadequate followers from coming to God after their life is over on Earth. That would hardly be good news for the unaccepted.

Q. Why do so many people think the gospel means the judgment of mankind?
A.The toxic tradition of the gospel arises from a carry-over religious mind-set that was held by the overly-religious Pharisees in the time of Jesus. Jesus used many of his teachings to explain to these religious leaders that they were not doing God any favors by trying to please God with religious acts, and that in fact they were committing injustice to everyday people by creating a system of elitism. Jesus directly opposed elitism and the division of people into "good" and "bad" lots. When people judge each other because they are trying to sort out who is good enough to be accepted by God, they are the ones going against God. Jesus said to "judge not, if you don't want to be judged yourself!"

Q. But isn't God still our judge, deciding if we have pleased him/her at the end of life?
A. Yes to the first part, and No to the second part. When Jesus taught that no man or religious system had authority over mankind, Jesus instead taught that God alone had authority to judge, and that he himself was God and also had this authority. With this authority, Jesus claimed all the Earth as his "kingdom of God". He replaced all previous systems of pleasing God with his own authority. So, yes, we are subject to the judgment of God, and the authority over the spiritual realm that only s/he possesses.

But what does God require? Since Jesus came to reverse all the previous systems of pleasing God through religious acts, there is no longer any test to pass. Jesus did not set up a new test, like a standard of faith, a minimum set of beliefs, a requirement to adhere to certain ideals, or a magic ticket that is claimed by reciting a certain prayer. Jesus came to destroy that stuff, not to create more of it!

So, No, God does not judge whether we pleased him/her  at the end of our life, as an evaluation of whether or not we can spend eternity with him/her . In his/her full authority, God chose to set things up a different way.

Q. What's replaces the system of judgment? Doesn't God's acceptance of us still come with strings attached?
A. Jesus came to introduce an era of Grace. Grace is not clearly defined, but broadly means a loving gift, or a gift-giving nature driven by love. The word gift is used when defining Grace, because a true gift means something of value that is NOT earned but is freely given. In other words, no strings attached. There's no such thing as conditional grace. Grace points to the unconditional love of God towards his/her children. There's no such thing as judgmental unconditional love! God elected to come to Earth and bring this gift that we certainly did not deserve, but in God's authority (described above) s/he chose to set us into right relationship with him/herself.

A more pointed question is this: does the gift (Grace) come with a curse? For those that do not accept the gift, is a curse implied for that person? In other words, the gift is free and unearned, but if we DON'T take it, then are we doomed, condemned? No, there is no such thing as unconditional love that much be accepted under compulsion. Such a gift would be no gift at all, but rather like a threat wrapped in a bow. An offer to choose between slavery and death, packaged as sacrificial love and outstretched arms! If God offered such a deal to us, we would be compelled into whatever s/he demanded out of fear of refusing him/her . How can we degrade God's sacrificial love by appending to it a threat of doom if we don't accept it?

Q. What is the kingdom of God?
A. When Jesus came, he brought a new era of God him/herself invading the space of mankind. We also call this invasion the "incarnation". Jesus became man. Then he gave us the Holy Spirit which continues to work in people's lives today. This is what Jesus referred to numerous times as the "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven." The intersection between God and mankind, established on Earth. If you don't believe me, look around at how faith in God is so pervasive in the world. If you include Muslims and Jews, and other religions who seek God, faith in the God that created the universe is extensively held. Indeed the kingdom has come, and continues to come as more people relate to God.

Q. Does God love me? Or more to the point, why does God love me?
A. Our nature is such that God loves us. God loves humans. There is a special light in us that God recognizes as his/her own, because we were created in his/her image, and with such admirable potential and capacity (even if we often fail). Remember, God became human, and why would God become something s/he despises? As a human Jesus loved people of all types of faith, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities; a few outstanding examples are the Samaritan woman at the well, the Roman centurion, the turn-coat Jewish tax-collector, the harlot, and Nicodemus the Jewish religious leader. Whether they were of high or low status, whether their flaws were by choice or birth, Jesus loved them. He taught people to love using surprising lessons of loving neighbors, loving enemies, loving the little children that surrounded him, loving the outcasts and those that invited him to dinner. Why does God love you? Because you're one of his/her children, just like everyone else.

Q. What does God want? What's the deal?
A. Since God loves us and is making such a big deal about invading human spaces to bring his/her kingdom, do you think that what he wants is someone to test, evaluate and judge? Is that what you're looking for from those that you love? No, you want people that you love to respond to your love, hopefully loving you back, and bringing joy to both you and them through a relationship.

If we are not currently close to God, separated from him/her, maybe not even liking God, then what does God want? Groveling and fear? Is that what you are looking for from those that you love but are estranged from you? No, you want that person to be reconciled to you, brought back into a good relationship.

