Grace Emerges

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top Thirty Ways to END ELITISM

by Brad Duncan

In my last post I defined Elitism:
Elitism is when people with more of something look down on those with less of it.
Fortunately, Elitism has a cure.  What are some ways we can stop Elitism at its root source, which is our own hearts?  Here's my top 30.  Feel free to add your own in the comments:

Top Thirty Ways to END ELITISM:
  1. Practice grace
  2. Ban preconceived ideas
  3. Love justice
  4. Walk humbly
  5. Remember the least of these
  6. Care for the left out class
  7. No child of God left behind
  8. Assert your hospitality
  9. Reject rejection
  10. Embrace equality
  11. See with God eyes
  12. Teach learning rather than truth
  13. Harbor humility
  14. Forget grudges
  15. Hate hatred
  16. Appreciate differences
  17. Be LESS offended, and MORE forgiving
  18. Ditch the dogma
  19. Widen your comfort zone
  20. Proclaim hope
  21. Give freedom
  22. Be a peacemaker
  23. Walk in "the other guy"'s shoes
  24. Lead with your heart
  25. Donate comfort
  26. Listen more, talk less
  27. Be the good news
  28. Try generosity
  29. Create compassion
  30. Give up being right

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


by Brad Duncan
Elitism is when people with more of something look down on those with less of it. [my own definition]
More of what?  Material things, education, social acceptance, success, good looks, power and status, to name a few.

Elitism is the pride of abundance, in contrast to the neediness of others. The greater the abundance, the greater probability of pride. In contrast, the greater the poverty, the greater the need that is felt. 

That's the economics of elitism - the law of pride vs. need. More stuff = more pride.  Less stuff = more need.  Pride leads to disdain for the less-privileged.  We're proud of our success, and work so hard for it, that we look down on those that succeed less than us.  Anyone can suffer from pride - it's all a matter of looking down on someone lower than us, and there's always someone relatively lower in the proverbial pecking order.

More specifically, spiritual or religious elitism is when those with greater opportunity, piousness, privilege, popularity, education or institutional power elevate themselves above those with less of those things, claiming that God favors them more and the other person less. Elitism says "God likes me better. I thank God that I'm not like that guy. I have my problems, but boy oh boy that guy REALLY has problems. If I get a chance I'll straighten him right out".  

Dear God: I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like that other guy.   paraphrased from Luke 18:11 (Common English Bible)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

God Works for Good Things - and So Should We

[reposting this for the Christmas season - Celebrating all the good things...]

by Brad Duncan

Here's a favorite verse of many of us, Romans 8:28

Common English Bible:
28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Common English Bible)

and Contemporary English Version (with footnote):
28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.[a] They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,
Romans 8:28 God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him: Or “All things work for the good of everyone who loves God” or “God’s Spirit always works for the good of everyone who loves God.”
While we often use this passage to understand the role of prayer ("God please turn this bad situation around"), and God's disposition about bad vs. good things that happen in our lives ("There must be a good reason for this bad thing - God has a plan"), I find a subtly different, but stronger and more fundamental meaning to this passage, both for the nature of God and nature of God's children.

God's character is to actively create good things.  Period.  Out of any asset available.  Out of space dust.  Out of ground dust.  Out of water vapor evaporated from the oceans.  Any asset.  While we have limited understanding of our own existence, why God created us, why this Earth is here, we do know from the experience that man has had with God, recorded in the Bible, that God is resourcefully and diligently building good things.  Doesn't that explain our existence to some degree?  We are here because God makes good things out of the tiniest opportunity.  Do you believe in random chance?  Well any small random chance is enough for God to create something amazing!  What's the limit to God's creativity?

When bad things happen, as they tend to do, what is God up to?  God is mending, healing, re-fashioning, bringing things around for another go at it.  Looking for every opportunity, any asset, that can be used to create a more peaceful, a more gracious, a more healthy kingdom for his/her children to inhabit.

