Simple Follower of Jesus
You might ask about my bona fides today as a simple follower of Jesus. A Protestant preacher baptized me in the name of Jesus (also Father, Son and Holy Ghost) upon profession of faith and I took it for granted as a teen. Catholic nuns at High School taught Latin, literature and levity. Mainly I wanted to know, “When’s the next dance?”
I’d heard the words about putting Christ on the throne of my life, and I’d been taught to simply follow, but I danced all around really committing my life to Jesus, who (the predominant culture was telling me) might have been myth or mere man. By the time I got to college, Jesus of the cross was definitely Somebody I didn’t know how to love.
Seeds of Faith
Many of us get started in this world with seeds of faith that don’t quite root into productive spiritual fruit. Jesus talked about that, in similar words of biblical parable, and we all have a story about how it can happen. After enough adult suffering in pursuit of the prevailing culture’s goals, I returned on a trial basis to the heart of the message of Jesus. By that point, and with what’s happening around the globe, it seemed to me that if the story Jesus told of God’s all-inclusive love for humanity were not true, we would need to invent it.
The Story of Christ Deserves to be True, and Grace Through Surrender Delivers Results
When at a spike of frustration I decided to believe in the reality of Jesus as Savior of the world down to my toes because it deserved to be true, grace happened. There was also a moment when all human efforts at relationship had failed and something inside me snapped into reality that I really needed a Savior in more than a nominally Christian fashion because I could no longer do life on my limited human best efforts. The “something inside” today I know as the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh, who had sealed me long ago at my Christian baptism and waited patiently as I floundered around trying to do life without conscious invocation of the Trinity in the full richness of the glory of God. The breath of Life, Christ, Holy Spirit had definitely rushed in to meet my adult frustration at the end of my human rope. (Call the one true and triune diety Abba Father, Christ, God, whatever, but do call on Jesus. He’s a gentleman and won’t force Himself, so it’s up to you to answer the door when He knocks. It will be so worth it when you do, both now and for eternity.)
Jesus had me then and has me now. In an amazing way that felt like perfect assurance. I didn’t need to know how to love Him because He has enough love for all of us. And because God’s gifts of peace of mind, freedom from fear and inner joy followed from wholehearted spiritual surrender of connecting to Jesus, I trusted that it was the real deal. Beyond human comprehension, the gifts could only be supernatural in a good way, the way of Jesus as the “I am” for connecting to God.
A Seeker Among Seekers Will Always Find
Before coming home simply to God through Christ, I’d experimented with various forms of Advaita (Hinduism), Zen (Buddhism), Metaphysics (Christian Science and Reiki healing), Tree-hugging Neo-Paganism (as translated by secular Jews and humanists), 12-step programs and shamanism (drumming and mentoring by fascinating characters in remote parts of New Mexico — my goodness, loving Jesus and being surrendered to His way is so much simpler).
It’s understandable that we seek because while we’ve sought closer relationship with God, hypocrisy or other harm within churches has dissuaded so many of us from church-based Christianity. Pedophile priests and multi-millionaire preachers don’t exactly model leadership as the gospels teach by the red-letter words biblically reported from Jesus. (Not that money itself instead of the love of money is a bad thing; but we all know the scandals.)
The Bible as a Whole, the Red-Letter Words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s Guidance Instead of Idols and Church Shortcomings
Making idols of Popes and demi-gods of selected Bible pages doesn’t make sense to many of us who prefer to let the Holy Spirit guide us into all things including when we read our beloved Bibles as Christians. Jesus is the living Word and the Bible is the inspired written word of God, but really — how can Christians possibly think it continues to make sense in a world this upside down to keep arguing about interpretations of the Bible on things that are not essentials of the faith? We can read for ourselves the gospel’s red letters (as the words of Jesus appear printed in red-letter editions of New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and ponder their meaning in the priesthood of believers Jesus equipped us to be.
For instance, as integral to the specially ordained ministry of Jesus, He instructed his disciples to bring swords with them in the hours before the crucifixion events that would begin with a Roman military grab to arrest Jesus on false accusations of criminality. Bringing swords is what human beings of the time before gun powder did for self-defense — and Jesus by His instruction about bringing swords honored the human dignity of self-defense as constructive physical action (which we can take even if we pray in spiritual love for the conversion of our enemies to Christianity and its authentic promise of eternal peace and infinite joy). Jesus, however was no mere human endowed merely with human dignity. Because Jesus was both fully divine and fully human, knowing us as God, loving us in a shared humanity, He willingly went to the cross on our behalf and for our sins in a beautiful divine mystery — something we as mere mortals could not do in this world. Thus for the carrying out the divine mystery, becoming the Lamb of God for a fallen humanity by the cross of Calvary, Jesus had His disciples put down their swords He had asked them to bring for the reason and the necessity of His uniquely appointed crucifixion, a one-time event merging heaven and earth and changing the balance of power unfolding to forever. It proves His love for us and what we face as mortals among mortals to have the teaching from Jesus about bringing self-defensive weapons as needed when under attack by those who hate the true God of the Bible. It proves also that we cannot as mortals try to be God without mortal self-defense in self-sacrificial (mortally masochistic) love physically submitted to our enemies because we simply are not Jesus. We cannot play God but only the part He sets for us. The Bible’s key exception, with its only call to potential martyrdom, is that if tested by oppressors we remain a faithful witness to Jesus Christ and not recant or deny the reality of the God Who bought our eternal salvation with His body and His blood at the cross. There’s also a Biblical directive that we not willingly receive the mark of the Beast on our hands or foreheads in denial of our God — as relates to end-times eschatology. (Wildly fascinating material for those who like that sort of thing, much better than a Thor screenplay because Thor is a myth and our God is for real.) Also as eschatology, if indeed as many (not just I) believe this world is in its end-times final generation before the second coming of Christ, I mention this phrase of Biblical guidance: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22 (KJV).
