Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What shall I do?

For a long time I have been wrestling with the lack of social awareness among professed Christians. There is an imbalance between the words spoken as "evangelistic" and the actions of justice and righteousness. This morning I was again reminded about this. And, I was rebuked by Yahweh. As I go to my meaningless job and realize that people have none; I am rebuked. As I sit in my comfortable, warm home and know that thousands sleep on the streets; I am rebuked. As I complain about not having something to eat while millions are starving; I am rebuked.
Yes, I give money to organizations that do the work. But, what am I doing? I, who have been blessed with the education, experience and training to actually make a difference in the lives of those who are in need. I am rebuked.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back home

Well, the road-trip is over. 2,412 miles pulling a U-Haul trailer with a Toyota Corolla. That car is definitely not meant for that application, but it made it. I would like to offer cudos to the U-Haul folks. The original installer left the safety chains a bit low so they dragged on the ground. By the end of day 2 both were broken. I called the roadside assistance folks from a hotel in Amarillo, TX. The person I spoke with was very helpful. Within an hour a local U-Haul tech showed up in the parking lot and replaced both chains. Thanx, folks.
During my time away I had a lot of time for reading and reflection. One thing that came my way was another chapter of Spiritual Classics. This one was by Alan Paton, a South African clergyman. He wrote of the liberating reassurances in the Gospel. He noted that Jesus said that we are salt and light. "Things  might be dark but they were to  be the light of the world." I started to think about this and realized that there have been many words spoken and ink spilled on the topic of 'being light.' How does light work? What are the characteristics of someone who is light? Christ is the light of the world, and we are called to be partner luminaries. But, what of the dark? Not too many people discuss this. The darkness is the place that we all live. Yes, we bring light so that the darkness can be pushed back. But, the world is a dark and hostile place. We try to make it more comfortable, but, let's face it, we can't tame it. It is wild and foreboding. There is danger. There are all sorts of nasties: weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, etc. There is hatred, intolerance, war, poverty, violence of all kinds, greed, murders...you get my point. So, we ask, what has God done about it? God, the omnipotent? God, the omniscient? God, the omnipresent? Has God tamed the seemingly untameable? Is God capable? No. God has made us salt and light. When we ask, "God, when will you do something"? The Divine response is, "I was wondering the same of you." Paton wrote, "God moves in his own mysterious ways, but a great deal of the time he moves through us." We are light. But it is God who directs the beam. And, let's not forget that the light is the foreign element in this world. Darkness is the natural condition. But, the reign of God will overcome it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the road again...

It's Friday. For many in the west Friday is a day of preparation. Preparation to kick back and enjoy the weekend. Songs that raise this day of the week to near holiday status have been sung by the working weary for ages. For me, it's another day. Not because I have to work weekends. But, all of the days just kind of blur together. However, this Friday is a tad different. I will be flying to San Diego to help my daughter move. Now, going to southern California, where it's forecast to be in the low 60's sounds great to someone living where it's currently about 17 degrees with a forecast high of about 21. Gotta luv winter...not.
Anyway, I will be away for several days traveling. If I can find a spot where there's wifi I will try to get to this blog and update. But, if not, I will be back sometime next week.
To any who happen to actually visit here, God's blessings on you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

President Obama rejects Keystone pipeline

Here is a link to Sojourners. There are several articles/alerts/blogs at this link that can be viewed. http://www.sojo.net/search/apachesolr_search/keystone%20pipeline
I have to applaud the president for the courageous move. To say no to the oil industry, especially during economic slowdowns, takes guts. There are more reasons than can be counted as to why this is a good thing. You can read about them at the above link.
Please know that this issue is not dead. Congress will try to circumvent the president. Please take time to contact your representative and senators. Ask them to support the president on this. We cannot continue to mortgage our children's and grand-children's future on what appears to be present expediency.

