I admit that I find the gospel of partnering with God for the healing of the world much, much harder than the gospel of God loves you and wants to give you a ticket to heaven.
It’s harder emotionally, physically, financially, socially and culturally. It’s tiring. Without the Holy Spirit, without worship, without community I’d give up and go back to that old gospel. It was easier in those days, for sure.
It was easier when it was about me and my blessing, my healing, my salvation and inviting other people to enjoy my amazing new life. It was much easier when it was about going to church. About finding a Sunday service that made me feel good and affirmed what I already believed. It was easier when I could modify some moral behaviours and then live for myself, my ambition, my convenience and my comfort around that. It was easier when, because I knew my eternity was sorted, I could spend my days accumulating experiences, success, approval, dollars, possessions, relationships and the accolades that come from “ministry”.
Archives For Things Spiritual
The Nature of God
An apocryphal story is told of Fosdick meeting a young man for a walk in Central Park. “I’m jealous of your faith,” said the young man. “I’m afraid to ask questions, because I was raised in a faith that provided all the answers and to ask questions was to show unfaithfulness.” Coming upon a reflecting pool, Fosdick mused, “Son, your faith is like this pool: calm, bordered, shallow—you always know what it’s going to look like and what the boundaries are. But it’s not a “living” faith. It’s not going anywhere. Vital faith is like a stream bubbling up from a well deep within the earth. As it makes its way, it twists and turns, sometimes changes course, is deep and slow in some places and fast and turbulent in others, responding to the geographical reality. It’s joined by the waters of other streams and together they make their way back to their source.”
Stagnation, not change, is Christianity’s deadliest enemy. Vital faith has always been dynamic, flowing, and moving. So one of the biggest challenges for thinking Christians today is facing those who conceive of “true” Christianity as something that never changes. While many faith communities have invested untold energy arguing over changing the style of liturgy and music used in worship, what really need to be addressed are many of the basic theological tenets espoused by that liturgy and music.
Take, for example, a contemporary worship song in which God is praised for knowing where every bolt of lightning strikes. This might be comforting for those who want to believe God controls the world like a puppet master. It is, perhaps, less comforting for those who have been struck by lightning.
For many religious people, it takes some serious readjustment to change those theological underpinnings and recast Christianity as something fluid. Some are too controlled by fear—of change, of uncertainty, of being called heretical—to make the shift. They keep trying, desperately, to hold on to old conceptions as if their eternal life depended on it. But there are alternatives.
Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (Felten, David;Procter-Murphy, Jeff)
One thing most New Testament scholars agree on—and they don’t agree on much—is that Jesus’s main aim was the kingdom of God—not some saccharine vision of a future in heaven, but a clear political statement about the here and now.
From the Book: Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (Felten, David;Procter-Murphy, Jeff)
It continues to amaze me that there are Christians –both preachers and politicians- who seem to be much more interested in defending the honor and the interests of the very wealthy than they are to lending support to the less advantaged ones among us. Their priorities are the opposite of those reflected in scripture (James 2:1-7; 5:1-5). They will speak up for low taxes on the rich but not defend livable wages for the working poor. They will call for deregulation on businesses but not stand up for better consumer or environmental protections. They sound much more like the devotees of Ayn Rand than disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Ayn Rand worship by many including of course Rep. Ryan who says he is Catholic greatly confuses me. Ayn Rand was an in-your-face atheist who proclaimed empathy to be one of the biggest detriments to mankind. Isn’t Jesus Christ the absolute bedrock of empathy? How do those who call themselves conservative Christians reconcile those facts? I just don’t know….
What do we do as Christians when confronted with these harsh realities? The Bible urges us to “remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself!” (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus knew what it was like to have a loved one incarcerated. His cousin, John the Baptist, was falsely accused and arrested (and eventually executed). Perhaps this is why Jesus, in Matthew 25, tells his disciples “when I was in prison, you visited me.” As a victim of false imprisonment and injustice, Jesus entered into solidarity with the incarcerated and exposed the flawed justice system of his day. Of all people, Christians should be the most skeptical of prisons. A simple survey of prisons in the Bible will reveal that prisons were mainly used to oppress minorities, exploit the poor, and silence the prophets. And the prison system today continues to do so.
One of my favorite Christians and author is Shane Claiborne. Several years ago he established and still lives in a strong Christian community in a very poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. He definitely takes the words of Jesus to heart both physically and mentally. He also has a very unique sense of humor which makes his books and writing very appealing to me. One of his books entitled Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals is much in the line with the words above.
