"JESUS BIBLE STUDIES:"
Jesus for the Twenty-first century and Beyond
For Everybody Abused and Alienated by Religion
Click here for my most recent study (5/30/03) of "The Real Jesus"
related to Jesus in the Four Gospels are being developed and will be
published by Chi Rho Press. The material about Jesus will be a
sequel to "Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse" and will provide Bible
Study Lessons for inclusive congregations and for anyone who wants to
begin and sustain spiritual study and dialogue as an individual, with a
partner or in a small group in their home.
purpose of these studies will be to draw upon the very best of Bible
study tools and research coupled with practical experience and
application to our present world. Special attention will be given
to the issues that concern GLBT people and their families, friends and
supporters. Focus of these lessons will be centered in Jesus as
seen in the Four Gospels in those sections that most clearly speak to
the issues faced by anyone who wants to be inclusive, objective,
realistic and logical about spirituality and faith.
first 26 lessons will be based upon the Gospel of Luke. The next
26 lessons will be based upon the Gospel of John. Both of these
Gospels give special attention to the unconditional inclusive love of
God taught and demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus.
The problem that any of us face when we go to the biblical material for
a fresh look and hope for real help is the fact that we have spent a
lifetime being told by certain religious authorities what the biblical
I taught Bible courses at Baptist College of Charleston, SC, from 1973
to 1981, I soon learned that the most difficult part of teaching Bible
on a college level was helping students to unlearn the absolute
teachings and doctrinal formulas that they had learned from their
childhood and that they had not been given opportunity to question and
think for themselves. It was like having college science students
who had been convinced in their earliest training that the earth is
flat and the sun revolves abound the earth and that the core of the
earth was the location of a fiery hell to which they would be consigned
if they did not accept and obey the religion of their parents.
students in my classes had been brought up in a religious environment
that caused them to believe that any disagreement with their family
religion was itself a sin. I had a number of pastors and church
leaders in my classes. Many of the religious people in the
classes had great difficulty being open to new ideas and fresh
information. While I was at the college, I had over 5,000
students in my classes. Every religious group and sub-group was
represented. I look back now and wonder how in the world we got
through those classes!
of my classes were much too large for the kind of dialogue that I
wanted. I had several Bible survey classes of over 300
students. This required many hours of personal counseling with
students and demanded careful preparation of material that could be
grasped easily by everyone. It was 8 years of preparation for
what I am doing now in churches, e-mail, this Web site and in my books.
BIBLE STUDIES" will expand and build upon the current material in this
Web site and my book and will be based on continuing biblical research
and my ongoing personal experiences that I have shared with many of you
and on what I have learned from you.
Below is an overview of the purpose and beginning lessons in the series.
BACKGROUND TO JESUS BIBLE LESSONS
1973 to 1979, I wrote Adult Sunday School lessons for the Southern
Baptist Sunday School Board. During this time, I had the
privilege of receiving the best training available in lesson writing
from experts in many fields at writer's conferences that were required
for every lesson writer. Writing for Southern Baptists was an
exciting and rewarding ministry that I will always treasure and that I
have drawn upon in my entire writing ministry for Christian GLBT people.
Gospel of John was the basis for the last series of Southern Baptist
Adult lessons that I wrote. When I was about half way through the
series, an editor at the Board contacted me to tell me that they had
received word from a Baptist pastor in the Midwest who had heard rumors
that I was gay. The Board, therefore, had cancelled my contract
and could not use me to write lessons any more. This was long
before I was asked to resign from the Baptist College in Charleston in
20 years later, Southern Baptists have launched a Sunday School lesson
war against Gay and Lesbian people through their use of biblical
literalism and homophobic legalistic judgmental abusive use of the
Bible against my homosexual sisters and brothers. The first
strike against us was in January 31, 1999, when adult lessons were
based on the six Bible passages most often used to attack homosexuals
(frequently called the "Clobber Passages"). These obscure and
usually overlooked brief passages have come in recent years to be used
as the major weapons in the arsenal of attack and destroy against
These six passages
are explained at length in my web site and in my book on "Steps
to Recovery from Bible Abuse." My present "Jesus Bible Study
Lessons" are an attempt to give the other side of the truth that
Southern Baptists and others now have obscured in their war against
us. These lessons also are intended to encourage you to organize
your own study groups within and outside of churches and in private
homes to explore and learn the truth of God's love and acceptance of
all people through Jesus Christ as presented in the Four Gospels.
The Lesson Plan
plan of the lessons will be similar to that followed by Southern
Baptists. A passage of Scripture that shows clearly the true
mission and message of Jesus will be given with careful attention to
biblical backgrounds and word studies. Then the passage will be
applied to life situations and issues that all people face.
Questions for further study and group discussion will be suggested.
guides and lesson plans will also be made available to those who lead
the study groups. Your suggestions and questions about these
materials will be most welcome and will help us to be responsive and
helpful in what we provide for you to use in study materials,
resources, and guides. Pray for and help us to succeed in
this project to take back the Bible for believers who have been
condemned and rejected because of their sexual orientation.
Subjects of the Lessons
Jesus Bible Studies will be published in "quarterlies" every three
months to provide 13 lessons for each week plus an additional lesson
for the fifth Sundays. The subjects to be covered will be guided
by current events and issues that are important to the Gay
community. The quarterlies will be dated, but can be used at any
time. A new series of lessons will be made available one month in
advance of the starting date for those who subscribe to the
lessons. Details about subscribing will be available from Chi Rho
Press, the publisher and distributor for this project.
first two series of 13 lessons each will study experiences and
teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. The theme will be
"Compassion and Hope." We will study the passages that most
clearly give guidance and help to people of all sexual orientations who
want to know and follow Jesus into a full and meaningful life of
self-esteem, joy, wholeness, inner peace, and peace with God. The
Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, also by Luke, are the only New
Testament books that were written by a Gentile (a non-Jew). The
theme throughout Luke is the inclusive gospel for all people. An
introduction to Luke is included in the first lesson quarterly.
recommend William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke in "The Daily Study Bible
series" Revised Edition: The Westminster Press, 1975. This is a
clear and easy to read guide to the background and main ideas of Luke
that I suggested to my college students. Other resources will be
included in the lessons. The entire Daily Bible Study Series by
William Barclay on all of the books of the New Testament will be a
useful and informative source to supplement your studies in all of
these lessons. The entire series is available in an inexpensive
paperback set. Use Barclay's commentaries on the Four Gospels to
supplement the material in first year of "Jesus Bible
Studies." Barclay's material will be especially useful to
teachers who lead the study of these lessons.
third and fourth series of thirteen lessons each will explore the great
themes of "Truth and Freedom" in The Gospel of John that the Southern
Baptist Sunday School Board removed me from writing over twenty years
ago. I have learned a lot in the past 20 years, and these lessons
hopefully will be a vast improvement over the first ones that I was
"GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL INCLUSIVE LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE OF ALL PEOPLE" is the theme of all
of the Lessons.
