Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
In all things we must begin with God, because without God there is nothing.
That which is without God is the weakest of all creatures, for they do not exist.
All was made by the hands of God, or by the mechanism that God had put into place. In the beginning of all things, God created, and there was something. Before that was nothing but God, and of God’s origin we know nothing. For oh so very long, God and nothing were very close until there was something, and that was of God’s own doing. The only thing not created by God is nothing, and that is nothing to speak of.
God is the greatest inventor, for his is not only the first invention, but from his invention all creations were made.
God is not always the mover. One of the greatest mysteries is the way of the man with the maid, but should the man and maid not initially be planned in the mind of God, such ways would not be. We move, we breathe, we have our being, only because God willed it and wills it still.
This is not to say that we cannot move without God. God initiated us, but He does not take credit for our everyday actions. We may eat a plum, but God does not take credit for the eating, although the pattern of mouths and the ripeness of the plum were both his design. We may hit our brother with a stick, and though the growth of the branch and clasping of the hand were both God’s plan, He does not proudly display his handiwork of the bloodied face. We do what we do, by the power and possessions that God granted us.
Nevertheless, any move we make toward God is His to claim.
“No man comes to me but that the Father draw him.”
Not because we are so frail and faithless that we do not seek God, or desire Him in any way. It’s simply that He’s too fast for us.
Whenever we seek God’s assistance, He has already planned it, patterned it, and probably produced it.
Politely, He may wait for our prayers and petitions, but our deliverance is already there at our fingertips, and God is anticipating our face like a parent seeing their little child open her birthday gift.
“Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights.”
The best gifts in all the world we have received came from the hand of God, before we had ever thought of it. Life, love, trust, power. All had been placed in our hands, and we discover each one as if they were our idea, but we soon find that not a single one was. They were all God’s idea, granted to us by his generous nature.
We only know how to empathize because God first empathized with us. We first learned compassion, because He gave it to us initially. We have mercy on another because it was His idea, and He loaned it to us.
But he gave us empathy, because He could feel how lonely it would be without it.
He gave us compassion, because He knew how pitiless we would be if we had no heart.
He gave us mercy, because He wanted us not only to give mercy but to receive it.
He granted us love because without love we would be worthless. Less than nothing. And the last thing God wanted was a creation that was less than nothing. Because before creation, nothing was already there. He was building up, not down.
Throughout history, there have been people who have decided that the best way to deal with the world is to escape it. In the Christian tradition, this begins with Antony of Egypt, who would live in a cemetery and then later in the desert to escape the temptations of the world. Of course, Antony then found temptations in the wilderness, and he bravely overcame them. His solution to the temptations and struggles with other people was to get away from people, become a hermit, and to isolate himself as much as possible.
In later years, the hermit became one of the primary examples of a saint, of living as a holy man. However, this is not the way of God.
Jesus declares that to be right before God our primary way is to love. We cannot obtain any kind of righteousness without loving. And this means that we have to be with other people, not to isolate. Running away from people isn’t living the life that God calls us all to. To love is to deal with others’ pain and to weep with them. To love is to face the temptations others give us and to overcome them. To love is to be made angry by others and to do what is peaceful in return. To love is to be rejected by others, but to respond in kindness. To love is to be available with others need you, with whatever you have. God calls us to be with others, for without others we cannot achieve His will for our lives.
God has made us in such a way that we can only be happy if we are with others. Mind you, people are often the cause of our unhappiness, as well. People frustrate us and mock us and wound us and hate us and yell at us and irritate us. So we often have temporary unhappiness by being with others. But God has made us so that our long term happiness is by being with others. If you want to be self-centered and depressed, spend most of your time alone. Our soul is made to work better with other people, no matter how frustrating they are.
There is only one path of God. It is the path of compassion, the path of gentleness, the path of mercy, the path of patience, the path of self control, the path of sacrifice. We do not stay among others just to survive their presence, but to benefit them. In that pattern of benefiting others, even in small ways, that is the way of life, eternal life. The only way God has presented is the path of love.
This doesn’t mean that occasional bouts of isolation aren’t good for us. There are times we need to be alone to focus on God, to recharge our ability to act right toward others, to bask in the joy of God’s creation, apart from the tension that others bring. Jesus took a break from people for forty days. But we, like Jesus, must not remain in isolation. We must always, regularly return to be with others.
Because without those irritating, frustrating, horrifying, idiotic people, we do not have God. The way of God is found in others, as much as we might wish that were not so.
“Work well for me and you will be granted pay.
Work poorly and you will be fired.”
Religions see the world in terms of karma:
“We all deserve God’s punishment.
If others do us wrong, their punishment is rightly deserved.”
Parents see their parenting in terms of karma:
“Obey and you will be granted some limited freedoms.
Disobey and face wrath.
Harm my kid and you will die.”
Governments see the world in terms of karma.
“Break the law and you will be punished.
(unless the law is broken by the lawmakers).”
Jesus sees the world in terms of grace.
“Judge not lest you be judged.”
“The merciful will have mercy.”
“Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
“Welcome the prodigal.”
How would our religion, government, jobs and parenting look different if we are following Jesus?
We need a friend as much as food
We long for joy as much as health
We thirst for respect as much as water
We seek peace as much as shelter
It is not enough to give a loaf to the poor
They also need encouragement
If a soup kitchen is accompanied with shame
It no longer seeks to be human
In our desire to love, let us not narrow our focus to survival
Jesus offered Peter an opportunity to live in exuberant grace
“Come out on the water. Walk with me.”
Peter, in his enthusiasm, accepted. And he walked. And walked.
And then he realized his vulnerability.
At any other point, he would drown.
The waves rise high and threaten him.
And Peter feared. And sank.
There was no shame of sinking. We are only human.
And Peter cried out to the Lord for deliverance.
And Peter lived in grace.
But had he not feared, Peter would have walked in grace.
Jesus offers us opportunities to live in exuberant grace.“Love your enemies.” “Surrender your possessions and give to the poor.”“Turn away from your addiction.”“Forgive those who have done you wrong.”
Then the doubts of our mind, of our friends, of our family overwhelm us.And we might, in our enthusiasm, accept. And we walk in Jesus’ grace. For a time.
And we fear that God’s grace might not be sufficient.
We fear that we will live in our weakness and fail in everything.
We fear our vulnerability and that we might be harmed, or taken advantage of.
But Jesus is still calling: “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.”
The decision is ours:
Will we live exuberantly, mercifully, powerfully, surrounded by God’s grace?
Or will we live according to our fear?