If we are currently in an unhealthy relationship with God where we expect him/her to do everything for us, while we do nothing in return, then what does God want? Or maybe the opposite spectrum of unhealthy relationship, where we work our fingers to the bone to please God and do everything we think he wants, while never really asking what would make him/her happy, then what does God want? If we are in an unhealthy relationship with God, s/he wants to bring his/her truth to us to see what he is really like and how to relate to him in a more healthy way. As Jesus said, "True worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth". God wants to relate to us.

What does he want? Start relating. Stop doing anything else that is counter to relating. What is relating? It means an honest, truthful, sharing of two souls with each other. Intimacy, friendship, closeness, sacrificial love.

Q. Am I saved?
A. Yes. God came to save mankind. If you are mankind, God came to save you. Did Jesus succeed or fail at what he came to do? Certainly, he crushed death and evil under his feet, and brought his kingdom to Earth. He succeeded at liberating you! By definition you are saved.

Q. Does everyone have to love God?
A. No. Love is not slavery. God loves us, and gives us complete freedom to love God or not. No one is forced to do accept God. No one is punished for not accepting God. No one is forced to bow at God's feet for all eternity if they don't like him/her. While we really can't see or understand heaven while living on Earth, we do understand our spiritual nature by entering into a relationship with God, and we know that our spiritual nature will remain with God after this body dies. We know that even in that day, our freedom will remain, and we will relate to God because we choose to.

Q. Is God mad at me and the rest of humanity?
A. Maybe. The offer of Grace comes from God's disposition towards us: from unconditional love for his/her children. Just like a parent can be angry with his/her children, God can of course be angry with us, disappointed, longing for a different behavior or response. God is not ours to control; s/he makes his/her own choices, plans, and works to bring about his/her will (his/her desires and intentions). In the intersection between God and humanity, s/he has often revealed how his/her will is counter to the will of man. We should listen to God's truth, and listen to his/her correction and guidance. We should do what God wants instead of working against him/her.

Many people sense God's dissatisfaction with us, and decide that God will judge us, condemning us rather than accepting us, because of his/her unhappiness. On the contrary, as we love our children even when we are angry with them, we should not confuse God's Will, with God's Grace. God's Will is his/her intention for us, including what we should do, how we should change, what we should believe. God's Grace is an offer to us that comes to us without condition or threat of retaliation. These concepts are not foreign to us, it is already how we treat those that we love, especially our own children.

Q. Is God mad that people don't believe in Jesus?
A. Maybe. As in the previous question, God doesn't have to like people's beliefs. Many times, people believe in something which they call God or religion, and then they use that belief to hurt other people. This applies to Christians as well as anyone else. God, the author of all truth, surely hates all deceit, and hates corruption of truth into excuses to hate others or to gratify ourselves. God hates when we mix Grace with Judgment into a poisonous stew. So, surely God does not like the faith that some people have in the name of Jesus or in the name of God.

But, does God hate it when people believe in God but don't know Jesus? God knows people's hearts, and its possible that s/he doesn't mind so much. When people seek God, God responds. If they honor God, love  God and call out to God, I think s/he opens his/her spirit to them so they can understand his/her nature and enter into a relationship. Certainly without the truth that Jesus provides, those that love God but don't know Jesus are missing many details of the truth. But how can God refuse his/her children that love him/her? We love our children, even when their understanding is limited.

I think God is more pleased with these people, than with the ones that claim to know Jesus but don't act like it! If we have the benefit of knowing Jesus and all the truth that he brings to us, we have more responsibility to be changed by it. Remember Gandhi, who taught about peace and reconciliation, including reconciliation among those of different religions? Gandhi lived in a a time and place where people hated one another because of their faith. God loves Gandhi and how he fought injustice! I would bet that we'll meet him in heaven some day.

Q. What kind of faith is enough (or the right kind) to be accepted by God?
A. Jesus taught some interesting lessons about how faith, and how the kingdom of God itself, is like a small seed that produces a big plant. In fact, Jesus taught that no faith was too small for God to appreciate. He also taught that no faith was big enough that man could earn a right relationship with God. From zero to infinity, the size of a person's faith does not determine God's acceptance. Period! God uses faith and turns it into a desire to know the truth, a desire to relate to him/herself. But faith is not a test, a magic ticket to earn God's acceptance. A true gift cannot be earned, even with faith.

Q. What kind of faith do I need when I pray?
A. You only need the kind of faith that wants to respond to someone who loves you. If you can sense God's love for you, respond to it in kind. Embrace truth instead of hiding from it. No amount or standard of faith is required. No adherence to a set of beliefs. Just enough faith to respond.

Q [new!]. Do we have to call God Him, He, and Father instead of Her, She and Mother?
A.  Many people perceive God as having the best of masculine and feminine traits, analogous to the best ideal Earthly father or mother.  And God doesn't need gender like we do, for obvious reasons.  He/she is not offended by either set of pronouns.  