Lessons being developed and written for the First Series:
Introduction: Gathering Evidence About Jesus. Luke 1:1-4
(Developing a point of view)
1. How Jesus Came Out
Luke 2:40-52; Luke 3:1-22;
Luke 19:28-48; Luke 24:1-53
2. How Jesus Handled Pressure
3. How Jesus Related to Women
Luke 8:1-3 and 10:38-42
4. How Jesus Related to Men
5. Jesus Prayed
Luke 6:6-16; 11:1-13
6. Jesus Touched Lepers
Luke 5:12-16; 17:11-19
7. Jesus Broke Religious Laws
Luke 6:1-5; 11:37-41
8. Jesus Taught Inclusive Love
(Love your enemies)
9. Who Is the Greatest?
(Rank and Status in Jesus)
10. Choosing Your Friends
Luke 5:1-11; 6:12-38; 10:1-24
11. Correcting Bible Abuse
Luke 4:1-13; 13:10-17
12. Getting the Point Across (Parables)
13. Why People Don't Listen
Luke 8:4-18 (Parable of Soils)
See special material on "JESUS AND FAMILY VALUES"
See also: "How Jesus Came Out" and "IMAGINING JESUS"
"FOLLOWING THE WRONG JESUS" (5/15/01) and "JESUS FOR DUMMIES" 5/18/01 and "IDENTIFYING WITH JESUS" 7/26/01.
See special item on "TWELVE STEPS TO RECOVERING JESUS" 2/10/02 and added material on
"JESUS FOR DUMMIES" 2/9/02. See "THE JESUS WITHIN" 3/10/02
This material sets forth the underlying purpose of the Jesus Bible Studies:
AN INTRODUCTION TO JESUS
years ago when I was pastor of MCC Nashville, a middle-aged man in a
nearby town called me to talk about his distress and confusion about
the religious abuse that he had suffered because he was gay. He
was married and had two children. He went to a fundamentalist
church and was afraid that somebody would discover his terrible secret
that he was gay. I tried to explain the good news of Jesus to him
and show how the gospel has been distorted and misrepresented by
homophobic abusive religion. I asked him if he had ever asked
Jesus to come into his life and help him.
reply was: "I never turned to Jesus, because I did not think that Jesus
wanted me." I still tear up when I remember his emotional tone
when he told me this. I tried to assure him that Jesus did love
and accept him. He decided he wanted to pray and ask Jesus to
come into his life now. We prayed together and the conversation
ended. Several weeks later he called again to tell me how
relieved he was about his connection with God now. He still dared
not tell anyone he was gay and he did not feel free to come to MCC to
attend church. He had, however, found inner peace and
self-acceptance, which he had never enjoyed before.
HOW DO YOU SEE JESUS?
Everybody already has some opinion about Jesus. What is yours? Where did you learn what you believe
about Jesus? Write a list of words or brief statements that you think describe Jesus for you.
If you are sharing in a group, talk about the lists and discuss how to describe Jesus in one brief statement.
carefully through the Gospel of Luke in preparation for this series of
lessons. Read slowly and make notes on the first 10 chapters of
Luke. What image of Jesus emerges for you in these chapters?
What brief statement best describes Jesus for you?
on Jesus being inclusive in actions and teachings dominates Luke.
For people who have been systematically left out by the churches, the
Gospel of Luke is a spiritual breath of fresh air. The
"unhindered gospel" that includes everybody is the theme of Luke and
Acts. Acts ends with the word "unhindered." Luke and Acts
are a two-part work that gives the details of the story of Jesus and
the early followers of Jesus.
was a close companion of Paul. The "We Sections" of Acts
(20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1--28:16) place Luke and Paul together in
ministry. At the end of the Second letter to Timothy, Paul said,
"Only Luke is with me." (2 Timothy 4:11) Luke was a Gentile and
probably wrote or helped to write about half of the New
Testament. Luke knew what it was like to be excluded from
religion and from the love of God by exclusive religion. He
worked hard in careful research to set the record straight and tell the
truth about Jesus accurately and carefully. Read Luke 1:1-4 and
memorize these four brief verses. They state the purpose and
methodology of Luke.
Read Luke 4:16-30 now to get the flavor of the Inclusive Gospel of Luke. Learn the
details of this account of the first teaching ministry of Jesus recorded in Luke.
Jesus means relating to other people with gentleness and respect (See 1
Peter 3:15). Following Jesus includes listening, asking
questions, giving answers, accepting yourself and others, feeling
compassion, seeing potential in every person, working hard and taking
time for rest and reflection, always putting people first, and
constantly redefining the meaning of love by your own words and
example. These are some of the obvious features of the life of
Jesus that create a pattern for us.
Jesus, helping people meant realizing that people always were more
important than religion. Jesus frequently broke the current
religious laws in order to help people. Following Jesus means
seeing every person as having equal value before God no matter what the
world or abusive religion might say. Following Jesus means
noticing people and focusing on practical help for troubled people
undistracted by religious customs and prejudices.
Following Jesus is
based on a clear positive acceptance of yourself as having value to
God, yourself and the world. You are created in the image of
God. You already have within your being the potential for the
Spirit of Jesus to empower and guide you and to teach you to become a
teacher and healer yourself.
has not called us to walk on water or miraculously feed the
multitudes. Such supernatural events can happen whenever God
wills them. But they are not events that we can will and
create. Jesus has called you to follow him in becoming the most
honest loving human that you can be. To be like Jesus is to be
truly human and truly obedient to God.
revelation came to me when I read carefully what Jesus did at his first
recorded public appearance in the Temple (Luke 2:40-52). Jesus
listened, asked questions, and gave answers. When I read that, I
said, "I can do that!" It was a great event for me to realize so
clearly that the human Jesus was the Jesus that I was to follow.
The humanity of Jesus in his relationship to people became for me the
unexpected window on reality and truth for my own life.
the greatest miracle of all is God's loving powerful deliverance from
abusive oppressive religion and the new freedom that floods our lives
when we follow Jesus as human beings in the image of God and not as
those who struggle vainly to be God. For Jesus, most formal
traditional religion was an idolatrous substitute for God.