Whatever negative energy is wrapped up in anger, hate, discrimination, persecution, and exploitation -- if there is any asset available there, God can work to bring something good - peace, freedom, grace, forgiveness.  Isn't the Bible filled with this concept and examples of it playing out?  Sometimes the good thing comes from some kind of battle to release the enslaved.  Sometimes it comes from oppressors repenting and experiencing God in their spirits.  God is creative.  And powerful.  What a combination!  If you doubt anything about the Bible - do not doubt this fact -- God is a force of good stronger than any force imaginable.  Would you like to be the one resisting this force?  I wouldn't.

That brings me to the next point.  Us.  What is our disposition about bad vs. good things that happen?  We usually react.  Disappointment, prayer for help, elevated adrenaline level, attempt to control (through stress and worry usually!) and taking action to avert the crisis.  These are all normal reactions and can of course be healthy and legitimate, so that we correct our mistakes, avoid pain, and are alerted to danger.  God does indeed help us -- the Holy Spirit is our guide and comforter.  I've never found the Holy Spirit to steer me wrong, but rather to be active in my life helping me especially where I am clueless or powerless to help myself.

But besides reacting, there is a deeper truth.  As Christians we can seize God's character for ourselves.  We can embark on a journey to create good things out of bad, out of every asset available.  Choose the best possible way to use that negative thing to make something good:

  • Use it as a wake up call to resist evil and temptation or to fight against injustice.  Build awareness.  Create consensus.  Generate action.   E.g., we see new initiatives and organizations started by people who have experienced a disease or some injustice, to rally others to the cause.
  • Help the hurting!  What easier path could there be to the kingdom of God than to help someone that is  hurting.  Bring some measure of comfort to them in their pain. Maybe some measure of physical rescue.  Maybe be an answer to their prayers for help!  We all need help.  We all need to help each other.  Aren't you grateful for that time when someone rescued you?  Use the gratitude to help someone else.
  • Learn from it!  When the bad things are our own fault, well, the best reaction is to learn.  Pain causes memory and learning (as we well know).  Use it for that purpose!
  • Create something good out of conflict.  Good conflict resolution skills are built around the idea that relational conflict is needed and important, because of a need for the parties involved to work out their relationship.  Talk some, listen more.  Be willing to change.  Use the energy in the conflict as an opportunity to address the issue.  Make it an example of reconciliation and grace.  One for the record books of your relationship.  Avoid repeating the same story the next time.
  • Spiritually, create grace out of injury.  When we forgive someone instead of being offended by them, we create something positive out of something negative.  As Jesus taught us to love our enemies, he taught us to be creative in relationships to use even enmity as an asset for change, an opportunity for grace, a softening of our own heart, and in the end an entry point into God's kingdom.  That grace may or may not change our enemy, but it certainly changes us!
If you find yourself creating barriers, pride, or more comfort for yourself, instead of reconciliation, peace, and more comfort for others, as we are all prone to do, then you are missing an opportunity.  Create something good instead!  Seize God's character as your own.  What would Jesus do?  What would God do?  Create something positive.
The Birth of Stars -- The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp 'eye' of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

WFC3's broad wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared, reveals stars at different stages of evolution, allowing astronomers to dissect the galaxy's star-formation history.

The image reveals in unprecedented detail the current rapid rate of star birth in this famous "grand design" spiral galaxy. The newest generations of stars are forming largely in clusters on the edges of the dark dust lanes, the backbone of the spiral arms. These fledgling stars, only a few million years old, are bursting out of their dusty cocoons and producing bubbles of reddish glowing hydrogen gas.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

The Perspective-Driven Life as a Christ follower is a:
Progress-Driven Life
Passion-Driven Life
Priority-Driven Life
People-Driven Life
Peace-Driven Life
Present-Driven Life
Partnership-Driven Life

What on Earth am I here for? It's a matter of perspective.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ditch the Dogma

If we ditch the dogma, it's like taking off our masks and being real with each other. My faith is not dogma. It's not just some beliefs. Faith is reliance. Faith is passion. Faith is freedom. Faith is seeing.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Freedom vs. Fear

by Brad Duncan

Freedom vs. Fear

Which one wins?