On the other hand, people have mixed experiences with their Earthly parents, and other Earthly examples during childhood.  And women in society have been marginalized throughout human history.  To show that God celebrates rather than marginalizes women, it is helpful not to categorize God as purely a Father, not a man, not a marginalizer of women.  By calling God Him/Her we celebrate God as the ideal parent and the lover of all mankind, with no bias toward men or women. 

And so that's why I fixed up the pronouns in this article.  I use these pronouns now to honor a bigger God, and in doing so I feel a sense of reverence in talking about my maker, who is beyond anything we can imagine on Earth, who is not male or female but created both.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Decision Engine: Capacity, Need and Opportunity

by Brad D.
Full-length article on how decision-making, need and opportunity collide, resulting in both  freedom and faith.
Capacity, Need and Opportunity
Logically we can separate the two concepts of capacity and opportunity.  God gives us free will, the capacity to make complex decisions that have spiritual implications.  But he does this because we need it and must have it to survive. This is because of the world we live in, which is filled with both good and bad things.  Our opportunity to make choices comes from the fact that we live with both good and evil in front of us, and we have to be very careful in how we step or disaster will result.  For instance when we drive a car, some very bad things could happen if we accidentally cross the wrong line, disregard the rules and signs, or ignore the other vehicles on the road.  We have the opportunity to fail!  Simply close your eyes for 3 seconds while driving and disaster will most certainly strike!  Yet our government lets us earn a license to operate a vehicle.  But this is also naturally why alcohol kills in car accidents -- it negates our capability to make good choices fast enough to operate a vehicle on the road.

The Responsibility to Decide

by Brad D.

Thoughts on how God has equipped us to make decisions and what that means about free will to choose a relationship with him.


If we are created in God's image in the trinity of MIND, SOUL and SPIRIT, then we are capable of making decisions like God does every moment.  God equipped us with a balance of intellect, emotional connections with others, and perception of right and wrong, so that we can be given important responsibilities.  In society, in government, in our workplace, and in our family, we must operate and cooperate through endless decisions.  We initiate and react, we make commitments and break promises, we connect ourselves to others in relationships, and we chose how we will allocate our minutes on this earth, choosing a profession, a place to live, acquiring possessions, and having a family and a group of friends.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Human Trinity

by Brad D.

The trinity of intellect, emotions and spirit makes us more like God than we know.  What are we?  What is man?  We are truly God's children, points of spiritual light that God cares enough about to seek a relationship with.

There are things we know about who we are, and things we can guess.  And when I say "know" I mean things that are pretty well known based on common experience and basic faith in the Bible's explanation of our origins.   And when I say "things we can guess", I mean things that are good topics of controversy and points which philosophers will find 100 different ways to explain. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jesus the Revolutionary

by Brad D.

Jesus started a revolution.  A revolution against religious control, elitism and exploitation in many forms.  He had to do this in order to usher in a new age where God's acceptance through Grace could be revealed. 

Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats, in Matthew 25:31-46, is often quoted and discussed when talking about the meaning of salvation, good works and hell, but actually reveals the core of revolutionary message.  In this parable, Jesus spoke to upset the conventional wisdom of the day perpetuated by the teachers of the law, and to assert his own authority to judge the nations as only God would have.  

The main characters in this parable are:

  • sheep: those that understood the truth
  • goats: those that thought they understood the truth but were mistaken
  • needy, under-privileged: those that Jesus had compassion for and wanted the sheep and goats to help in this life
  • Jesus: the revealer of the truth, the one with authority to judge the sheep and goats, and the one that loves the under-privileged

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Bible Made Impossible

The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

by Christian Smith

The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

Here is the publisher’s summary of Smith’s book:

Biblicism, an approach to the Bible common among some American evangelicals, emphasizes together the Bible’s exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. Acclaimed sociologist Christian Smith argues that this approach is misguided and unable to live up to its own claims. If evangelical biblicism worked as its proponents say it should, there would not be the vast variety of interpretive differences that biblicists themselves reach when they actually read and interpret the Bible.

Smith describes the assumptions, beliefs, and practices of evangelical biblicism and sets it in historical, sociological, and philosophical context. He explains why it is an impossible approach to the Bible as an authority and provides constructive alternative approaches to help evangelicals be more honest and faithful in reading the Bible. Far from challenging the inspiration and authority of Scripture, Smith critiques a particular rendering of it, encouraging evangelicals to seek a more responsible, coherent, and defensible approach to biblical authority.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Calling Open Minds: The Kingdom of God Needs You

by Brad D.

The kingdom of God needs open minds.  The kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of heaven or the church in the broadest sense of the word, is God's work on this planet.  Jesus calls believers to a great mission to spread his message and deliver freedom to all people.  To do this he's enlisting those with open minds to help with the cause.

 God is calling us all to step up, with open minds and hearts, with open spirits, to hear him calling and to bring change.  We just need to respond.