Jesus is freedom from abusive sick religion. Following Jesus is
finding freedom and bringing as many other people as possible along
with you. Look within. Look at other people. You
already have within you and in the people you meet the greatest source
for knowing God that is available in human experience. No matter
who you are, you are not trash. You are not junk. You are
not garbage. You are the child of God. Jesus saw himself as
the child of God and made it clear that he also saw you as a child of
THE INTENSITY OF FOLLOWING JESUS
moves us into a new level of intense communion with God and into a
fantastic realization of our own spiritual potential. Following
Jesus creates in us an intense concern and involvement in the pain and
suffering and potential of other people. There are no boundaries
or limits to what is possible in following Jesus. Religion always
sets clear boundaries and limits. Jesus crashed through all of
the barriers that separate people from God and from each other.
intensity of Jesus is often almost overwhelming when you put yourself
into the place of Jesus and feel what he was feeling in the situations
described by Luke in the first 10 chapters. Jesus knew who he was
and why he was in the world. What was more intense: the encounter
of Jesus as a boy with religious teachers in the Temple or the
encounter with his parents when they found him and scolded him for
causing them pain? Both of these experiences say as much about
you and me as about Jesus. Otherwise, there would be no reason to
the most intense situation of Jesus described by Luke before the trial
and crucifixion is the encounter of Jesus with his hometown people in
Luke 4:16-30, where he revealed his true identity and inclusive
mission. His boyhood neighbors tried to kill him. Jesus
faced abusive religion with confidence and faith in God. What if
Jesus had been killed by the mob that day? God kept Jesus safe to
continue his mission, and God will preserve you also to continue and
complete your call to follow Jesus. If you suffer and die, it is
for a purpose. You don't destroy your own life. You keep
going by whatever path is open to you as long as you can.
THE EXCITEMENT OF FOLLOWING JESUS
else the life of Jesus was, it was never dull. Following Jesus is
the most exciting thing you can do. It is also the most rewarding
and fulfilling. Following Jesus always means letting go of the
things that inappropriately control your life. That can be
vocation, religion, relationships, attitudes, addictions, pride, greed
and anything else that gets in the way of your clear vision of
Jesus. You cannot follow anyone whom you cannot see.
purpose of these lessons is to guide your thinking about Jesus in
directions that are true to the Gospel and are realistic and
objective. These lessons are intended both as information and
motivation that will help you to follow the real Jesus and not some
inadequate imitation that others have created for you. The
legalistic judgmental image of Jesus is incorrect. The rigidly
set doctrinal propositions about Jesus that have often dominated
religious teachings are misleading and contradictory.
is not a proposition. Jesus is a person, just like you. You
are not a doctrine. You are a human in the image of God living a
dynamic life of constant change and growth. When Jesus becomes
part of your life, you learn to accept yourself as you are and continue
to live and grow as before but in new positive directions that fit you
as an individual and equip you to make a difference and be a difference
many ways, Jesus came to replace religion with something better:
himself. "Follow Me" was the first and last invitation of Jesus
in the Four Gospels (Matthew 4:19 and John 21:22). "Follow me" is
the invitation that Jesus extends to all people. This inclusive
offer makes no distinction in sex, age, sexual orientation, education,
race, religious rank, class or any other human classification of
people. "Follow me" includes you. Jesus has offered himself
to you. How you go about knowing Jesus and relating to Jesus in
ways that fit you is up to you. Nobody else can decide this for
you enter into this material about Jesus, you can count on having the
help of the Spirit of Jesus to be your teacher and guide by bringing to
your mind what Jesus did and taught (John 14:26 and 16:13-14).
"FOLLOWING THE WRONG JESUS"
Update for May 15, 2001
all follow something. Some of us follow the crowd or follow our
own "impossible dream" or our instincts. We follow people,
especially "the leader." We follow religion, the Bible, the law,
an attractive role model, the example of someone we admire, the
teachings of our church, and the desires of our hearts.
we follow the map, only to discover that we have the wrong map.
We follow directions, and realize that we have them backwards. A
lot of us try to cut through the confusion by "following Jesus" only to
wake up to the startling fact that we are following the wrong
Jesus. How did that happen! Simple. The source of our
Jesus information was incorrect, distorted, misinformed or just plain
have lost count of the number of times that people have written to me
after reading some (not much) of my material to preach to me about the
"Commandment Jesus" who demands that we keep his commandments, which
they spell out as legalistic judgmental religion, the exact religion
that Jesus rejected.
HIGHLY MOTIVATED PEOPLE
recent Robert Spitzer study of GLBT people who claim to have been
changed from homosexual to heterosexual orientation has distracted a
lot of people from the truth. This now discredited "study" has
become the new banner of "ex-gay" homophobia and sparked a great debate
and a huge waste of time. My reply to all of the "ex-gay"
nonsense is already in my web site and book. The American
Psychiatric Association issued an immediate rejection of the study.
claimed that "highly motivated" people could change their sexual
orientation. Highly motivated people, like Adolf Hitler and most
psychopaths, can indeed change everything --except themselves.
Being highly motivated by misinformation and distortions of reality is
no advantage. Someone has defined a fanatic as someone who has
lost their sense of direction and redoubled their efforts. When
you are running down the wrong road, running faster only compounds your
Allport in his book on "The Individual and His Religion" said that all
motivation is difficult to trace, and religious motivation is
impossible to trace. The Bible is used as the basis for most
religion based "therapy" to try to change the sexual orientation of
GLBT people. The Bible, however, nowhere says that homosexuals
can or should change their sexual orientation. So where does the
religious basis for "ex-gay" ministries come from?
motivation is a mystery to me. I do not know why so many people
insist on believing religious nonsense and messing up their own lives
to please a discredited abusive religious system. Why does
religion have the power to stupefy the brains of so many people and
convince them that abusive sick religion is the way of life?
There has to be some as yet unclear force that can "highly motivate"
the practice of destructive religion that is running rampant over the
lives of millions of people.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
reason for this update reply to Spitzer's "study" is e-mail yesterday
from Mel White asking if I planned to respond to Spitzer. Much of
the ministry of Soulforce is a direct reply to all of the "ex-gay"
industry. My web site and book are my reply to the "ex-gay"
disaster. Mel prompted me to rethink the whole issue of sexual
have believed for a long time that whether homosexuality is an
orientation or a choice makes little difference. If one decides
that same-sex relationships are more appealing and more satisfying than
heterosexual, then why should the right to "life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness" be denied? The only basis for denying our
right to the freedom to find happiness in same-sex relationships is
abusive distorted misinformed religion, which I flatly reject as alien
to the Spirit of Jesus and as a destructive demeaning use of religious
power to control people in the name of false gods.
of people are "following the wrong Jesus"! Jesus is not the image
of legalistic judgmental sick religion pictured in many churches
today. Jesus is, however, a clear demonstration of
self-acceptance and respect for and acceptance of all people.