Take a closer look at the Lord's prayer and consider how it both points toward Freedom away from Fear...

  • Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy.  Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven:
    • The kingdom has come to Earth, so that God’s will can be done here and not just in heaven.  God’s will?  That we love others and love God, in a contagious way that spreads to all the world. 
    • Contagious love is the best way to liberate people from selfishness and from the pain caused by others
    • There is no fear in love.
  • Give us our daily bread today.
    • God will be our provider, rescuing us from physical need and suffering.  Note that this is not absolute, in that praying this prayer does not end human hunger.  What does this mean?  God is working to provide for the needy, and building a kingdom of compassion. We must continue this work.  
    • And God is always working to provide for us. God meets our needs when we depend on him/her. Depending on God liberates us from the cycle of selfish greed, allowing us to make unselfish choices.
    • We convert worry into faith by depending on God
  • Forgive us as we forgive others.
    • God liberates us from the pain caused by the sin of others, especially the darkness in our hearts that comes from a lack of forgiveness.  
    • God liberates us from the pain caused by our own sins.  Forgiveness is spiritual liberation.  We are free to live, in spite of our sin and human tendency toward selfishness.
    • Fear grows out of anger and hate. Forgiving reverses this cycle. Even better: being forgiven and living in freedom!
  • Don’t allow us to be tempted.
    • God liberates us from spiritual failure, helping us to avoid traps and hazards that would lead us to fall into selfishness again.
    • We don't need to fear the world. We need to partner with the Holy Spirit to live! Then we function as a light to the world.
  • Instead, rescue us from the evil one.
    • God liberates us from the deceiver and all his evil intent!  Clearly in this line, God is named specifically as the rescuer.
    • We don't need to fear the deceiver, instead we need to love the truth!

(Matthew 6:9-13, God's Word)

When you hear or pray the Lord's prayer, I pray that you will receive freedom. Freedom from anything that binds you, that holds you back from your true potential. Freedom from the cycle of selfish greed, freedom from need and want. Freedom to live, freedom to enjoy, freedom to give, freedom to explore compassion and unselfishness. May God's will be done in an ever expanding way through your life and the lives of those you will touch. Amen.

See a much longer article on the topic of freedom here.
See an essay on faith vs. works vs. freedom here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quality of Life Metrics

by Brad Duncan

I measure quality of life, like many folks out there, by counting the truly good things in my life.  Some of those good things are tangible -- I'll send you photos of my wife, two boys (9 and 13), two dogs (Wags and Mojo), and two cats (Buddy and Jacob) if you want to see some of my favorite tangible good things.

On the other hand, some of those good things are intangible but huge: like Joy, Peace, Freedom, Faith, Hope, Loving and Being Loved.

When I think of good news, it means that good things are happening, and good things are coming, like those intangibles listed above.

The spiritual side of good news is that the Holy Spirit is establishing good things, from God's point of view.  This is the promise declared by prophets, angels, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself.  God's plan to bring good things. Things that God likes.  Tangible and intangible good things that God appreciates.

The Holy Spirit is not about me.  But it IS about good news.  The Holy Spirit is attributed with actions like comforting, guiding, teaching, strengthening, gifting, and bring good qualities (fruits) to believers.  And this IS good news for me.  As a believer, some of the hardest things for me to find using any human effort, like Peace for instance, are part of the gifts and fruits that the Holy Spirit is working so hard to create in this place called Earth - the kingdom of God among us.  The Holy Spirit transforms people in such a spectacular way that good things are grown organically in the soil of faith, and spread from one person to the other.

