Category: Religion

“There Is Hope For Everybody”

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Prominent Democratic Media Personality, James Carville has been married to Former Republican Political Consultant Mary Matalin since 1993.  Their relationship illustrates the notion that not only may opposites attract, they can also compliment each other. It has been said that if you’re both identical, one is unnecessary. How can two high profile and high powered individuals with such divergent opinions maintain a successful marriage relationship?

In preparing for this post I discovered that Matalin recently left the Republican Party and figured that my premise was dead in the water. I presumed that her fiery husband must have worn her down and converted her to liberalism. That is not the case. Matalin changed her party allegiance from Republican to Libertarian, which seems to be a common transition by several GOP adherents.

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When asked about their unusual relationship in a CBS interview in May of this year, Matalin said that when they fight it is about the air conditioning, sometimes money. She said that her and Carville can both be ferocious fighters and implied that they know better than to engage in political discussions that would almost certainly lead to brutal arguments.

The lesson for all of us is this. When we commit to a marriage relationship with someone we love so deeply that we have promised to endure sickness and health, prosperity and adversity together; it is imperative that we choose to place the relationship above any issue that could be a “hot button” causing damage to the unity to which we are committed.

The unity and love we share in our relationship is of greater value than any issue that we allow to divide us.

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“The Zen Of Jesus”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgI had an interesting thought. How might the teachings of Jesus line up with the teachings of Zen Buddhism? I began to search the Gospels for teachings by Jesus on peace, love, contentment and the avoidance of worry among other topics.

Then I figured that there must be others who have had the same thought so I Googled “The Zen of Jesus”. On the first page alone I found six books available on the subjects of “The Zen Teachings Of Jesus” and “Christian Zen”.

I am not advocating doctrinal synchronization among world religions but I am so confident that Jesus truly is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” that I am compelled to present Him as more approachable to individuals hindered by preconceived notions resulting from the toxic rants delivered by a few of his vociferous followers.

There are countless individuals who are struggling so deeply with the trials and tribulations of this life that they aren’t concerned with theological discussions about the afterlife; like, if there even is one.

Jesus said that He was anointed to…

“Proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”                                           Luke 4:18-19 / Isaiah 61:1

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Anyone who is grieving, disenfranchised, marginalized, depressed, ill, confused, in pain and / or simply wondering why they exist would do well to consider examining and meditating on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Even if one is not searching for salvation or eternal life but simply for some meaning to life and relief from the pain that can be so prevalent in our world, Jesus will meet you where you are. I am confident that one will be surprised and even impressed by encountering Jesus apart from the “trappings” of religion and just might find something even deeper and more wonderful than the existential meaning and relief they are seeking.

“Commandments, Suggestions & Relationships”

2004 vacation 095(I haven’t posted in a few months but the following thought came to mind. After arriving at my conclusion I figured that it is a good subject to post)

God gave us the Ten Commandments as the foundation of the Law (Torah). As people of faith we need to look at the Law through the lens of God’s heart.

Why did God give us the Law? What does God ultimately want? Does He want our obedience or our love and devotion?  He wants both but how should they be prioritized?

Jesus said that the Law, all of the Law and Prophets, were summed up in the Greatest Commandment, which is, from a human perspective, two commandments intertwined as to be unable to be separated.

Mark 12:30-31                                                                                                                                             “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’”

Relationship is the key. God wants us to love Him first and foremost. He does want our obedience but He wants our obedience to be an outflowing of love and devotion to Him rather than an act of self-protection from divine wrath.

The best way for me to illustrate this concept is as follows…

The seventh commandment instructs us to “not commit adultery”. In our household that has never been stated as a house rule or law. (We don’t really have house rules, just an implied code of conduct developed over years of relationship.)  it would however, be a violation of a vow I took over 30 years ago to be a “true and devoted husband, faithful to her and to her only…”

I have never committed adultery, I have never cheated on my wife. Why have I not committed adultery and why will I not do so? Is it because I do not want to face the consequences of breaking that rule? That could be a secondary motivation but the primary reason that I have not nor will I ever commit adultery is because I love my wife. I am madly in love with her and I could not bear to hurt her, break her heart or betray her.

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While the consequences of such an act would be devastating to me that devastation on my part would be warranted but the pain that my wife would endure would be incomprehensible and I could never recover from knowing that I had inflicted such an atrocity on someone so special and so important to me.

My reason for obeying the no adultery rule or not because it would be a violation of law but because I would be hurting someone I love deeply. Our relationship would at best be damaged and at worst, destroyed.

God wants us to get to know Him on such a level that our adherence to His commands are motivated by love for Him, not of simply doing good.

“Black And White In A Gray World”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2In the 1980’s Christian singer, Leslie Phillips sang “Black and White In A Gray World” describing the challenge of living with a distinction between right and wrong in a world that is becoming increasingly ambivalent regarding good and evil.

I do not advocate a gray world but we should acknowledge that there can be different shades of both black and white.

What do most Christians really know about Islam? We are quick to point out verses from the Qur’an calling for violence against “infidels”. I acknowledge the existence of such verses but can we really judge the entire religion and its practitioners based on these hand-selected passages?

Have we forgotten the murders of abortion doctors, the bombings of abortion clinics (Granted these have largely declined in recent years) and beatings of homosexuals all in the name of God?