Jesus embodies the inclusive unconditional love of God that leaves out
nobody and believes that all people have equal value before God.
My "proof text" for today is Romans 15:7:
"Accept one another (and yourself), just as Christ also accepted
you to the glory of God." (my paraphrase)
See my material on the "Ex-Gay Fraud":
See the entire Spitzer study and analysis by the "Ex-Gay" side at "New Direction" (Thanks to Maggie Heineman)
See Soulforce site.
This material was added on April 22, 2001:
BEAUTY IS TRUTH
I visited the Zen garden in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate
Park. This week is the Cherry Blossom Festival. I was
struck as never before by the mood of tranquility and peace that is
caused by the beauty of nature in flowers, trees, rocks, running water
and the careful trimming and shaping of shrubs and flowering
plants. When I go to the garden, I always ask God what I need to
learn today. This time the answer was powerful and relevant to
all that I have written and plan to write. "Look for the beauty
are constantly seeking for wisdom, power, answers, understanding and
truth. God made me to see again that beauty is truth and truth is
beauty. "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." Yesterday
also was "Earth Day." What are you doing to make the world,
including humans, a more beautiful place?
TRUTH IS BEAUTY
are so caught up in controversies and explanations about religion and
the Bible that it is very easy to plow ahead with our heads down and
our minds full and overflowing with questions that we fail to look up
and take in the beauty that is already all around us. People are
beautiful. You are beautiful. The world around you is
beautiful. Most of all, Jesus is beautiful.
of religious art have tried to express the beauty of Jesus, but these
efforts have only expressed the ideas and inspiration of the
artists. The beauty of Jesus goes far beyond human imagination
and any artist's ability. Jesus is to some extent like a
beautiful sunset or a brilliant rainbow. You cannot explain
either of them, but you can enjoy them and be inspired and uplifted by
and doctrinal statements cannot express fully the beauty of
Jesus. Even music and the visual arts fall short. Just as
there is a great deal of beauty within you that others might not see,
the beauty of Jesus grows on you throughout your life and is more
spiritual than visible.
Beauty is by nature true, inspiring, pleasing, and a revelation from God.
ago Tim, the twelve-year old son of Baptist missionaries, asked me to
help him invite Jesus into his life and be baptized. Tim's
parents were Southern Baptist missionaries to Argentina and were on a
visit to Greenwood, SC. After Tim prayed to invite Jesus into his
life, I asked him how he felt about it. His face lit up and he
broke into a big grin from ear to ear and said one word: "Happy!"
That memory remains with me as one of the most beautiful things I have
HARD FOUGHT BATTLES FOR BEAUTY
of you have worked long and hard to win victories for the truth of
God's unconditional inclusive love in Jesus. You have also been
fighting for spiritual beauty. Your face reflects whatever is in
your heart. If Jesus is in your heart, your face and your
personality will reflect it. You don't have to be physically
beautiful to show forth the beauty of God's love in your conversation,
your attitudes, and your way of relating to other people.
the most beautiful thing about Jesus was his way of relating to
children, women, the sick, outcasts, lepers and all marginalized
rejected people. We cannot know how the face of Jesus
looked. This is probably a good thing. No two people look
exactly alike, and one person's idea of a beautiful face might be quite
the opposite from another.
hand that is extended to lift you up from the pit of despair and
self-hate is far more beautiful than the hand that points to you as an
abomination to God or coils into a fist to beat the pulpit to accompany
shouts of rebuke and condemnation. All hands might look alike,
but we do not see all hands the same.
is in the eyes of the beholder" We see Jesus through our own spiritual
eyes and see what our hearts tell and confirm within us is true and
beautiful. Nobody else can see the beauty of Jesus for you.
You have to see it for yourself.
not only resist and avoid spiritual violence; we also discover and
share spiritual beauty wherever we go. Love, joy and peace
express spiritual beauty. "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"
is more than just a happy slogan. It gives expression to the
heart that has found beauty in Jesus.
opposite of spiritual violence is not spiritual non-violence but spiritual beauty.
"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes.
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries."
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Update added February 9, 2001:
"WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?"
is Jesus to you? This question is filling my mind and guiding my
research and writing as I try to put together the first series of
"Jesus Bible Studies" and make them relevant and practical for
you. I want the first 13 lessons to be ready on April 1,
2001. I would like to hear from you.
out a brief one-paragraph statement of how you view Jesus. Send
your statement to me in e-mail with permission for me to quote you.
I search my own mind and experience, I have wrestled with how to grasp
the reality of Jesus without keeping Jesus imprisoned in ancient forms
and ideas that simply do no speak to me today. The Four Gospels
are part of the problem. They are ancient literature from a
culture and society 2,000 years ago, and none of our way of seeing
people, the universe or anything else is the same now. I have
been reviewing my own studies of the Gospels.
friend Rev. Carolyn Mobley said to me on the phone this morning that
one main problem is our tendency to view Jesus in abstractions like
physical images and doctrines and not to encounter Jesus as a real
person. We discussed how Jesus reaches out to people through
us. We can see Jesus in the individual next to us. We can
also see Jesus in ourselves.
LIBERATION AND SLAVERY
said that the main thing that Jesus means to her is liberation. I
have felt for some time that the main thing that Jesus means to me is
acceptance. Liberation and acceptance go hand in hand.
Carolyn also spoke to me of "slavery theology" that developed during
the years of slavery and still influences religion in America.
in the Gospels clearly was on a mission to liberate people from
bondage, including bondage to self-hate and fear. Abusive
religion was the most obvious source of spiritual slavery that Jesus
faced. Jesus spent a great deal of his life and teachings dealing
with deliverance from sick oppressive legalism that dominated the
society of his time. One of my favorite quotes is from Harry
Emerson Fosdick, who said: "What Freud called religion, Jesus called
Slavery takes many
forms. Abusive obsessive substance addiction, pride, codependent
relationships, sick religion, work, sex, food, television, pleasure,
ambition, church work, and a thousand other controlling forces can
enslave us and limit our lives. If Jesus can somehow liberate us
from inappropriate destructive controlling forces in our lives, we can
enjoy a far better life and a far more positive self-image.
question is: "How can we experience Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus
within the present religion soaked environment where we live
today?" Can we escape from the traditional pictures and other
misrepresentations of Jesus and find the Spirit of Jesus that fits us
and is relevant to us where we really live?