My point is: quality of life is exactly the purview of the Holy Spirit.  Prayers, churches, worship songs, blogs about God - these sometimes miss the truth that the work of God is to bring quality of life.  The work of God is all about Good News.  Good news, as viewed from God's point of view, not mine (since my selfish perspective might skew the concept of good news purely in my favor, like Riches and Power for ME).

An outcome of this fact is that we, Christians, are incorrect and out of sync with God, when we make our faith about BAD NEWS.  Bad news like judging.  Bad news like requirements and conditions.  I will never, ever, be a defender of the bad news.  I don't trade in bad news.  I am a declarer of good news.  Good news that brings good things, like Peace and Freedom.

I am a Christ follower, and I am here to make a difference.

See also the longer article on this topic.

What truth?

by Brad Duncan, with Morpheus and Neo

Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole? 
Neo: You could say that. 
Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo? 
Neo: No. 
Morpheus: Why not? 
Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life. 
Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about? 
Neo: The Matrix. 
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? 
Neo: Yes. 
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. 
Neo: What truth? 
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. 

  --the Matrix

What does this script have to do with the church?  Maybe everything .... Ok that's a bit vague :)  Here's an article I wrote with the play-by-play comparisons between the church and the Matrix.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

)open( up !

by Brad Duncan

Why does anyone close themselves off, hide under a bush, retreat under a shell, build a tall fence, or snuff out their flame?  

It's fear.

Jesus did not call us to fear.  The good news is not about fear.  

So, what are we afraid of?  Are we afraid people with differences or even messy sinful lives will corrupt us?  Are we afraid that discussions of different opinions will corrupt our minds and ruin our faith?  Are we afraid that the system we have put our hope in will crumble if we challenge it?  

I want to encourage you, and call you, to a fearless life!  A life of freedom!  Make the world, your world, your piece of life, a better place.  Let your light shine.  Don't hide it!  Come out of your hiding place.  Open yourself up.  Faith shines brightest when fully exposed for the world to see!

Church: what are you afraid of?  )open( up !

Friday, August 3, 2012

Church in a Trance - Re-post

by Brad Duncan

[Re-post.  This article was first posted in July 2011 and then a shortened version was featured on  Church in a Trance.  I'm still harping on all of these points so I thought I would re-post for new readers of this blog.  Also, back then I was still using "He"/"Him" for God references.  I try to re-word gender neutral in my new writings to honor the Mother side of God as well, so please look past it this time:).]


Growth and improvement are fundamental to faith.  The concepts taught in the Bible naturally make us better if we learn them and apply them, but it takes time.  Growth happens through a continual process.  Maturity takes time, but this is no cause for alarm or disgust.  We can live at peace with growth – not ever content that we’ve arrived, but keeping our progress in perspective.  We can be happy, even comfortable, with growth.

I’ve always felt that the church, like the Christian, is in a state of constant growth and improvement.  I imagined that the church would continue to change and improve, ridding itself of old ways and ideas, methods and prejudices, ever growing into a better representation of Christ on Earth.  When people complained about some flaw in the church I often found myself agreeing with them, and believing that through constant growth the church would rectify the flaws.  We should keep doing what we’re doing, just keep trusting God, and just keep growing, and eventually we’ll achieve great things.

But some change comes a different way.   When John the Baptist proclaimed his message, he called his listeners to repentance, that is, a complete turn-around rather than incremental change.  When we realize that we’re on the wrong path, we should stop, look at a map, re-evaluate, leave our current path and take the right road. 

As I’ve written before, I believe the church is at a crossroads where the basic foundation of beliefs must change.  The religious system that currently stands today must adapt to new beliefs.  We need to re-evaluate everything we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.  This is not growth or incremental change, this is repentance.  We’ve made the church into our own kingdom.  To make it into God’s kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, we need true repentance.  To find true repentance we need a true vision, a vision of where we should be going, so we can turn around, and go that way! 

I want to call the church to repentance through a vision of the future.  I’ll give it a shot…