Lets face it if Jesus were around today he would very likely be shunned by almost everyone including, and maybe even especially, the current Christian religious establishment and especially the conservative evangelical variety. He would be thoroughly trashed by the likes of Fox News Channel as being one of those dying heart liberals who care too much for those lazy people who won’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps. He would simply be too radical for most in those groups. He would be called one of “those” people. You know what I mean. This simple but obvious fact saddens me greatly. When did taking care of the poor and visiting prisoners go out of style with many of my conservative friends?
We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.
We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.
The above quote is from one of the bloggers in my Feedly stream. Rachel is a young religious blogger and author with a pretty large following of which I am one. The list above is part of a longer one about why so many young people leave the church once they get out on their own.
I am definitely not a millennial as Rachel dubiously claims to be but I am certainly attuned to her list as many of the reasons I no longer attend a denominational service.
But this post is really intended to be about a mini-epiphany I had when I read this article. Almost everything on her list also could be said about the Republican party. I’m not sure if this is a chicken/egg thing or an egg/chicken. Either way it means lost membership to the associated organization. I really mourn the continuing growing insignificance of both the church and the Republican party. I really want both to stay relevant in world today so I am hoping that eventually they will give up their stubbornness and destructive thinking and start listening to all the Rachel Held Evan’s out there.
This is a continuation of our study of Thomas Jefferson to discount the belief that he intended the United States to be a Christian nation. He started out and spent much of his life as a deist. That is he believed in the presence of God in the world but did not proclaim it as a Christian presence. Later in life after he was president he undertook a serious study of the Christian Bible and other religious documents.
He took this study to the point of making his own version of the New Testament. Many are confused by the Jefferson Bible. They wonder why he as a faithful Christian would even attempt to redo such a holy document. Below is part of the explanation why he did this: Continue Reading…
You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger. Let a person overcome anger by love. Hate is never ended by hatred but by love.
– Buddha –
These words could just as easily come from the mouth of Jesus as from Buddha. But in reality Buddha lived on this earth several hundred years before Jesus. It amazes me how similar the reported lives of Jesus and Buddha are. Here are some of those similarities as found at Wikipedia and other sources:
- Buddha is actually a title which means “the awakened one”, his name was actually Gautama Buddha.
- Traditional biographies of Gautama generally include numerous miracles, omens, and supernatural events. Continue Reading…
Being a Christian I was taught to be very much offended when I ran across the words “Happy Holidays” as that somehow diminished the real meaning of the season. But after I came across a blog post recently I have changed my opinion on those words. I wish I had kept the explanation as I’m sure the original author explained it much better then I can but since I can no longer find it I will have to do the best I can in justifying his idea.
Many times Will Rogers’ words are an inspiration to me. Of course he saw a lot of prejudice in his times. Maybe more so than even I do today. When I found these words from him about intolerance I found them indeed inspiring. No explanation is needed. These words stand on their own today as much as they did in Will’s day.
I have sometimes wondered if the preachers themselves have not something to do with intolerance. You hear and read a sermon nowadays, and the biggest part is taken up by knocking or trying to prove the falseness of some other denomination. They say the Catholics are damned, that the Jew’s religion is all wrong, or that the Christian Scientists are a fake, or that Protestants are all out of step.
Now, just suppose, for a change they preach to you about the Lord and not about the other fellows’ church, for every man’s religion is good. We are all trying to arrive at the same place according to our own conscience and teachings. It don’t matter which road you take - March 11, 1923 Will Rogers
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. — 1 Corinthians 13
Looking back on my life Gandhi’s quote above inspires me with its wisdom and the second quote from the Bible mirrors the same message. Being able to see the circumstances and the facts and then making changes is where the greatness lies.
This seems to be a very tough message in today’s world where gridlock and stubborn instance of being right is the norm. There are just too many in the world who are consumed by their current worldviews and are totally unwilling to even consider that they just might not have all the answers. Continue Reading…
Occasionally I like to revisit some of my previous posts that I think contains valuable messages. This is one of them.
Originally posted January 15, 2011
That is a question that has been on my mind the last few days. I have lived for more than six decades on this earth so I have been exposed to probably millions of different situations but what is the saddest?
The list initially was quite large but the more I have thought about it the more it shrinks. I think I am finally down the one thing and that is lazy minds. I know, on first thought, that seems a strange answer. After all there are things like world hunger, hatred, prejudice, homelessness, constant wars, and many other things that seem more serious. But the more I have thought about it the more I am convinced that all of the above mentioned things are a result of lazy minds.