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
for spiritual truth about God and Jesus is a never-ending story.
I certainly have not found all of the answers, but I keep listening and
studying and learning. So do you. Many detours and
distractions come along to use up our energy and time. Chasing
confusing and misinformed religious speculations wears us out and
prevents us from learning the truth in Jesus that could make a real
positive difference for us.
me your perception of Jesus. Keep it simple and brief (two or
three lines) so that I can quickly grasp what you say. When you
send it to me, please also tell me a little about yourself as to sex,
age, orientation, work, religion and anything else that will help to
MOUNTAINS OF MATERIAL
endless flow of books, web sites, journals, television programs and
other resources that deal with Jesus is overwhelming. I have to
be selective in my research. My mind is just as limited as
yours. I feel like the little boy in school in the Gary Larsen
cartoon who raised his hand and said, "Teacher, may I be excused, my
brain is full!"
Thank you for whatever you write.
Rembert Truluck (CLICK HERE TO SEND E-MAIL)
Update for February 15, 2001
(A followup to the update above)
"THANK YOU FOR WRITING"
you very much for your responses to my question about who Jesus is to
you. I have read and printed out every response, and I now have a
huge stack of e-mail letters! Your ideas and experiences have
been my teacher. Your clear objective realistic view of abusive
religion and its effects on you and others is obvious in your
letters. Your personal experiences have been encouraging and
informative. No two people view Jesus exactly the same. You
have seen clearly the contrast between Jesus and religion.
I hope that you have grown stronger and been encouraged by thinking about Jesus and writing your thoughts to me.
of you have suggested helpful resources about Jesus in books and Web
sites. I have been encouraged in writing the "Jesus Bible
Studies" and have a better sense of what I should write to be helpful
have confirmed my conviction that the human life of Jesus gives us
great help and encouragement in dealing with the pressures of everyday
life that we face. Many of you have emphasized the importance of
the human nature of Jesus in your experience of identifying with Jesus
and receiving practical help.
PRESURE PRODUCES PROGRESS
I have begun to realize that homosexuals are a special gifted human
life form. We always have been. Society and culture have
successfully confined and subdued us because of fear. We are
different. But we are not bad. We are incredibly good. We
have powers that we are taught to deny and reject. We have been
deceived into believing that we are abnormal depraved humans, when we
actually are superior gifted humans.
live in a long line of gifted people who were different and considered
to be "misfits" and who challenged the system, including Jacob, Tamar,
Joseph, Ruth, King David, Akhenaton, Socrates, Alexander the Great,
Julius Caesar, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Paul, St. Francis, King James I,
Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, Mae West, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Liberace, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and many others including you and
me. Oscar Wilde, one of my ancestors, was a great prophet and
victim of the world's war against homosexuals.
do you view yourself as a homosexual person? You are different
and you are gifted and powerful beyond your own awareness.
positive power of homosexuals has always been limited by social,
religious and political methods of isolation and control used against
us. Who will bring us out into the open and bring us together to
become the redeeming and transforming positive power in the world that
we were created to be? God?
GOD WITH US
is with us because God has created us just as we are in order to
accomplish something so important and so incredible that we have not
yet imagined it. What is it? Does God want us to come out
and come together in order fully to experience, express, and enjoy our
humanity? Is this the purpose of Jesus as pictured in the
Gospels? Is our mission in life simply to be and accept our
humanity as our greatest gift from God? Can we learn to enjoy
being who we are and resist striving to become equal with God to play
our own dismal game of "I'm god, and you're not"?
PRESSURE PRODUCES POWER
have believed for a long time that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans people
are the strongest people in the world simply because we have to go
through such intense psychological, physical, spiritual, social
calisthenics just to survive. If we grow up into adults, we have
gifts and powers that others have missed.
AIDS epidemic has taken many of our people from us. The Names
Project quilt is being moved to Atlanta to have more storage
space. If all of the quilt panels were laid end to end, they
would stretch for 50 miles! But the AIDS epidemic also has made
us stronger. It has brought us together. It has united us
as never before. The Names Project, Open Hand, MCC AIDS
ministries, shared pain and loss across all orientation and racial
lines, various activist movements, and especially the compassionate
practical support that we have given to each other has created a sense
of unity and group identity that homosexuals never had before.
have experienced and learned a lot. We are far better informed
with the facts than ever before. We have won and are in the
process of winning many battles for acceptance and affirmation in our
culture. There have been setbacks, of course, but the progress of
our social acceptance and our personal freedom continues at an
WE ARE INDEPENDENT THINKERS
we wrestled with self-acceptance and resisted the social and religious
pressures to reject and hate ourselves, we had little help from
churches, schools, parents, and public opinion. We learned to
think for ourselves, or we did not survive. We are not likely to
let ignorant homophobic people run over us and jerk us around without a
are better equipped to be objective and realistic than most people, and
we are growing stronger every day. There is a great deal of hope
in our future. There is a lot of light at the end of our tunnel,
and it's not an oncoming train!
and exercise your independence. Think for yourself. Learn
all of the facts that you need to accept yourself and grow in
self-esteem and confidence. The truth is out there. Be
selective in what you read, learn, believe and imagine. You are
in control of your own ideas. Good for you!
YOU CAN STILL WRITE TO ME
you have not yet written a reply, I would like to read your answer to:
"Who is Jesus to you?" Write two or three lines to give me a
brief reply. I will report further to you on what you have
written when I have time to assimilate and reflect upon your
ideas. One writer asked: "When will we see the responses of the
others who write?" That is a good question, and I have not yet
decided how much of the material I can put on my Web site. The
great volume of material that is being accumulated makes it impossible
to send it all back out for you to see it. I will draw on your
letters in writing the "Jesus Bible Studies." Thank you again for
making the Internet truly interactive. We are learning from each
other, and that's good.