Calling Truth-Lovers: The kingdom of God needs people who love the truth.  The message that God has for today.  The point.  What the speakers recorded in the Bible would say to us today if they were standing here on the stage.  People who can hear the challenge in the words.  People who grapple with less-than-obvious meanings.  People who care about the harmful effects and missed opportunities, when we believe "easy" interpretations passed down by tradition instead of grappling with the hard concepts ourselves.  God is calling open minds!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We Need a New Reformation

Read this article from theOOZE (re-posted in entirety) on why the church needs a New Reformation.

We Need a New Reformation (by Chuck Queen)

I had not thought much about the wave of Tea Party members elected to Congress until the recent debate over the deficit and the debt ceiling. What I particularly observed was, what seemed to me, a complete lack of concern for or obligation to the most vulnerable in our country—the poor and marginalized.

Jesus, of course, defined his mission and ministry with particular focus on the most vulnerable. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . to bring good news to the poor . . . to let the oppressed go free.” (Luke 4:18–19)
I suspect that a number of Christians must have voted for them to get them elected. So my question is: What sort of Christianity supports an agenda that neglects the disadvantaged?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Three Parables

by Brad D.

Please enjoy these three modern-day parables...

The Church is Closed, Please Come Back Later
Dear God, could you come back later? The church is closed right now. We heard someone knocking. Then someone shouted through the door something we didn't quite hear, so he said it louder. We think it was you. But we really couldn't understand what you were saying. After that we heard something being explained slowly and more clearly. Surely that wasn't you, God. What he said made no sense to us. Then you said it even more clearly.  Then we knew it must be someone else, but we definitely didn't agree with it, and we have all the facts written down right here in the Bible.

"You must have the wrong address," we said. 

Then the voice said, "No really, its me. Can you please let me in?". 

"Oh God, I'm so sorry we didn't recognize your voice. But we're really busy right now. Can you come back later?"  Its been quiet for a while so I guess you left. I hope we can get ready for when you come back. We've got a ton of work to do.

"Hey guys. I think he's coming back soon. Is there any way we can get this place cleaned up?  And by the way where did those 10 gold coins go that we were supposed to invest to get a good return out of it. Can someone go dig them up? God's gonna want those back."

Wait, someone else is knocking. Its a bunch of weird people. They seem to be dirty and hurt, some are bleeding. They're a total mess. They want in! 

"Hey guys, the church is closed. Can you come back later? Were trying to get ready for God right now."

Calling the World, Please Help

Please help! The church needs you. Please come and bring the truth to us. Please come and help to evangelize the church. 

  • Calling people with differences. We have forgotten what you are like, its been so long since we knew anyone like you.
  • Calling all economists and financial wizards. We need some advice on how to invest our wealth. Currently its earning no return and we need to move it to something worthwhile.
  • Calling all scientists. We got confused and mixed up science and fashion. We thought if we just waited a while the old ideas would become popular again. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened and science keeps moving along without us. Can you help bring some rational balance please?
  • Calling all philosophers and thinkers. Every week in our communities we talk about the most profound topics of our existence and purpose. But somewhere we stopped thinking and considering new ideas. We just keep telling each other the same facts. We could use good healthy debate and hear some complex ideas we don't fully understand. Can you give us some of that?
  • Calling all creative humanitarians.  Can you help us find out how to really help the poor, exploited, and sick?  We have all this money here, and I don't know but maybe millions of volunteer hours, if you need them.  Could you help us figure out how to do some good work with this?
I can't promise that we'll let you in the door. If we don't then at least you tried. Just shake the dust off your shoes and try a different door, church or town. We need you so badly but we don't know it or want to admit it, but I beg you have a heart and come and help us! 

Paul the Talking Head
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight's stage. Today, we have the apostle Paul on the stage.  Not exactly LIVE but the next best thing.  We found this video segment with the early church manuscripts and today we're going to show it! The Holy Spirit, anticipating our technology, willed that this video would be found on a USB thumb drive and now we're going to show it (of course, someone posted it on YouTube). Anyway, the Holy Spirit warned Paul before he made this recording that it would be used for about 50,000 years so he was prepared to be as politically correct as possible in a way that could transcend all those years. The Holy Spirit also reminded him that he would be interpreted Verbatim as though he were talking to future generations, using timeless quips and unalterable principles that would work in any time and culture.

So, here goes. He's about to speak. It's amazing. What will he say?

He says: "Jesus is the real thing. I saw him myself, and when I did the scales fell off of my eyes, metaphorically at first, literally later (just want to be clear about that)! I saw truth and power.  Boy was I wrong and messed up before.  He loves us. 

Okay, good night and good luck!"

What? That's it? Where's my transcendental truth?

Oh, by the way, he says: "the Holy Spirit warned me you would take me literally and Verbatim no matter what your time and culture. Don't know why you would do that. Doesn't make any sense to me but if that's how you feel about it I won't say anything else so I won't be misunderstood. If you have questions, just ask the Holy Spirit. Fortunately he'll still be alive and present with you in whatever day you are watching this."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Fat Almost 40 Rant

by Jenny D.

OK, I'm just going to say it and there is no apology coming with it.

