The Disorderly Blog is for anyone who doesn’t fit—for whom the status quo is a failure. It is for anyone who recognizes that the political, economic, and religious cultures around them aren’t working.
The Disorderly Blog is for anyone suspecting a better way exists—for anyone curious about a man named Jesus who showed up two thousand years ago, teaching a new world order. A man whose teachings are so distorted in our culture that he is barely recognizable.
The Disorderly Blog will not spit out answers. But if it does its job, it will raise important questions about Jesus’s plan for the world. I hope you will join in the conversation.
The Disorderly Blog will look at notes attributed to a man named Matthew who heard Jesus speak about his plan. You can read these ancient notes in Matthew Chapter 5-7.
So if you are feeling a little or a lot disorderly, please sign up using the “follow” button on the website. If you’d like to read a few of the blogs, click on Disorderly Blog and scroll down, the most recent blogs come first.
My publisher Wipf and Stock is offering 40% off the paperback versions of the Disorderly Parables!!! Great time for summer reads or for individuals and small groups to stock up for fall. Use code June21.
I am excited to introduce you to a phenomenal National Geographic reference book. I have spent afternoons paging through the pictures and then more afternoons returning to read the articles. When I teach or study scripture I find myself using this book to check out the context. It is a well done historical reference guide for not just the characters of the Bible, but the time periods in which they lived.
Written by best-selling author Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Who’s Who in the Bible is the ultimate reference guide to the men and women in the Bible, featuring more than 2,000 entries spanning Genesis to Revelation. From the author of In the Footsteps of Jesus and The Biblical World comes a vibrant family reference that brings to life the fascinating characters of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. From the fall of Adam and Eve to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the key events of the Bible are expressed through the lives of hundreds of people. Told through exquisite art and artifacts, intriguing sidebars, and unique family tree features, this illuminating volume tells the stories of Biblical characters and highlights their greater meaning for mankind. Illustrated with lavish color photography and exquisite historical artwork, this reference runs chronologically, with each person listed by order of appearance.
It is available on Amazon.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mat 5:6 NRS)
For me this is one of the greatest things about the Reign of God.
However, some mistake righteousness for meaning, “those who are good at following the religious rules.” But that’s not it. Jesus wasn’t all that fond of religion or its rules—especially when they didn’t demonstrate love and mercy. The Greek word reflects more about social justice than being good.
While Jesus is preaching, he is looking into the crowd, searching for those who desire the world be a place of justice and equity—a place where everyone is included, loved, and supported. This kind of justice makes a way for everyone to develop into their full potential. It is shalom (wholeness) achieved for the entire community. Jesus promised that if we desire that kind of justice, then we will fit right into God’s reign of love.
Suggested spiritual practice for this week:
Look around you for signs of injustice.
Ask how God might use you to bring justice to unjust situations.
And have at it.
Jesus taught: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” (Matt 5:5).
According to one dictionary, meek describes a person willing to go along with whatever other people want to do without ever speaking up for themselves. That’s not quite what Jesus is conveying here. Another dictionary has a better definition: a meek person intentionally makes sacrifices on the behalf of others without resentment.
Saint Francis advised the Franciscans to own nothing except two robes and a belt, encouraging his followers to live in reed huts and beg for their food in order to spend their days caring for the poor and the sick. This is meekness.
But oh, how times have changed in the church!
I recently received a call from a faith organization asking for money. They didn’t say they would allocate it to caring for the poor and sick or even teaching the message of Jesus. They said they needed larger reserves to impress the people they were interviewing for a leadership position.
This lets slip an enormous problem plaguing much of Christianity.
We need—at least we think we need—members and their tithes to hire staff, maintain property, keep the van running, and print those Sunday bulletins. Taking care of the hungry and acting as the hands and feet of Christ often takes a backseat. The job of keeping members happy so they will contribute becomes a tremendous burden for church leadership. In the end, we dare not teach Jesus’s message for fear of alienating the big donors. After all, who wants to hear that we must love our enemy, provide for the destitute, and put others first—even before building and maintaining the church clubhouse?
Church possessions can quickly become the death of a church. But possessions can also get a strangle hold on individual people. Their maintenance takes up our time and energy, leaving the more important things neglected.
But Jesus teaches an alternative way of living. He promises that when love reigns, the earth no longer belongs to those who can buy or steal it. Instead, the sacrificial servants who prioritize others before themselves will inherit the earth.
Suggested Spiritual Practice for this Week:
At the beginning of each day, ask God to show you
where you can make sacrifices that will help others.
At the end of the day, journal how that went.
As Jesus describes his way of living where love is the core value, he turns from addressing The Poor in Spirit to addressing The Mournful:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” (Mat 5:4 NRS).
Again, Jesus is intentionally vague. What are they mourning? Racism, poverty, riots, pandemics, hunger, war, death, personal failure, personal sin?
I don’t think it matters. He calls everyone weeping to be a part of the Reign of God—the Reign of Love. It is here that we all belong! The promise Jesus makes is that his way of living will address our deepest needs and hurts.
There is something Jesus teaches later that is very important. To fully experience the comfort offered to us, we need to forgive those who have brought us to tears. This doesn’t mean we don’t hold them accountable or stop them from causing further pain.
My friend defined forgiveness as:
“We will not do to them what they have done to us; however, we will hold them accountable.”
Accountability is an act of love. Stopping injustice and harm is also an act of love. So is making room for the repentant in Jesus’s world order.