Another slow day at the old homestead

Yesterday I got to go see my cardiologist. Heart attacks are no fun. He didn't say much. I think he was having a rough day. One thing about having heart issues like this is that I have slowed down. I don't move quite so fast because things that made me run around like an idiot just aren't all that important. I have, so far, lost almost 30 lbs. That's a good thing. I walk an hour each day, (at least I try). ;o)
I guess I'm doing all that I can right now. Part of the reason for that is that by all rights I should have died on Nov. 3. My LAD, the main artery supplying blood to my left ventricle was 100% blocked. They call that one the "widow maker." Well, my wife is not a widow...yet. God, for whatever reason, saw fit to let me hang out on this rock for a little while longer. So, I figure I should do my part.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin, a Modern Prophetic Voice

I just spent a few minutes checking out The King Center's archive page. All I can say is "Wow"! They have presented over a million documents that reference Dr. King, his work and his life. The site is extremely well-done and very intuitive. I thank the folks at The King Center for their hard work. Really, I'm amazed! I believe that Dr. King was the foremost prophetic voice of the last century. We would do well to listen to and heed his words.
Thanks to Dr. Allan Bevere for post this link at his blog. Please, check it out. The trip will be well worth it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

God: To be or not to be...Is that even the question?

The past couple of days I've spent some time reading the blogs of folks who identify themselves as atheists. It's been fun. These folks have some really good points that, apparently, aren't being addressed by theists of any flavor. One of the recurring complaints is "I don’t think I can accept that without explanation or evidence." I completely understand and respect this position. For people to question and investigate things is inherently human. (Not cat-like curiosity.) I am one of those Christ-followers who embrace the scientific community. Do I think that science knows, or can know, all of the answers to all of the questions that all of the people on this rock can ask? No, not really. On the other hand, do I think that the Bible or any person who searches and studies its contents can know this either? Still, no. One of the respondents to a blog I checked out identified himself as a physicist. He wrote, "In physics and mathematics, special circumstances hold at singularities.  Within classical big bang cosmology (which is regarded as incomplete by essentially all experts, even with the addition of semiclassical inflationary models), the Universe began with a singularity." He then suggested with these special circumstances it's possible that the Universe was causeless. I really hope that he's not correct. I, like a good share of the rest of humanity, would like to think that we, as well as the Universe, have some reason, or cause, to be here taking up space. So, please, scientific community; keep looking!
The reason I can encourage those who seek is that I am not threatened by this. And, I don't think that the God I follow does, either. I believe that this God has gifted humankind with a mind that questions and seeks. This mind is creative and imaginative, just like the One who imagined it.
In response to those who demand explanation or evidence. Sorry, can't help you. And, to be honest, I don't feel that I have to prove a thing. If I am truly to follow Christ, I must, with him, state, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Truthfully, I don't see any reason to engage the discussions put forth by atheists. I really don't think that discussion is even possible when there appears to be irreconcilable differences. They want proof, all I can offer is experience. Like one blind person in the Gospel narrative I can say, "I know that once I was blind, but now I see." No one can share the blindness I experienced, so they cannot possibly understand what I now see. Please, I hope that no one thinks that because I don't care to debate these issues I don't care for those who would debate. I do. These are people who have meaning and worth. Their opinions are important, but they are only opinions. I cannot prove that God is a loving, caring Being who lives outside, yet inside of our physical universe. (Please, don't make me try to say that again.) Nor, can they prove to me that there cannot possibly be any such Being. In the meantime? I suppose we can agree to disagree and get on with life. For some of us, that may be much longer, (shorter?), than we think.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