When are we going to stop judging people based on the size they are?

I just saw the new book Maggie goes on a Diet targeting girls as young as six, to send out the message if you lose weight you will be popular and everyone will know you by name??? Oh and you'll be better at soccer...


I developed anorexia at 12 yrs old trying not to look like my biological mother, for the next 17 years I drove myself and everyone around me crazy with worry and my rigid behavior all in the effort to not look exactly like I do right now!

What did I gain in those 17 years of starvation? Metabolic syndrome, heart issues and guess what I sitll look just like her.

When are we going to stop judging, when do we stop encouraging our children to take on unhealthy expectations about their own and others weight.

I don't eat any more than my thin friends and I exercise. Believe what you want about weight but some of us don't pig out. and we look the way we do.

I don't want to lose weight for anyone but me and who would want it more for me than me? And if I'm really honest (as Brad, my amazing husband has said many times brutally, even dreadfully honest.)

I still ignore hunger and I still down deep want that tiny waist but I have to ask why?

Do I want it for me? Do I want it so everyone will think I'm pretty or have it all togehter, do I want it for one of you reading this right now? If your reading this at all? Maybe I want it because that's what the world shouts in my face every day. If your thin your in.???

Can you really look at the world around us, back at generation after generation , and believe that we are all supposed to look the same? My biological family pretty much resemble each other and pretty much every person I've met here on earth resemble those who came before them.

I'm not supporting blaming everything on genes or saying lets all binge because we can't do anything anyway (so don't get on your high horse and send me messages about how I should eat or not)  but I am saying this.

Enough is enough! How many more girls and women (boys too) have to die from eating disorders before we stop making it ok to judge people based simply on size.

When do we just love people because of the beauty they are just for being who they are.
I'm tired and so I am done trying to be that perfect size. I've waisted enough time. I will continue my quest to be healthy but I am so done with trying to fit some mold I was never made to fit.

So love me? Then really love me and never ask me to be something I'm not.

Since I'm having this rant let me also say I'm sorry for scaring the people who love me and making you crazy when I've gotten into the times where I went so far down that road that even I couldn't stand to be around me. Let me say thank you to those who have stood by and supported and loved me through it too because love is what brought me out of darkness.

Maybe wisdom comes with age, maybe self acceptance does too but I would love to see a world where we really teach it to our kids the way it really should be taught. That we love and not judge from the start.

We are all created in God's image and He said that "it's very good" (Genesis)

If I am good enough for God nothing else matters. No one under the sun is perfect no matter how how hard we try to make it look that way on the outside.

Rant finished

Jenny D.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society

Another book plug, this time for a book from Jay Bakker.  Some info copied below.  Another fan of Grace!  Love it.  There is truly a revolution taking place.  Jump in and catch the wave ....

Also check out Jay's church:


Praise for FALL TO GRACE:

Jay is right: a revolution is taking place. And it's a revolution of grace, affecting our view of God, our view of ourselves, and our view of neighbor, stranger, enemy, and outcast. As I read this honest and challenging book, I kept thinking, "Sign me up for the revolution!" ( Brian McLaren, speaker, activist and author of A New Kind of Christianity )

"With Fall to Grace, Jay Bakker has written just the book that Christians on both sides of our tragically polarized faith need to read. Relying on both his own personal experience and a thoughtful and theological reading of the New Testament, he reminds us of the very core of the gospel. And, in so doing, he challenges me to reconsider the Apostle Paul, the biblical writer with whom I most often wrestle. This book deserves a wide readership." (Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier and the theologian-in-residence at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis )

Product Description

If anyone ever had a reason to leave the Christian faith, Jay Bakker did.

At the age of only 11 his parents' global PTL ministry was engulfed by scandal and undermined by Christian backbiting -all of which played out in the 24-hour news media.

Disillusioned, Bakker turned to drugs and alcohol and left his childhood beliefs behind. But along the way, an interesting thing happened: Bakker came to understand, through his personal challenges and suffering (as well as the help of some friends), what God's grace was really all about.

In this book Bakker explores the true nature of grace--what it means for everyday living and the hot-button issues of our day. With disarming humility, poignant observations, and spot-on theology, Bakker both challenges Christians to reassess their understanding of salvation and encourages non-believers to see Jesus with fresh eyes.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Misfits: Who Are You Including?"

I am re-posting below some of the reviews for this book, Misfits: Who Are You Including?, by John O'Keefe.  The reviews alone are worth reading!  Many other people are trying to say the same thing as I am about Acceptance. -- Brad

Misfits: Who Are You Including?