Jesus had a few choice “red letter” words about hypocrisy and idolatry among the outwardly faithful, so He providing warning, but many of us simply turned our backs on church in disappointment and started looking other places — until we came back, stronger than ever in our faith in our Lord. This may be the same for you, too. In the years of seeking, my prayer and meditation was always to know what is true. Along the way I met kind and well-intentioned people but there was never power in anything but the simply coming to Jesus that extended lasting peace of mind, freedom from fear, and inner joy. And we’ve all heard that one about how the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so getting right with God just makes sense at so many levels!
Even if we don’t formally attend church, Jesus draws us into community with others who follow Him. This is the church without walls, where we provide checks and balances to one another in the Holy Spirit as our faith and action in Christ grows into greater constructive good and increasing compassion.
Credentials including Bible Study
Rigorously I had searched written information out for myself, earned advance degrees, become a skeptical scholar, because it is too easy to be misled where there’s money to be made as has typically been true where institutional religion operates. At the end of the studies, however, it was mainly about Jesus. Sure, Mary had birthed Him, and women including those named Mary had been at the cross and witness to the resurrection. Peter and Paul had evangelized and written letters. Seventy disciples who in context included women had gone forth to teach and cast out demons. Apostles had followed, betrayed, recanted and acted. Countless reliable witnesses, written down close in time for the Bible, saw Jesus after the resurrection. People willingly went to their deaths as early martyrs for Jesus Christ when His enemies attacked them, because they loved Jesus and their lived experience of knowing Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. They trusted being with Him in eternity because of all they’d seen, heard and experienced. The Bible came next for those of us who weren’t the original witnesses and told a rich story of human failings with creative potential, where there was no male or female in Christ, and Jesus provided an equality of redemption. The Bible was enough of a book because He is enough of a Redeemer.
With gratitude to the many teachers and data sources, ultimately it became very simple. Today, as a once prodigal Christian with current clergy credentials, I follow Jesus as the one and only way for the Holy Spirit’s daily truth revealed in a perfectly imperfect life where we’re all connected and growing toward greater wholeness of faith.
If that doesn’t fit conceptually for your journey, you’re welcome to borrow at will the compassion and strength of my God, the true and the real God who gives us sufficient grace for today and eternal life with Him forever.
Jesus Did Standup
The title “Reverend,” a laughable one because Jesus must have done some standup, belongs to any of you as it does to me in our better moments. (More later on Jesus, Comic. It’s there in the red letters, folks, when translated through the spoken idiom of the time.) It’s spiritual tonic to laugh when irritated by big city traffic that nobody’s name is “Jesus Christ WTF!!!!” Because who hasn’t sparked some “WTF!!!!” in our lesser moments? And we’re not to take the Lord’s name in vain, because He is the Holy God. Thankfully we have Jesus to forgive our sins when we know we’re wrong and repent. Oh, what a Savior, to free us into relationship with the Holy God Who loves us enough to have given so many chances for our redemption and salvation.
We’re all alone in this together. Spiritual growth is an inside job with a cosmic nudge to see ourselves as others see us, to see ourselves in others when we can but when an enemy’s destructive evil is too palpable to ignore, to pray that God let us escape the horror and continue forward in His justice, mercy and love.
If “the Church” or any of the other churches has wounded you, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Jesus loves you, like the kids’ song says. God loves you. I love you. And you can love yourself fully and completely even if it might at this very moment seem like a long shot.
The best part? People who love themselves, spiritually speaking, become kinder, more generous and more creative in a constructive way. What’s not to love about that? And I can write something that sentimental, honoring my softer side, even though I’m very clear that Jesus who understands both the cross and the sword is not just the Lamb of God (first coming) but also the Lion of Judah (promised second coming as victor over evil). He’s not coming as St. Francis of Assisi in the end times but to claim his bride (believers) as the divine bridegroom after bringing His sharp sword into a final battle to overcome evil that will confirm the reign of Jesus as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. When the news tonight of this world seems impossibly horrible, just remember that Jesus is your Savior and your ultimate victory in Him is assured. (See generally the book of Revelation in the Bible.)
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him [whosoever] that heareth say, Come. And him [whosoever] who is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17 (KJV).
P.S. Yes, I’ve performed wedding ceremonies in the name of love, which may be the best part about “Reverend.” Sometimes a beloved dog or cat or even a favorite tree might seem more worthy of the title “Rev.” Sometimes titles seem simply silly and maybe by the next generation (here or hereafter) we won’t ever use them. Thank you, younger people!