Update added March 3, 2001:
"WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS?"
is your focus? What do you think about when you are not occupied
with work or other routine activities? Where does your mind
automatically turn when you are free to think about whatever interests
answering that question can be quite disturbing. It might reveal
more than you want to know about who you really are and what your true
priorities have become.
am fascinated by how much time and effort are being spent on the
Internet to wrestle with LGBT church and political issues and events
that have little bearing on where we really are and on what we can do
to act on and enjoy who we are. What difference does it really
make that church leaders argue and debate endlessly about the role of
LGBT people in churches that call themselves "Christian" yet have lost
any semblance of what Jesus obviously taught and intended in the
difference do various actions and reactions to the Boy Scouts really
matter to GLBT people who are debating their own personal right to
exist as valid human beings and who continue to commit suicide at 4
times the rate of everybody else? What difference does it make
that cities and states are debating and deciding whether to honor GLBT
committed relationships and marriages when the religious institutions
that control marriage and other social customs continue to damn
homosexuals to hell and teach lies and mistakes about what the Bible
really says about sexual orientation and about everything else?
WHY FOCUS ON JESUS?
can emphasize everything. We have no choice but to be
selective. We cannot study and understand everything. Our
minds, our time and our capacity to learn are limited. Is there a
good argument for focusing on Jesus? What do you have to neglect
in order to focus on Jesus? Is the attempt to focus on Jesus
really worth the effort? So much misinformation and mythology
have developed about Jesus through generations of religious confusion
and abuse that knowing the "real" Jesus seems to be an impossible
to focus on the mess you are in or on the negative things that other
people say about and to you or on any other distracting and
unprofitable pursuits that crowd into your mind and life can keep you
from focusing on a spiritual direction that offers great hope for
changing yourself and your world: Jesus.
new worlds and new ways of seeing old worlds can be extraordinarily
demanding. When Johann Sebastian Bach was a boy, he disobeyed his
parents and copied all of his brother's music by candlelight late at
night when everyone else had gone to bed. His parents found his
copies and destroyed them. Young Bach simply waited and resumed
copying the music again late at night instead of sleeping.
Building on his knowledge of music and his creative mind, Bach set into
motion and began the formulation of music that is the foundation for
classical music. All subsequent music was to some extent built
upon what J. S. Bach created.
are you willing to do in order to learn and create spiritually what has
yet to be realized and built upon Jesus? Where do you
begin? It is impossible for anyone now to read and learn all of
the tons of material about Jesus that have accumulated even in the past
few decades. Search engines now direct you to thousands of web
sites related to Jesus. Any community library contains more books
related to Jesus than you can reasonably read and digest.
Libraries in theological schools and seminaries offer more books and
articles than you could read and master in a lifetime. And why
would you want to? Much of the accumulated literature related to
Jesus is highly speculative and is based on misinformation and various
distortions and misrepresentations of biblical material.
IS THERE A BETTER WAY THAN JESUS?
is a better way or a more compelling focus for spiritual research than
Jesus? What approach to Jesus can be relevant to you personally
and to the culture and rapidly changing world and universe in which we
live? Does that approach have a name? If so, what? Do
we have to begin with biblical literalism, or is there a better
way? How can we cut through the jungle of wild religious growth
and create a clean well-lighted place to study and learn from Jesus?
are not superficial concerns. They are the barricades that we
must storm and overcome to make any progress at all in our drive
through enemy territory and our hope for coming to the knowledge of
truth, beauty and love that have been promised in Jesus. I
personally have decided that knowing the real Jesus is worth whatever
WHAT ABOUT THE BIBLE?
of you who write to me have questioned why I use the Bible at all in
trying to express truth about Jesus or about anything else. I
fully understand and appreciate your concerns, which I also
share. The Bible, including the Four Gospels, does not tell us
everything that we need to know in order to know Jesus, but the Bible
tells us things that we have to know in order to move on to see and
experience Jesus for ourselves in our own minds and hearts and into the
final reality of who and what we are when we follow Jesus.
is both historical and existential. We learn information and we
experience the ring of truth in our own inner self. The dynamic
process of knowing Jesus is like the dynamic process of knowing any
human being. We relate to Jesus in those events and experiences
that closely parallel our own and that say things to us that ring true
to how we experience the world and the people around us.
tremendous problem of multiple doctrines and statements of faith about
Jesus and God overwhelms us. We are distracted from the real
Jesus by the mountain of propositions and religious statements that
have developed in multitudes of different Christian traditions in
attempts to describe Jesus and to create fool-proof formulas for
stating the truth without any mixture of error. No human being
can be captured and completely expressed in words and propositions no
matter how carefully crafted and refined.
the most fully human of all people cannot be so easily classified and
placed in a carefully created box of definitions and
explanations. No two people see any other person in exactly the
same way. We do not even see ourselves exactly the same from one
moment to the next. Jesus in a doctrinal box is not Jesus, any
more than you in a particular temporary box is the real you. Your
view of yourself develops and evolves throughout your life.
FULLY HUMAN IS NO MISTAKE
you and Jesus are fully human. You have that very necessary
starting point. It is at least a beginning. The strangeness
and divinity of Jesus have been emphasized so much by the historic
churches as a means of controlling both the image of Jesus and the way
people are allowed to view Jesus that the creative imagination of each
individual about Jesus has been stifled and even forbidden. No
wonder we are in a spiritual mess!
and following the real Jesus can begin with an intentional radical
rejection of everything that you have ever been told about Jesus.
Start over. Question everything. Start learning who Jesus
really is to you. Start now.
through the Gospel of Mark as if you had never seen it before and did
not already know anything that it says. Let your mind loose to
chase every rabbit that springs to mind as you read. Think new
instant thoughts about what you are reading. Laugh when it is
funny. Cry when it is sad. Be amazed when it is
amazing. Enter emotionally without reservation into whatever
happens within you as you read.
critically. Ask why the picture of Jesus is given as it is.
Ask yourself what the material means to you personally. Don't ask
God to think for you. Think for yourself. That's why you
have a brain in the first place. When something in the story does
seem to make sense to you, ask yourself why it does not make
sense. When you do, try to notice what this has taught you that
you need to know in order to continue to learn and grow.
Gospel is not a list of rules or a set of propositions. It is a
dynamic fully human story that you can grasp, with which you can
identify and from which you can learn as much about yourself as about
it becomes too intense, put it down and rest and come back to it when
you are ready. Keep plunging back into it until a new exciting
real Jesus emerges for you. Then don't turn back. Keep
moving on and begin to build a new life and spiritual reality that
actually fit you. Go ahead; give it a try.
Let me know what happens.
THE SUPERNATURAL DIMENSION
supernatural dimension is part of experiencing Jesus. The Spirit
is the interpreter and teacher "called alongside" and within you to
make Jesus real, personal and relevant to you in ways that fit you as
an individual. This is a major theme of the Gospel of John from
chapter 13 all the way to the end. The continuing work of Jesus
through the Spirit dominates the Book of Acts. The Spirit is a
key issue in the Gospel of Luke, where Luke frequently added references
to the Spirit in material that he copied from Mark.