John O'Keefe 

'NO PUNCHES PULLED! This book is utterly compelling! It's a must read for all misfits of any description. It's a shell shocking treasure that offers much well needed encouragement to all who do not fit in, whatever the reason. On top of this it's a mightily kick-ass challenge to any ecclesiastical hierarchs or clerically ambitious who have let respectability blind them to the fact that their Lord was not respectable - he was (like so many of us) just another misfit. If you are comfortable with the way the Church is, then be prepared to be disturbed. On the other hand if you have been disturbed by modern Churchianity, then be prepared to be comforted and even inspired to gather back into your arms the baby you once threw out with the Church's dirty bath water. I honestly believe that this book will become a Christian best seller for, not only is it such a necessary theme, it's written in such a punchy and yet non-preachy way. It literally reaches out and grabs the attention, holding onto it until the end. Not to be overlooked!!'
Mark Townsend
Author of The Gospel of Falling Down

"The church in the 21st century is becoming irrelevant to the lives of many whom she would serve. This fact is well known among many in church leadership; even if it is seldom acknowledged publicly 

Often, the response to this decline is to circle the wagons around doctrine, theology, or ideology in an attempt to weather the storms of change and decline. In "Misfits"; John O'Keefe proposes a radically different approach:   Throw open the doors. Welcome all to their rightful place at God's table and allow a beautifully messy and truly authentic community to take shape. For to follow that outcast and misfit Jesus, we should truly embrace other misfits and welcome them into beloved community, as He did. "The Church needs to understand that we are all, or all should be, misfits and that our Churches need to be filled with misfits seeking to know and understand the divine in their lives."
The church might just find that the soul she saves is her own."
Roger McClellan,

"John O'Keefe is one of the original 'Outlaw Preachers.' He was an 'Outlaw' before being an 'Outlaw' was cool. So he's been on this journey for a while, and his journey has informed his passion for seeing the Church be open and welcoming to all. In his new book, he's provoking us all to ask some hard questions about how our churches/faith communities operate. I'm grateful for his voice and for his rebel call to inclusion."
Steve Knight

I love John's heart. He has two passions:  The church and those she fails to see at present. Hopefully this book will be one more helpful nudge to wake us from our slumber even as it serves to give the misfit in us all a reason to belong. 
Chad Holtz

"I have read many books that attempt to teach societal transformation. They give advice like pray, schedule a meeting, and pray that people come to the meeting. While that may be all well and good, this book is not like those books. Through personal experience narrative, John artfully invites you into the lives of those who dare not darken the door of a church building.

Instead of simply giving you hope that you can, indeed, make a marked difference in the lives of those outside the church walls, John provides practical, real-world, advice on how to embrace your 'other'.

This is a must read for all practitioners of our faith who take seriously Jesus' command to go into the world."
Brandon Mouserco-pastor, Ink Church
Moderator, Outlaw Preachers

When I walk into 'christian' bookstores I tend to stroll through the aisles and mentally categorize what I see ... almost as if in a grocery store.  Baby Food - okay, that's necessary for awhile. Candy and Snacks - hmmm ... tasty, okay on a limited basis, but of no real nutritional value. Frozen and Pre-Planned Meals - you know, the 12-steps to this and the 40 Days of that. Perhaps they make things a little more convenient, but they fall short on numerous counts.

Misfits would fall into the Health and Natural foods aisle. 

Reading Misfits brought back many memories and stirred up strong emotions. I have been involved with countercultural ministry over 25 years. I could put different names to the stories John shares throughout the book and the stories of rejection and exclusion would be the same. Hell, I could add my name to a number of those stories.

The first two emotions I encountered while reading Misfits were a profound sadness and anger. "I can't believe this crap is still happening! I thought we would have progressed much further than this by now!"

As I continued reading I ran across a single sentence that began to stir my spirit:  "We have gotten so used to thinking exclusion we have lost the ability to think inclusion."

I believe John has stumbled upon something very significant. It's as if exclusion is buried so deep within us that it has almost become part of our DNA, our subconscious modus operandi. No wonder we struggle against inclusion - even when trying to embrace it!

We are in need of a deep, internal change ... a 'born from above' experience, if you will, where God's expansive love and inclusion drives out our fear-based exclusivity. Perhaps this is part of the "new creation" promised by Scripture. May Mother Spirit birth such in all our hearts.

I believe the message within Misfits is something that the Spirit is speaking to the Church today ... Lord, give us ears to hear. Amen.
Pastor Nar Martinez
Spiritual Director / Spiritual Father with the Outlaw Preacher

In a time when church people continue to draw lines defining "who's in" and "who's out", O'Keefe gives us an impassioned plea to drop our differences, to end our judgmental exclusivity, and work with God to open our hearts wider--to be as inclusive as Christ's sacrifice, which was, after all, meant for everyone.
-Caleb J Seeling
Founder of
Senior editor for 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paul Clears the Air: More on Women

Hello, it's Paul again.

Thanks for inviting me back on the stage.  Since my last visit I've gotten lots of letters about how we should treat women in the church and in Christian families.  The questions all have the flavor of finding the boundary or limit on womens' roles, authority and rights.  Questions like, "What kind of leadership positions should we let women have in the church?", and "How do women and men share the authority in family decision-making?"

So, I guess I was a bit too brief last time.  I said it already, but I can answer these questions in more detail.