George Macdonald and a new kid on the block

It's saturday morning. This week, as I've written in my journal, has been full of stuff that has made my brain hurt. So many thoughts and musings have been doing the macarana inside my head. It's been exhilarating and a bit frustrating at the same time.
One of the exhilarating moments came as I read a small piece by 19th century Scottish author and minister George Macdonald. He is one who C. S. Lewis stated had a great influence on his own conversion and literary direction. In the piece Macdonald commented on Mark 8;1-21. The encounter described was after Jesus had fed 4,000 and had a run-in with some Pharisees. On a boat ride, Jesus made a comment about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. The disciples, ever on top of things, assumed that Jesus was upset because they had not brought bread on the trip. Jesus responded with a rather heated reminder of the feeding of the multitudes, not once, but twice. He finished with, "Do you still not understand?"
While many folks look at this and think that Jesus was upset because they didn't realize that if he could multiply food for thousands, he was capable of taking care of the needs of 13 people. But, Macdonald took a slightly different angle on this. He wrote that the miracles of the feeding revealed God's own compassion. The stories were not to reveal Jesus' power, nor to confirm his role as a great prophet. It wasn't even to confirm Jesus as the Son of God. It was to show that "God cared for His children, and could, did, and would provide for their necessities." The miracles were an experiential lesson that the disciples needed to study and learn from.
One thing that I noted was that, if Macdonald's take is viable, and I think it is, then what should the response of Christ's followers be today? If Jesus chose to feed people to reveal God's care and provision that is driven by God's own character and compassion, should we not, in God's name, do likewise? Feed the poor and hungry; clothe the naked; support the widows and orphans; comfort the sick and down & out...yeah, I think so.
Also, today I'd like to encourage anyone who may stop by here to check out a new blog at http://morvensblog.wordpress.com/
Morven Baker is a counselor in Ashland, Oh. She is also married to one of my professors from ATS. I checked it out, and she is not blogging because she is the wife of an Old Testament scholar. She is doing this to help give voice to, well, let's hear her words:
"I am a counselor who works with women.  For a long while now I have wanted to have a safe place to post well researched articles or educational links, as well as my own personal thoughts, that I felt might be helpful for my clients, the brave women who have survived abuse as children and/or adults, the real heroines of the stories.   Perhaps this place might be helpful for my friends, family and colleagues who really care about what I do and are my constant cheerleaders.  I also wanted a  place where readers, if there ever are any, can share their responses and know that their thoughts and feelings are respected and valued."
 Welcome, Morven!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It sounds good on paper, but....

I have been following Brian McLaren's blog for quite some time. I first got turned on to him in a class at seminary. One of the professors wanted to show us some of the emergent church's views, so he picked McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity. His intent was to give us an idea of the near heresies that were out in the community that we would need to prepare ourselves to ward off. Little did he know that McLaren resonated with me. I've got to be clear. I do not agree with everything that McLaren writes. However, there is a lot of refreshment in them thar pages. There is also quite a bit of food for thought.
Today McLaren had a link to a post by George W. Sarris titled, Jacob I Loved - Esau I Hated. It is an interesting look at election in the Bible. Sarris posits that those whom scripture states are created for wrath, or are for 'common' rather than 'noble' use, (Rom. 9:21), are not being dismissed to eternal torture, but are not chosen for God's purposes at that time. He wrote, "Paul is not referring to election to salvation.  Rather, he is referring to God’s election to service of those He has chosen to be His instruments." Now, I like this idea. I'm not one of those who is looking forward to any soul being lost for eternity. The God I read about doesn't fit that description. But, there is a lot of history behind the traditional view of this, and similar, texts.
I am going to take quite a bit of time to reflect on this. Because, if this can be shown to be a viable understanding of these texts, it will change the way many people view the Reign of God on this planet.
Read Sarris' post and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Occupy this thought...

I was reading Brian McLaren's blog this A.M.
He posted a link to another blog post entitled, "http://joeboydblog.com/2012/01/05/a-personal-confession-re-occupy-movement/"
I found the perspective Joe Boyd refreshing and not a little bit convicting. While I agree with some of the objectives of the Occupy Movement in the U.S., our lifestyle in general comments loudly to the rest of the world. It seems like we are saying, "More! Give us more!" while much of the world is crying out, "Just a little! We want just a little!"
I know that I am working toward simplifying my life for the express purpose of releasing more for me to give. I would encourage others who read this, or Boyd's post to consider doing likewise.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just a couple thoughts....