Emil Brunner was the leading Christian theologian that we studied when
I was taking theology courses at the seminary. Brunner was the
best-known student and interpreter of Karl Barth. A student asked
Brunner if he believed in the supernatural. Brunner replied: "Do
you realize what you have asked? You have asked if I believe in
God. Of course I believe in God!" Do you have room in your
focus on Jesus to include the supernatural?
or not you include the supernatural, the supernatural includes
you. Do you pray? If so, why? What do you pray
about? How much of your praying is listening? What does
prayer mean to you? How much of the real Jesus can you experience
without the supernatural? These are basic questions as you
develop your vision of Jesus that can bring peace within and peace on
See new update added March 19, 2001: "JESUS OR THE BIBLE?"
following material was prepared for the final session of New Visions II
at Palo Alto First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, March 24,
"HOW JESUS CAME OUT"
Joseph and Mary had performed everything according to the Law of God,
they returned to Galilee to their own city of Nazareth. And the
child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom, and
the grace of God was upon him.
parents used to go to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the
Passover. When Jesus became twelve, they went up there according
to the custom of the feast. As they were returning after spending
the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but
his parents were unaware of it. They supposed him to be in the
caravan, and they went a day's journey. Then they began looking
for him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did
not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him.
three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting in the
midst of the teachers listening to them and asking them
questions. All who heard Jesus were amazed at his understanding
and his answers.
his parents saw Jesus, they were astonished, and his mother said to
him: Child, why have you treated us this way? Now listen: Your
father and I have been anxiously looking for you.
Jesus said to them: Why is it that you were looking for me? Did
you not know that I have to be about my Father's business?
they did not understand the statement that he had made to them.
And he went down with them to Nazareth and he continued in subjection
to them. His mother treasured all this things in her heart.
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and the people.
(Quote from 1 Samuel 2:26 except for "wisdom")"
WHAT "FOLLOW ME" MEANS
Me" is the persistent invitation of Jesus to the great variety of
people who came into his life. It is the first and last
invitation in the Four Gospels. The human nature of Jesus invites
imitation and is set forth in the Gospels as the example for all
Luke tells anything about Jesus before his coming out at his baptism by
John the Baptist. The appearance of Jesus at the Temple at the
age of twelve is of great significance in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus is pictured sitting with the teachers. Sitting was the
official posture of teachers and disciples. Jesus identified
himself as both a teacher and a learner in his first act of coming
out. Jesus listened and asked questions. When I read that,
I thought: "I can do that!"
Following Jesus means coming out and accepting who you are and acting on your true identity with courage and faith.
MY EARLIEST MEMORY OF JESUS
earliest memory of Jesus is my mother reading to me from the big Bible
Story book that was illustrated with colored pictures. The
pictures I remember best are of the boy Samuel standing in the
Tabernacle and one of the boy Jesus standing in the midst of the
teachers in the Temple. These pictures are almost
identical. They both had on little "bathrobes" like mine.
They were standing respectfully before their elders. Luke,
however, said that Jesus was "sitting" in the midst of the
teachers. This image of Jesus at the age of twelve sitting like a
teacher and a disciple is of great importance and is ignored in the
the Internet, I found over 2,000 sites about Jesus and the
Temple. Many paintings have been created to picture Jesus in the
Temple at the age of twelve. All but one of them showed Jesus and the
(See picture below.)
So much for artistic accuracy of the story of Jesus! When you
follow Jesus, you don't go around with a holy glow around your head,
and you don't walk on water or raise the dead. You listen and ask
questions, and you sit with others just as Jesus did and you are
available to listen and care.
gives great emphasis later to Jesus sitting and eating with outcasts
and "sinners". Jesus was comfortable with everybody. He
knew who he was, and he had no fear of being with the wrong
people. At the age of twelve, Jesus declared himself to be
different and special in God's plan for him. So are you.
You are different and special. God has a mission for you that
nobody else can fill. You are a unique individual with special
gifts and a purpose in life that fits only you.
JESUS CAME OUT TO HIS PARENTS
and Joseph missed Jesus after they left Jerusalem and returned to find
him in the Temple in dialogue with the teachers. Jesus was
declaring himself and demonstrating who he really was. He was
almost saying, "I am different from the other boys. Get used to
reaction of his parents was to be "astonished," which means to be
surprised by something unexpected. They did not suspect a
thing. Yet here Jesus was, being his real self and causing great
anxiety to his parents. Mary expressed her frustration: "Son
("teknon" meaning "little boy"), why have you treated us this
way? Listen to me, your father and I have been anxiously
("literally "in pain") looking for you!" In other words, Mary
said what many parents say when their children come out to them: "How
could you do this to us!" The next two questions usually are:
"What did we do wrong? and "What will the neighbors think!"
asked why they were searching for him and why they did not realize that
he must be "about my father's business." This last reference to
being "about my father's business" is hard to translate and literally
means "about the things of my father."
has God created you to be and do? Your sexuality is part of your
human nature in the image of God. Instead of denying who you are,
you can follow Jesus by accepting and affirming who you are to the
glory of God and get busy living and sharing your truth with
others. You can come out to yourself and to everybody else and
get on with your God given purpose in life.
did not understand, but she treasured these things in her heart and
accepted Jesus as he was and continued to be a good mother. Jesus
continued to live and grow up to maturity. He grew us in wisdom,
stature, and in favor with God and people. To follow Jesus is to
grow up, to turn knowledge into wisdom and to strengthen your
relationship with God and with other people.
BE YOURSELF: FOLLOW JESUS
more that I have studied and tried to share Jesus in my ministry the
more I have realized that the humanity of Jesus is far more important
than the supernatural. Jesus had compassion for outcast and
despised people. I can do that. Jesus went to troubled and
rejected people and reached out and touched them. I can do
that. Jesus was hungry, thirsty, tired, and frustrated and took
time off to rest and recharge his spiritual life with prayer and
meditation. I can do that too.
friends that he wanted to be with him. I can do that. Jesus
was disappointed with all of them when one betrayed him, one denied
him, and all of them (except the women) abandoned him in his time of
greatest need. I have felt that also. Jesus accepted them
back later and gave them another chance. He entrusted them with
continuing what he had begun. I can do that too, if I am willing
really to follow Jesus.
meaning of following Jesus is no great mystery in the Gospels.