In 1997 Richard Carlson wrote a very popular book entitled Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…. and it’s all small stuff. In that book he listed one hundred things to make our lives more peaceful. Some of those topics that I took to heart included: Continue Reading…
I got into a discussion on FaceBook recently about Church/State responsibilities. This one started out on a good friend of mine’s page where he stated:
As a pastor I try to steer clear of citing personal preferences when it comes to politics. …. Having said that, I am certainly happy that a man of great integrity and moral character, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, is a part of the conversation.
Of course this brought on some other friends who stated it is absolutely necessary for pastors to point out God’s standards in guiding his flock in making the proper choices among the candidates. At that point I commented that I don’t think it is God’s standard to take billions away from aid to the poor and give it to millionaires as tax breaks? Of course as an expected response I heard that it is not government’s job to take care of the poor; that is the church’s role. I think I surprised them when I agreed with them entirely.
Here are my further comments on the subject.
I couldn’t agree with you more that it is our job as Christians to take care of the poor. So why is it that we seem to only be able to do about 3% of the job? What do you propose the other 97% of the need do if we take the government safety net away from them. It is nice to sit back and talk about this in abstract but for the last nine years I have spent at least two days a week volunteering at a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Every time another piece of the safety net is torn away we get a few more people who rely on us for their nourishment.
So, lets quit spending 90% of what we collect in our churches on ourselves and do like the early Christians did and spend almost all of it on those who are doing without. They called this giving “hospitality” and it was central to their early beliefs. When that happens I will march along side you and I’m sure government will gladly get out of the way. But given how we are doing right now that will take centuries to accomplish. Lets all get out of our pews and into the community where Jesus intended us to be…
I am struck by the arrogance of us Christians when all we do is talk about it not being government’s job and then go back to our usual ways. Every statistic shows that Christians are pretty much like everyone else when it comes to charity, divorce, riches, and other worldly things. I think Jesus is very disappointed in us in that regard. I hope you don’t respond that we are all sinners and somehow that allows us to shirk our responsibilities. Yes, the poor will always be with us especially when we Christians talk in platitudes instead of actually doing things.
One of my favorite quotes that isn’t heard much in Christian churches is 1John 3:16. It is interesting that it is so close to the other one.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. “
I am happy that the Lord gave me the proper words in response. I never heard anything more but I hope I at least put a tiny thought into these Evangelical’s hearts.
I am going to put on my teacher’s hat now. Although I have never been an official teacher I have taught at several seminars in both the professional arena and the religious arena. So here is a lesson about altruism.
On the right side of my blog I proudly proclaim that I am a passionate altruist. But what does that really mean? As usual there are varying definitions of the term. Here is what Dictionary.com defines as an altruist:
1. the principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others
2. the philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others
While this short answer gives you an idea of what altruism is let’s look at Wikipedia for a longer explanation.
Altruism /ˈæltruːɪzəm/ is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of ‘others’ toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.
Altruism was central to the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospel especially in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain.
Some Christian denominations use altruism as the very foundation of their beliefs. Quakers are one example of that and Catholics to one degree or another. Other Christian denominations very much downplay altruism and instead favor personal salvation, human unworthiness and helplessness as their foundation. From personal experience I believe Lutherans are part of that group but they are by no means the only ones in that category.
It may surprise some of you to learn that in Buddhism altruism is also a foundational item. Here is Wikipedia again on that topic:
Altruism figures prominently in Buddhism. Love and compassion are components of all forms of Buddhism, and both are focused on all beings equally: the wish that all beings be happy (love) and the wish that all beings be free from suffering (compassion). “Many illnesses can be cured by the one medicine of love and compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and the need for them lies at the very core of our being” (Dalai Lama).
So to be an altruist is to care about others as much or even more than you care about yourself. I’m not sure that a person can learn to be an altruist. I think maybe you have to have that in your soul or at least your DNA . Here is a study about the neurological origins of altruism/selfishness.
An experiment funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted in 2007 at the Duke University in Durham, North Carolina suggests a different view, “that altruistic behavior may originate from how people view the world rather than how they act in it”. In the study published in the February 2007 print issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers have found a part of the brain that behaves differently for altruistic and selfish people.
Why some have it and others don’t is a mystery to me. As mentioned above the opposite of altruism is selfishness. It is not hard to find examples of selfishness almost anywhere you look. The current political arena is gushing with it.
Are you also and altruist? If so have you always been one or did some life event push you in that direction?
I see from my statistics that the following post is one of my most popular. So I thought I would bring it back for another round. Nothing has changed since I wrote it in January.