One of my favorite professors from seminary, Dr. John Byron, had an interesting reaction to what seemed to be a rather innocuous blog post. He remarked at the reaction many had to Tim Tebow's day against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact that Tebow through for a reported 316 yds. at 31.6 yards per play aroused the imagination of many people. The coincidental relationship between Tebow's stats and John 3:16 seemed to be irresistible fodder for media and religious folks alike. I followed the thread as it unfolded during the day. The amount of vitriol poured out toward Dr. Byron for his position on Tebow's accomplishment was remarkable. Dr. John shared his position and supported it intelligently. I can almost see him smiling and shaking his head. He has said many times that he doesn't understand why some blog posts receive such responses. What impressed me most was that he remained calm and allowed his detractors to rant without responding in kind. Cudos Dr. John.
The other thing I wanted to mention today is another look at the Devil Made Me Do It. In a short excerpt from a piece by John Henry Newman, (1801-1890), there is a brief insight into the devil's tactics. He wrote, "While we are found in Christ, we are partakers of His security. He has broken the power of Satan: He has gone 'upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon hath He trod under His feet'; and henceforth evil spirits, instead of having power over us, tremble and are afftighted at every true Christian. They know he has that in him which makes him their master, that he may, if he will, laugh them to scorn, and put them to flight. They know this well, and bear it in mind, in all their assaults upon him; sin alone give them power over him; and their great object is, to make him sin, and therefore to surprise him into sin, knowing they have no other way of overcoming him. They try to scare him by the appearance of danger, and so to surprise him; or they approach stealthily and covertly to seduce him, and so to surprise him. But except by taking him at unawares, they can do nothing.
Therefore let us be, my brethren, 'not ignorant of their devices'; and as knowing them, let us watch, fast, and pray, let us keep close under the wings of the Almighty, that He may be our shield and buckler. Let us pray Him to make known to us His will-to teach us our faults-to take from us whatever may offend Him-and to lead us in the way everlasting."
The excerpt, from Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, is somewhat archaic in its language, but it is spot-on with its insights. We who are Christ followers may be confident that the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. We do have responsibility to, as Newman wrote, "watch, fast, and pray, let us keep close under the wings of the Almighty, that He may be our shield and buckler." Our enemy is crafty and subtle. We must be aware, but not obsessed. Watchful but not focused on the enemy. Our focus must be on Jesus alone. The enemy can assault us, but not overcome us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No religion, please

One of the things I cherish is listening to people describe their faith journeys, or lack. Let's face it, not everyone thinks that religion of any flavor is a good thing. And, I enjoy listening to their stories as well.
In a supplement to our local Sunday paper I read an interview with actor Daniel Radcliffe. For those of you who may have just arrived from another planet, he is the talented young man who played Harry Potter in the film series based on J.K.Rowling's books. One of the questions asked was, "Your dad is a Protestant from Ulster and your mom is English and Jewish. Were you raised in a particular religion?" Why this reporter asked this particular question, I haven't a clue. But, I'm that it was asked. Radcliffe's response was not atypical. He said, "There was never [religious] faith in the house...My dad believes in God, I think. I'm not sure if my mom does. I don't. I have a problem with religion or anything that says, 'We have all the answer,' because there's no such thing as 'the answers.' We're complex. We change our minds on issues all the time. Religion leaves no room for human complexity."
While he seems to have lumped all of the world's religions into one general statement, I think we should read this as a qualified statement about the religious experiences that he has personally had. And, I tend to agree in large part with his assessment. There are a lot of folks who state that they have the answers to the world's ills.  Just read the Bible. Just pray. Just trust. Just have faith. Just, just, just. As Daniel so aptly put it, "there's no such thing as 'the answers.'" Life isn't that simple.
When I was young during and part of the Jesus Movement of the early 70's, we had problems with religion, too. We used to say and sing about not having religion, but having relation. It wasn't important what we thought we knew, it was important who we knew. And, that someone for us was the Jesus of Nazareth. I have spent the better part of my life trying to live up to that statement. It's hard, for sure. Being a Christ follower does not give me access to all of the answers to life. If that was true, I'd be God. (It's better for everyone that I'm not.) The Bible does not contain all of the answers to life's complex questions. It's certainly not a users manual for humanity. We are all frail, yet complex beings who try our best to put one foot in front of the other without stepping on someone else's toes.
Radcliffe's position is honest. But, I think incomplete. I would love to sit and listen to him. To hear the voice from his heart-of-hearts. He is a gifted artist. I would love to hear about his take on his giftedness. Not so I could challenge him. But, so I can learn more about the complexity of our humanness in this great cosmos that we call home.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More food for thought...even tho my brain hurts