Jesus is calling those in pain to him. Our part is to accept the comfort and wholeness offered by forgiving those who have caused us pain, stopping them from causing further pain, calling the guilty to repentance, and inviting the repentant into Jesus’s way of love.
Suggested Spiritual Practice for this week:
At the end of each day ask where you experienced hurt that day
and where you may have hurt another.
Make a plan for showing love both to those you have hurt
and to those who require forgiveness & accountability-holding love.
Does anyone need convincing that the world isn’t working? I doubt it. Not after this past week. Jesus didn’t think the world was working either. So, like Trump, he addressed his followers. Trump, however, demanded his followers march down to the capitol and fight for him–risk their lives for him. He tells them they can’t be weak. They must be strong. He even says he will go with them, but then retreats to safety while he delights, watching on as they do his dirty work.
Jesus is different. He begins his address with “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” (Matt 5:3). I love the intentional vagueness of “poor in spirit.” The Greek word used is prochoi, meaning expendable, empty, bent over. Poor in spirit describes the person wanting to retreat to an off grid cabin in the mountains and hide for the next decade. It also describes the activist who wants to change the hearts and minds of the oppressors while working for justice on behalf of those being mistreated. Poor in spirit even describes the mistreated—the ostracized, the homeless, the hungry, and the sick. It describes those suffering injustice—those hurt by racism, sexism, ageism, religion. The list is long.
Jesus tells the poor in spirit to have hope, because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”—the reign of God, the reign of love. Jesus didn’t choose mean, angry men dressed in hate to fight for him. He chose the poor in spirit to build the reign of God—the core value of which is love. Then Jesus, unlike Trump, led the march, putting his own life on the line, serving as an example of loving with an unconditional love. And two thousand years later, Jesus is still relevant.
If you are feeling poor in spirit, let love be your core value, the guiding light of all you do. For you are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven!
Suggested Spiritual Practice for this week:
At the end of each day ask where you showed love,
where love was shown to you,
and make a plan for showing love tomorrow.
Jesus was born into a world where the faith of his ancestors, Judaism, was in full religious bloom. Judaism had become a relationship with a set of religious rules—thousands of them. This is not a failure specific to Jews. It has happened inside Christianity too. Instead of being a funnel that helps people connect to God, religion becomes a way to control God (I keep the rules and God blesses me) and for the religious leaders to control society (The people in power define the rules and I keep them in order to fit in).
The rules many churches set forth today include some subset of: vote for the right political party, have the right theology, don’t be gay or different, and do the right set of good works like reading your Bible daily or giving a tenth of your income to the church. In more extreme cases, drinking, dancing, and hanging out with people who do are on the list.
As this blog unfolds in 2021, I hope you’ll agree that Jesus wasn’t teaching a list of rules to follow, a detailed theology to believe, or even a set of required deeds to do. He was doing something much larger. He was outlining a new world order: the Reign of God. And since God is love, the Reign of Love.
He was teaching us how to live in love for each other. Weekly, we will dive into one of Jesus’ teachings from Matthew 7-9.
This week’s (optional) Spiritual Practice is to take some time to meditate (spend some intentional time thinking) on what a society whose core value is love would look like.
What role would you want in that society?
Reader’s Favorite has awarded April’s book, James in the Suburbs: A Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James, the 2019 Silver Medal for Christian Devotion / Study.
Here is the Five Star Reader’s Favorite review of the book:
James in the Suburbs: A Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James by Dr. April Love-Fordham is a devotional plus inspirational book that picks powerful lessons from one of the Epistles that focuses on the theme of faith: The Epistle of St. James. In fact, James states that faith without works has no substance. In this book, the author draws powerful lessons from James and shows how a group of men and women have been able to transform their faith into something tangible by translating it into service. April redefines faith and helps readers understand its application in contemporary society.
It is interesting to see how many lives get changed when we allow our faith to lead and guide us. In this book, we are introduced to a group of faith-filled people using their gifts to positively influence the lives of people around them. There are lessons on dealing with the challenges they face as a group, the spiritual and physical benefits of worship, and how the message in James can be applied to contemporary society. James is one of the biblical letters that is very practical when it comes to understanding and practicing faith and this book offers readers the path to making their faith a living testament in the eyes of the world.
James in the Suburbs: A Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James is written for Christians who want to deepen their faith and it shows the link between faith and charity and how surrendering to the demands of faith transforms us into people who make a difference in our communities. It is beautifully written, inspiring and filled with engaging stories. A book that offers great material for Bible study and personal reflection. This book teaches you what to do when it is challenging living the faith.
All of April’s books can be purchased in hardback, paperback, and Kindle on Amazon.
Not your ordinary Bible Studies. Each book is a parable – a story – wrapped around a biblical commentary. These stories will make you think about ancient scripture in new ways, provide insight into what is happening in the world today, surprise you with laughter as you catch a vision of the journey ahead, and energize you to live out your faith on paths you never anticipated taking.
Jesus used parables—stories of everyday people and things—to illustrate spiritual truths. His parables were not nice tidy stories. They were disorderly and subversive. They were meant to dismantle ideas the listener thought were truth, but were not. With the Disorderly Parables Books, you will learn like Jesus taught, through stories of everyday people and things. You will walk away with both a story that will challenge you and a thorough understanding of the scripture. The books also contain a discussion guide designed for groups who want read the book together.