That is a question that has been on my mind the last few days. I have lived for more than six decades on this earth so I have been exposed to probably millions of different situations but what is the saddest? The list initially was quite large but the more I have thought about it the more it shrinks. I think I am finally down the one thing and that is lazy minds. I know, on first thought, that seems a strange answer. After all there are things like world hunger, hatred, prejudice, homelessness, constant wars, and many other things that seem more serious. But the more I have thought about it the more I am convinced that all of the above mentioned things are a result of lazy minds.
Our ability to think is perhaps the most significant thing that God gave us to separate us from everything else in this world. Being able to analyze our circumstance and then make knowledgeable decisions and then changes is something only man can do. God gave us our intellect so we could develop it and use it to further his kingdom on earth. When we lay back and refuse to use our God given intellect I believe we are sinning against God at a most basic level. Lazy minds are not limited to any particular ethnic group, economic scale, or spiritual sphere. It is endemic across the entire spectrum of human condition.
Lazy minds allow us to just sit back and take on our parent’s prejudges as our own. If our parents didn’t like Jews or Blacks or Hispanic or whatever then we it is likely don’t like them either. If only we exercised our minds and found that all these prejudges are without any merit or reasoning whatsoever we could more easily purge them from reality.
Lazy minds allow others around us to control how we perceive almost everything in this world.It is just easier to have someone to show us one way of thinking and not even consider that there are other possibilities. It allows politician to tell us what to believe, marketers to tell us what to buy. It allows others to tell us what to believe about almost all aspects of life including our spiritual one.
Finally lazy minds prevent us from solving many of the otherwise solvable problems in the world. We have the technical ability to eradicate most of today’s problems if only we got off our butts and did something about it. World hunger is definitely something that is fixable. The main thing that prevents us from doing that is we have not figured out how to interact with each other or how to choose leaders who could do that as our representatives. We allow our leaders to tell us what to think, who are enemies and friends are and almost everything else about our living in this world. We let them separate us into clans that they say must battle each other.
Lazy minds prevent us from knowing who God really is and what he expects of us. We allow others to tell us their truth about God instead of discovering it ourselves. We allow others to selectively point us to the particular words in the Bible that “they” deem the most important instead of studying all the words ourselves. We allow others to tell us who to avoid or even hate instead of following God’s command to love one another, even our enemies.
We allow one generation after another to try and take the easy way through this world. Why study when we can be world class athletes? All of us in one degree or another refuse to exercise our minds to even a small percentage of their capacity. It is just too easy to let others think for us. That is the saddest thing in the world to me.
Once a person reaches their senior years should all the aspirations have been completed? First of all I guess I should make clear just which definition of the noun I am talking about. The aspiration I am talking about is:
strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations; a goal or objective desired
[Aspirating or taking a breath is something all of us need to do. To stop doing that is to literally stop living ] Now with all this silliness taken care of let’s move on the to topic at hand.
When we talk about aspirations it is typically about our youth. Things like “he aspired to be president one day”. But is it proper or healthy for seniors to have aspirations too? If you ask the younger population I’m sure most would say that seniors should have already accomplished everything they dream of before that time in their life, so the answer would probably be no. Of course I can’t answer this question for all seniors but I can answer it for myself. I continue to have dreams for what I want to accomplish with my life. I hope that I never comes to the day when that isn’t the case.
One of the perfect, and probably most used, stories about senior aspirations was Colonel Sanders who started up his chicken business after he turned sixty-five. There are many seniors who have accomplished great things in their later lives. But what about us more common seniors? Of course that answer lies inside each of us but I think it is healthy for all seniors to dream and aspire to future goals. No, we don’t have to start a multi-billion dollar fast-food chain but what about aspiring to make a difference in your local community?
I will reluctantly give you a couple of my personal aspirations as examples. I personally aspire to help those in the community around me to have at least a few good meals every week. I do that by cooking a couple of days a week at a local soup kitchen and providing many of the ingredients that are missing from even the most elementary recipes. I don’t aspire to end world hunger but if I can ease it just a little in my community… I also aspire to being a better follower of Jesus Christ on a day-by-day basis. Part of that is by making Christians aware of things that they might not normally think about. I do this via my RedLetterLiving.net blog. Without these aspirations, and a few other similar to them, I’m sure that life in my senior years would not have nearly as much purpose for me as it does. But with these aspirations I can’t wait to wake up each morning. I feel I have accomplished more in my senior years than I have any other period in my life.
I am not giving you my personal examples of aspirations to boast or to make you feel somehow inadequate and I sincerely hope you don’t take that to be the case. I am only giving them to you as maybe a little incentive to , if you haven’t already, make up a list for your personal life in your senior years. We can all make a difference in this world no matter how old we are.