How do we respond when a new skirmish in the Scripture Wars erupts with…

“’Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”  1 Samuel 15:3

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

As Christians, we understand the contextual application of such verses but it is difficult to generate a solid position regarding handpicked verses in the Qur’an when we see how our own Scriptures are misquoted, misused or simply taken out of context. It would serve us well to recognize that all religions have their own “Westboro Baptist Churches”.

The Muslims I know personally are devout and they are kind, peaceful, friendly and often exhibit a warm and welcome sense of humor. They choose to live in the United States because they want to peacefully practice their religion in a nation where all religions are free to worship according to the dictates of their particular creeds and scriptures. They are fully accepting of me as a Christian and respect my devotion to Christ. I am quite certain that they don’t believe that I will go to paradise upon my demise but they are supportive of my devotion to my faith and to my Savior. I can accept that. I don’t have to affirm heaven as their eternal destiny in order to respect them as people created by God, loved by God and worthy of respect.

Should we be any different in our treatment of the practice of other religious observers when there is no violation the laws of our land?

I am not naive – ISIS and Al Qaeda among others have clearly revealed a clear and present danger but doesn’t mean that we should paint all Muslims with the same brush.  We are to consider them individually through the lens of God’s love.  We need to follow Jesus’ council to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.

“Silence of the Lamb” (Jesus’ Restraint)

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”   Isaiah 53:7

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2The arguments over such hot button issues as atheism vs. deism, same sex marriage, and the theological differences between various religious groups are increasing. The battle of the Scripture wars would be amusing were it not so heartbreaking. With regard to our position as evangelicals, do we honestly think that there is anyone left who has not heard the Biblical remarks regarding homosexual activity? Members of the LGBTQ community quote scripture with the same deftness as evangelicals. They are well aware and are not frightened by the threat of hell or judgment. The only response is a rejection of the acerbic condemnation that they believe is being rendered toward them. They sense no concern for our opinions regarding their eternal or earthly well-being.

Here is the rub. LGBTQ advocates, if evangelicals treat you with love, respect and dignity even while they hold to their deeply held convictions of marriage being intended to be between a man and a woman, can you also treat them with love, respect and dignity? If we can draw together on the common ground of finding happiness in this life and for serving our communities can you join together in that?

There were times when Jesus demonstrated His wrath such as the account of His overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple courts. He also spoke harshly to only one segment of society; the religious leaders of His day. Those whom He viewed as the “regular” members of the community He treated with honesty, respect and most of all, love. There are also a few instances when Jesus remained silent. Permit me to look at two.

First, when Herod asked Jesus to authenticate his claim through the performance of miracles Jesus remained silent because He knew that Herod only wanted to see an illustration of the hype he had heard about Jesus as well as to goad Him into a senseless quarrel but Herod was not sincerely seeking to known Him.

Next, when Jesus was hanging on the cross between the two thieves one sarcastically and desperately challenged Jesus to rescue them all. Another confessed his crimes, accepted his fate and acknowledged the innocence of Jesus. To the second thief, Jesus promised paradise. To the first, He remained silent.

It might be wise to employ this practice toward those who challenge our faith and sincerely held belief. There seems to be no gain in engaging militant atheists, members of other religions or any segment of society that continually fires provocative salvos at God and His people.

Perhaps we can honor Jesus more by not being dragged into pointless quarrels and arguments. Maybe we would better represent Him by engaging only in constructive and edifying dialogues. When we are asked sincere questions we need to answer with respect, dignity and love. When we are being taunted and accused, silence just might be the holiest response.

“Love Is Saying ‘I’m Sorry’: The New ‘Apologetics’”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2Theologians, religious scholars and most Bible students understand the definition of the word apologetics to mean a defense the Bible. Specifically, apologetics is defined as “A reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine”. However, there appears to be a new form of apologetics emerging throughout Christendom that is bringing both joy and irritation among Christians. That is the apologetics of apologizing. I would like to look at two instances of this “new” practice.

First, on June 21st several Christians attended Chicago’s Pride parade bearing signs with a message of apology for the mean-spirited treatment that the church has laid upon the LGBTQ community for, well for a very long time.

The position of Christians opposed to the practice of homosexuality based on Biblical prohibitions has resulted in bitter attacks rather than the initiation of respectful dialogue. The result is the sense of need for these apologies, among others.

Second, Pope Francis recently spoke before an audience of several thousand in Bolivia where he apologized for the church’s support of the mistreatment of indigenous people during the European conquest of the Western Hemisphere.

“The Pontiff apologized for the ‘many grave sins’ committed by Christians against indigenous peoples in South America during the colonization of the continent by Spain several centuries ago.

In a speech largely dedicated to decrying a ‘new colonialism,’ in which corporations and banks take the place of colonizing nation-states, the Pope acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church’s history is not entirely free from transgression.

‘I say this to you with regret,’ Francis said during a speech to grassroots movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.’

As the Pope noted, his predecessors, including St. John Paul II, had acknowledged the church’s soiled history in South America.

‘I humbly ask forgiveness,’ Francis added, ‘not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.'”

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What I find encouraging is the sense of humility developing from within the Kingdom of God.  Our dedication to truth placed us in a self-imposed position of fear of admitting that we might be wrong about some things from time to time. God is perfect, holy and just but we are not. Understanding the fullness of God, his Word and His will is an undertaking that requires more than a single lifetime to achieve.