Every act of compassion and every word of encouragement from Jesus was
an example for us. Jesus is summed up in John 13, where he washed
the feet of the disciples as an example to them. His conclusion
in John 13:34-35 was: "I give you a new commandment that you love one
another just as I have loved you, that you love one another. By
this everybody will know that you are my disciples, if you love one
grew in "wisdom" ("sophia" meaning the practical use of
knowledge). By the time Jesus sat with the teachers in the
Temple, he had memorized the entire body of biblical material and
rabbinic teachings. At that time, nothing said by the rabbis
could be written down. It had to be memorized and passed on
orally. Jesus could listen, ask questions and give answers
because he already had learned and knew how to use the religious
teachings of his time. Jesus continued to learn and grow for the
rest of his life.
means change. Everything that is alive changes. Only the
dead don't change. To be dynamic and growing means to change and
build something new. Religion easily becomes absolute and resists
change. This is why John Spong wrote: "Why the Church Must Change
or Die". Hebrews 5:8-9 makes the astounding statement that Jesus
learned obedience through his suffering and became complete.
Jesus continued to grow in wisdom up to his last breath.
of the basic problems that we face today is the abusive use of biblical
material that is partially known, distorted and used without wisdom or
understanding. Jesus demonstrated God's love and the spiritual
meaning and purpose of the mind of God. Find and follow the
practical guidance of Jesus in the Gospels. The attitudes and
actions of Jesus are a clear pattern for us.
accepted himself completely and with joy and thanksgiving that he was
called to do God's will. Jesus wants you to follow him in
accepting yourself as you really are and in truth and love continue
what Jesus started and now continues through the Holy Spirit in your
life and in mine.
God you don't have to perform magic or do miracles to follow
Jesus! All you have to do is be real, be honest, be truly human
as God made you to be, and be yourself. Resist the current
religious seductive temptation to play god. Avoid legalistic
judgmental religion like the plague that it is. God has not yet
gone on vacation and left you or anybody else in charge. God is
present in you and is called along side you by the Spirit to energize
and guide you to find and follow the will of God for you. As a
result, you can be like Jesus and change your world.
"THE JESUS WITHIN"
Update for March 10, 2002
is not "out there" somewhere. Jesus is present with and within
you through the Spirit who has been given to you. The real Jesus
is as near to you as the air you breathe. The traditional Jesus
of doctrines, literature, rituals, liturgy and pictures is always
remote and vague. Paul summed up his understanding of the mystery
of Jesus in Colossians 1:27: "Christ in you (is) the hope of glory."
real Jesus is the Jesus within. The objective Jesus of biblical
research and distortions is never quite real. The story of the
"Velveteen Rabbit" will give you more of the meaning of "real" than
will all of the biblical studies and manipulations that you can manage
in a lifetime.
in Luke 17:20-21, said that "the kingdom of God is within you."
Throughout much of the Gospel of John, Jesus promised to be present
with and within all believers through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
THE PORTABLE JESUS
moved about from place to place and was available wherever he was
needed. Jesus carried with him wherever he went the authority and
power of God who was always with him. The idea that a special
group can capture and retain Jesus in a local building or in a set of
doctrines, rituals, ceremonies and formulas is totally inconsistent
with the picture of Jesus in the Gospels. As Paul declared in 2
Corinthians 3:17: "Wherever the Spirit of Jesus is, there is freedom."
are the temple of the living God. People travel across the world
to visit certain "sacred places," yet the most sacred of all places is
the individual person in whom the Spirit of Jesus dwells. The
presence of God always made a place sacred, as the "holy ground" on
which Moses stood when he met God at the burning bush. The more
we learn about the universe and the incredible vastness and complexity
of creation, the more we realize that God does not dwell in temples
made by human hands (Acts 17:24).
The living presence of Jesus within you is
your starting point for finding your own truth and meaning for your life.
Nee wrote many helpful devotional studies on Romans, Ephesians and
other parts of the New Testament that were brought to my attention
years ago by Dr. Professor W. W. Adams at Southern Baptist Seminary in
his New Testament courses. In "The Normal Christian Life" study
of Romans, Watchman Nee focused on the powerful presence of Jesus
within every believer and on how the normal Christian life therefore is
triumphant and joyful.
tells of visiting a Christian couple who asked him to pray for God to
give them patience with their children. He asked them why.
They told of their frustrations with the behavior of their children and
how they had tried to be patient but failed. Watchman Nee said,
"I will not pray for you to have patience." They were shocked and
asked if he thought they were beyond help! He said, "No, but
patience is not what you need." They were upset and began to
argue that patience was their greatest need.
Watchman Nee then
suggested that he would pray for them to have more of Jesus in their
life, because Jesus was what they needed most of all. He went on
to explain that God does not give us little gift packages of patience,
love, hope, endurance, etc. God gives us everything that God has
and everything that we need by giving Jesus to us. So, they
prayed for more of Jesus in their lives and got more of everything that
God has to offer, including patience and understanding.
LEARNING TO THINK
someone how to fish is far more important than giving someone a fish to
eat. The difference is great between giving someone a meal and
giving someone a lifelong ability to get food.
has been given to you. Paul reminded us that we have been given
the mind of Christ. "Let the same mind be in you that was also in
Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5. Read all of Philippians 2
for a guided tour into the "mind of Jesus.") Learn to think like
Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been given to you to "bring to your
remembrance" what Jesus did and said and to guide your thinking.
You already have within you the best possible spiritual teacher you
could want: the living presence of Jesus through the Spirit.
is an essential part of every major spiritual movement throughout human
history. Frantic living in our present world of existing from one
crisis to the next creates an atmosphere of panic that makes meditation
very hard to do. Finding a time and place to stop and think seems
to be almost impossible.
practiced a rhythm of involvement in the human troubles all around him
balanced with times of withdrawal to meditate and renew his physical
and spiritual energy. The Gospels tell us how Jesus responded to
severe pressure by withdrawing to a quiet place to pray and think
things through. (See my material on "How Jesus Handled Anger" in
Step 4 and in my book.)
go frequently to the Zen Meditation Garden in the Japanese Tea Garden
in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. If I miss going for very
long, I can tell the difference in my own attitudes and thinking.
Being surrounded by natural beauty of plants, trees, flowers,
waterfalls, and the ancient art in the garden creates a "cathedral of
tranquility" that inspires me and helps my mind to become free to think
and meditate in new positive directions.
don't have to go to a garden to meditate, of course, but you do have to
arrange an intentional time and place to be alone and quiet. We
are easily distracted in our insistent electronic culture. Turn
off the noise, close out the clatter, sit quietly and think.
Jesus did it, and the Spirit of Jesus can help you do it too!