My doctor told me to avoid thinking because I get a brain cramp every time I try. But, who listens to their doc? Today I read another interesting essay by Derek Flood over at theRebelGod.com. He seems to do a lot of thinking. I bet his brain hurts sometimes, too. But, this particular essay was a critical review of a book titled, Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the essay. At the end of this post I'll provide a link. But, the gist of it was to contrast the Church Fathers' thoughts on Substitutionary Atonement to the later concept of Penal Substitution. For most of us this can be a sticky subject. The Emergent folks, especially, take issue with the idea that an angry God demanded that a bloody sacrifice be made so that the angry God's wrath would be assuaged. So, the only worthy sacrifice turned out to be God's own Son. The long and short of this was that God sacrificed God to Gods-self so that the holy and righteous anger of God would not be poured out on humanity. This is also a sticking point with many who are not Christ followers. I have heard in discussions with some of these folks that they cannot believe in a God who would sacrifice anyone, let alone God's own Son, just because this God was 'pissed off' at humanity.
I've chosen some rather vulgar, or common, ways to describe this because that is how it is viewed by the folks mentioned. And, if I am honest, I tend to agree with them. This has been something that has bothered me for a very long time. It just seemed that the scriptures don't paint a picture of a wrathful, vengeful deity who is basically a cosmic kil-joy just because He can be. It seems capricious and arbitrary to me.
Now, along come Derek Flood. In the essay he points out that the early Fathers, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, et al. held a very different position. For them the importance of Jesus' willing offering of himself was "healing, and the overturning of the dominion of death." This makes much more sense in the context of the Gospels' portrayal of Jesus. It makes more sense in the context of Isaiah's "Suffering Servant", (Is. 52:13-53:12).
I would recommend Flood's essay as a starting point for some good, old-fashioned theological reflection and meditation. It has been helpful to me in dealing with some of the problems I have with reformed, Calvinist theology.
Here is the link for the PDF of Flood's essay: http://therebelgod.com/AtonementFathersEQ.pdf

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our desires and appetites the devil's playground, not idle hands