Look, these types of questions, if men ask them, makes us men look like bullies on the playground.  "Do we have to let her play?".  "AAAaaah, no, do we have to let the girls have a turn?"  Radical freedom means that we erase the glass ceiling and get this thing right!  As we know by now, men don't have any special powers, extra intelligence, stronger leadership potential, or closer relationship with God than women.  They are physiologically different, and emotionally different, in ways that can be explored and described in countless science studies, but these differences are now recognized as valuable for women to have when leading along-side men.  We'll have to be deliberate, much like affirmative action, to bring up the numbers of women in leadership.  We'll have to overcompensate a bit in welcoming them to the upper ranks and important jobs, to help make up the existing gap.

I've been to lots of churches, and though I know there are some out there, I've never been to one where the women were in charge, equally with the men.  Men, it's time to let the women have the important jobs, too.  Make every effort to extend the offer of equality and radical freedom.  Quit being the bullies on the playground!  

And in families!?!?  Do the same.  Christian women that I've met are unsure of their place in the family.  Society asks so much, but rewards so little!  The church just adds more expectations on top of this and pushes women to get less respect and recognition for it, so that they can give the honor to their husbands.  Christians, I have to tell you this: this makes unhealthy marriages!  Today we understand honor to mean liberty and respect.  Democracy in decision making.  Each bringing to the relationship and the home our best talents to make it the best possible environment for the marriage to succeed and kids to grow up in.  Husbands, don't be bullies unless you want your marriage to be fragile shell of what it should be!  Don't treat your wife like your dog or like that older kid treated you on the playground!

Okay hope that's clear.  If not I'll use a bull-horn next time!  Have a good one!  Honor those women!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Paul on the Stage: About Women

Big picture. Let's look at the message to women in the New Testament. Take the apostle Paul as a case study, again the big picture, the over-arching message.  What was it?.  

First, let's explore from a time projection view where words were intended to transcend time and culture and be understood literally today. What Paul said to women then, is what he would stand up in church today and say. Verbatim. In fact let's consider Paul to be on a televised recording, recorded 2000 years ago and played back today. By the way, did he know we were going to use this recording for the next 100,000 years (just throwing this number out there) and apply it Verbatim?  Did he plan his words to apply to 5,000 future generations?

Secondly let's look at a more realistic Paul, were he to appear on stage today. Let's determine what he would say, if his words were relative to the culture and time of his day, and he were to try to translate his concepts into words we could understand. If Paul was not really thinking about us, not fully aware of our time, when he wrote before, this is probably the more accurate way to hear him than the Verbatim version. We're after fidelity here. We don't want to get the wrong idea about what he's trying to say.

Women in Need.  Source...
Okay the stage is set. What's Paul going to say to women today? First, let's go to Paul the talking head. He' right here on this computer screen...  He says that women are allowed in church! Wow that's cool. They are not really allowed to talk openly but there they are singing and worshiping with thir families. In fact the men are to be kind and respectful to them. They are to work on their marriages (both the men, and the women). Way cool since women were kind of like property back then. Women are to still respect their husbands and honor them as the head of household rather than as equals in the house.  "This authority is a minor point, though," he says; "the men are to be kind and to treat the women like fellow children of God. Let's keep some semblance of the societal order or the family will fall apart and women will be completely disgraced in society." Wow, this Paul guy is a genious. Too bad he wasn't aware that we needed him to speak a little more PC because we need that Verbatim interpretation

Project Renewal..  Source...
Okay now the real Paul is on the stage, trying to best phrase his message (like any good preacher) so that we can really get it.  Not just the letter of the law meaning but the real point that should continue to apply when the fabric of our experience changes.  What?  He's saying something about radical freedom. Something about leading our society in how to love and respect one another. He says that in spite of all our effort the world is still having problems affording women the respect they need and deserve. They are powerless in many situations. They can be discarded by men so easily, left there hanging with the kids. But they can't get the good jobs or good pay. They suffer so much more from poverty and exploitation, but don't have a voice to complain. The church is to radically lead the way and teach the world how to fix this.  Paul says, "Look, let me explain it clearly.  When women walk in that door of the church from the streets of their town or village, should their freedom and honor increase, or decrease, or be about neutral?  If increase, how much should it change?  Church, it should be a radical, night and day difference increase!  When women walk in that door, they should be FREE.  They should be honored and cared for.  They should have an equal voice.  Let's show the world how to do it!  If the world still perpetuates injustice, then let's fight it!.  Good night and Amen!"

"By the way, is that me on the screen?   Wow, I was looking goood back then.  I started my mission for women's rights back then and I'm still struggling to be heard!  Do I need to shout?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Kind of Neo?

The parallels between the Matrix and religion are irresistible. See my article on theOOZE:
theOOZE: What Kind of Neo?

Article reproduced below:

I love the Matrix movies, and the idea that we humans live in an imagined world, a deception, while the real world is something very different.