One of my favorite quotes is from Gandhi
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
The most significant accomplishments in the world are made in very minute steps by ordinary people like you and me. Singly they might not seem like much but put together with others they are mighty indeed. Get off your couch and aspire to contribute something in your senior years.
I know of people who think having a passion about something is a detriment. They say “why are you going overboard about this (or that)”? This topic can be applied across life’s spectrum but I will try to limit this post to those of us in our senior years. Let’s look at how the dictionary defines passion:
pas·sion [ noun]
1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
2. strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.
3. strong sexual desire; lust.
4. an instance or experience of strong love or sexual desire.
5. a person toward whom one feels strong love or sexual desire
Although the second through the fifth definition is not a bad thing, especially if it is directed to your mate of many years , the kind of passion I am talking about in this post is the first type. It is a powerful or compelling emotion about a particular subject, thought, or idea. Another word for having this type of passion is zeal. I love the saying about having zeal in your life. Of course passions run the gamut; it can be anything from a strong love of baseball (as our last retired president seems to have) to compassion for our less fortunate fellow human beings and trying to make their lives better (as the president before him has chosen for his senior years). To me life with nothing to be passionate about is hardly worth living. I need some reason to get out of bed in the morning other than the early morning sun shining in my bedroom window.
I can’t understand those who deem having a passion is “getting carried away”! The antithesis of passion is apathy and apathy in our senior years can be very damaging indeed. For those who see passion as “getting carried away” maybe their “passion” is somehow their daily routine. Maybe the morning coffee, afternoon nap, and evening in front of the TV day after day after day is what they live for but I personally can’t see that possibility for myself. I know the Bible tells us to not think too much about the past and don’t worry about the future but to live in the present. A big part of life is that daily routine that most of us seniors, for one reason or another, get ourselves into but to live life without any passions, without anything that you feel very special about is like limiting yourself to only vanilla ice cream. It is somewhat flavorful but also somewhat boring…
So from my personal prospective everyone, especially we seniors, needs to feel some passion about at least a few things in their life. But,we shouldn’t let that passion dominate everything else in our life; that is called obsession and that is not a good thing. I know the times when I seem to let depression get grip on me is when I don’t feel I am passionate about anything. Part of entering my senior years was finding what to transfer my passion for my occupation that I was leaving to something else. I spent more than a year searching for that substitute. After I settled into it I found it much much more fulfilling than the job I left behind in the corporate world.
For those who might ask why I picked the picture I did for this post the answer is I don’t know. It just seemed kind of indirectly appropriate to the subject. Or maybe some of the cold pills I have been taking are still lingering in my system
I have been in a rather melancholy mood lately thinking about life. I have concluded that life is what you make of it. Yeah I know this is one of those sayings that we tend to fall back on at times. I guess this is my time. I have come to realize that life is not some glorious dream to be lived sometime in the future. It is not about those days when you can finally say goodbye to a seeming never-ending job. It is about day-to-day living; each and every one of them. If you think otherwise you are wasting a good portion of your life yearning for something that is ahead and may never come..
My favorite saying used to be “Remember the future comes but a day at a time”. I even went to the point of painting this on a board and keeping it above my desk throughout my college years. During those years these word taught me that if I want a certain future, that is to be the first one in my family to graduate from college, I must work for it everyday. It reminded me why I was working forty hours a week to pay for it while taking almost a full college load each semester. It reminded my why I was always sleep deprived during those years. Now after so many years have passed these words have come to mean something different and that is life is about living it is not a destination but a journey. The future is now and it comes and goes on a daily basis.
Don’t plan on your life suddenly becoming meaningful at some milestone in the future. From personal experiences I can tell you that never happens. I am a dreamer. I have always been one I guess. So I frequently think about the future. But given that I now have many more days behind me that in front maybe it is time to quit dreaming so much and start acting on those dreams that I have yet to fulfill.
Is there some point to these seemingly random ramblings going through my mind? Maybe, maybe not If there is I guess it is to live my life, at least what is left of it, enjoying each and every day. Quit waiting for that rainbow at the end of the road. Life has not been particularly pleasant for me lately. I have been struggling with thoughts of making changes that I have been putting off for some time now. Changes that would almost certainly give me more joy but may result in some sadness and maybe breaking some unspoken promises. I know I don’t have that many years left on the earth. Do I spend them dreaming of something else or do I take a leap and try to catch a dream or two? At this point I guess I am still pondering that decision. But every day that I waste is another day that I will no longer see. The clock is ticking.
And the journey goes on….