As I've reflected on some of my experiences in the deserts and wastelands of life, I've noticed something that, at once is both disconcerting and a relief. That thing is that I am mostly responsible for that condition. In a passage that deals with perseverance during trials, James wrote, "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers" (Jas. 1:13-16). Note that it's not the devil who entices. It is our own "evil desire."
You may say, 'Well, duh!' It does seem rather obvious. But, what's not so obvious is the part our enemy may play in the process. Let's take a look the story of someone else. In Genesis 3 the account of the so-called "Fall" is recorded. I'm not going to deal with the doctrine of original sin at this time. Maybe another day. What I do want to point out is the hint of a process that we may find ourselves in. Verse 6 reads, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Note that the woman saw that the "tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye." How she figured it was good for food, I don't know. For anyone who has picked a pleasing mushroom, eaten it, and ended up in the hospital this doesn't make a great deal of sense. Anyway, she also saw that it was desirable for gaining wisdom. Desirable. The serpent, who was "more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made," had focused on the desire of our ancient ancestors. He did not create the desire, but pointed out the pleasing features of the fruit. For anyone who says that this was the first time that the humans had thoughts about this tree, I say, probably not. They were, after all, flesh. Paul had a lot to say about this 'meat tent' we wear. However, as this post goes, I want to look at 1 Cor. 15. In that chapter Paul wrote about the resurrection and the inability of the flesh to be a part of that. Verse 47 has special significance for this discussion. Paul wrote, "The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven." Adam and Eve were of the earth, earthly, flesh and blood...dust. They had the same propensity to feed the appetites and desires of the flesh as you and me. And, feed it they did.
What I see in this whole episode was: 1. A desire in the humans. 2. A temptation that was directly attributed to the existing desire. 3. And, this is most important...the humans owned the temptation as theirs. The serpent did not force anything. But, I've found that the devil's most insidious tactic is to make humans think that feeding the appetites and desires...sinning...is their own idea! And, that the action will be beneficial. How great the craftiness of the enemy of our souls! We do not 'hear' a prompt from an outside source. Something that we would be able to dismiss. The prompting comes from within ourselves so that we are completely deceived.
I'm going to stop here so that these things can be reflected on. I know it sounds confusing, so much double-talk. But, there is freedom here. Freedom to own up to our responsibility for sin. This, in turn, affords us the opportunity to come before Yahweh in sorrow. It allows us to change directions and to be restored. It also provides us with an insight into how temptation and the devil interact. This knowledge may allow us to be better prepared and give us a defensive weapon to use against him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slow day

It's been a slow day here at the old homestead. Usually, something throughout the day jumps at me and I reflect on it and write a quick blurb. Not so much today. I'm still mulling over material for more on the devil made me do it. That's proving to be a fairly large undertaking. I'm not going to do a full-blown scholarly look at it. Mostly, it will be from first-hand experience of meeting this being in my own stroll through the desert. Not a fun time. But, enlightening nonetheless.
Besides, I had to go to the dentist today. I could think of about 200 things I would have rather done. Eating worms comes to mind.
A quick quote from Joyce Huggett in Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines. This is a book that I have found helpful for quiet time devoted to the Savior.
"We meditate to give God's words the opportunity to penetrate, not just our minds, but our emotions - the places where we hurt - and our will - the place where we make choices and decisions. We meditate to encounter the Living Word, Jesus himself. We meditate so that every part of our being, our thoughts and our affections and our ambitions, are turned to face and honour and glorify him. Yet another reason for learning to meditate is so that we may become conversant with the will of God..."
Building the connections is how Brian McLaren puts it. We build connections of communication with the Source of our very lives through meditation and other disciplines. Yes, studying and the academy are important. However, it's more important to have a living, vibrant relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Peace on the streets...

I was going to take today off. It's New Year day and I just felt like taking it easy. I read a story in the newspaper, tho, that got me off of the couch and on to my computer. Actually, my wife handed me the paper so I could read an article about a man in Cleveland, Ohio who is truly making a difference. I'll provide the link at the end of this post.
In a kind of follow-up to my post yesterday, I read about Khalid Samad. He has been a community activist of sorts working to bring peace between rival gangs. As many of us have read and heard through the media, gang violence continues to escalate. For those of us who are not directly affected by this, it can be hard to give a damn. But, for folks like Samad, this is everyday life.
There are some who may read this blog and wonder what a Christ-follower is offering cudos to this person. Well, the issues being addressed are human issues. They are fellow sojourner issues. They are important to God, therefore, important to me. I applaud Samad and others who are willing to put feet to their faith and do something to help others. To Khalid Samad I say "salam alaikum." May the peace of God be with you as you work for the peace of others and the community.