Three of the main elements in these movies are the Matrix, the human city Zion, and the liberator Neo.
  • The Matrix is a system built by machines, where humans are plugged in and provide a source of power for the system. Meanwhile, they sleep blissfully unaware of their status while their minds place them in a virtual world much like today’s bustling cities. 
  • Zion is a city for humans who have been freed from the Matrix. They go there to live in real, raw, society after they are freed by taking a red pill while asleep in the Matrix. 
  • Neo is a man that is freed by other liberated humans, and then spends his life freeing others.
With me so far?

The Humanist Neo
The parallels between the Matrix and religion are irresistible. Atheists no doubt think that us Christians are living in such an imagined world by believing in God’s existence and claiming his interaction in our lives. The Matrix is faith itself. The real world is the mind freed from the bondage of faith. Zion is this Earth which is home to humans and is a fragile intersection of chance, chaos, and the power of human ingenuity. In Zion, “self” is god. Society is the kingdom of this god. Neo is the one proclaiming the power of reason. In our own power we can usher in a brighter future, making our kingdom progressively more perfect.

The Christian Neo
Christians have traditionally taken the completely opposite view. To Christians, the deception, the Matrix, is the present physical world, which entices people to forget about God and gratify themselves. The world, in fact the universe, is a doomed, transient reality in which we must survive for a short time as a test of our true allegiance to God.

For the Christian, Zion is our spiritual home, which we can glimpse today through the Holy Spirit, but which comes to full realization when we die and go to heaven.

Neo is the one proclaiming the power of salvation to free people from their doomed physical lives to spiritually-focused lives where they must live to please God and prepare for judgment. In heaven, we will show God how we lived, hoping to pass his tests of faith, ideals, allegiance, or achievements. As we continue to walk through this doomed world we try to free others by offering the red pill of salvation which opens peoples’ eyes to the spiritual reality that was around them all the time. Then, they can “unplug” from fueling the physical world’s systems of control and live as spiritual beings, longing for their future home.

The New Neo
I cannot agree with either position. I believe in and love God, and cannot live my life to build a godless kingdom. On the other hand, I cannot abandon my fellow humans and live to avoid eternal judgment with my focus on heaven. A New kind of Neo has arrived on the scene, to help us see the Matrix that is right under our noses.

What if the Matrix is a kingdom of faith built by man, where believers feed a system that somehow meets their human needs to belong, to divide, and to exclude? They worship God as they see fit, confident in their declarations, insistent in their paths, proud in their ideals. They believe that their kingdom is God’s home, and that they are his exclusive agents, as they are the only ones that know how to please him. God is theirs!

Believers love the true God but they don’t see the truth: that their efforts to please and worship God actually feed a system of their own design. Each faction of believers has its intricately designed system that they have built to capture God as their own. As with the Tower of Babel, they believe they can find God through spiritual ambition.
But God cannot be captured! The real Zion is something quite different. Zion is the true kingdom of the true God. In God’s kingdom, he has complete authority, and can chose to love his children as he has decided. Zion is a place of transformation, of becoming, and of the unpredictable, where dirty, hungry and needy becomes pure, free and content.

Zion is a place described in the Bible:
  • Isaiah described the liberation of captives in a future kingdom of God.
  • John the Baptist called people to stop, change everything and prepare for the kingdom of God which was about to appear.
  • In the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught of a kingdom of peace-lovers and truth-seekers that would not accept the letter-of-the-law as sufficient to describe the grace and love they should show one another.
  • In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught of a kingdom coming to Earth where God’s will was done, and his provision to his children was complete.
  • In his letters to the churches, Paul taught of rich grace, bestowed willfully by God on his children, but which could not be connected to any standards of human behavior or ideals.
  • In his letters, John completes the concept of Love by declaring that anyone who Loves is of God, because God is Love.
  • Finally, James claims that true worship is living to care for widows and orphans.

The true kingdom cannot be controlled, owned or tamed by man. It belongs to God. He persists in visiting this place where we live, which he has created, filling it with his goodness. He does this while maintaining the complete freedom of all people to accept or reject him. He does this while remaining un-surprised and un-thwarted by man’s reactions. He moves. He breathes. Good is released into this world. Evil is resisted.

The new Neo believes in an untamed God. He is liberated from the human kingdom, and is free to join God in bringing his kingdom to this Earth. He partners with God for the cause of good. He abhors and resists sin, which is the evil that people do to each other, by fighting injustice starting in his own heart. He opens his eyes to pain, need and longing in his fellow humans. He opens his arms to others that don’t share his ideals. He lives compassion. He offers God’s goodness to others. He reveals God to others, showing them the true kingdom which is emerging before their eyes.

Which kind of Neo is more like Jesus? Which kind of Neo was Jesus when he came to the Earth? Did he come to build kingdoms of man, or did he come to liberate captives from kingdoms such as these? Didn’t Jesus come to bring us to the real Zion, the kingdom of God on Earth? He is calling us to embrace the truth. When we find the truth, we can help liberate others.