The Core of Christianity…

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IS GOD REAL? HAVE YOU “TASTED” HIM?

cross_saltI sift through a good deal of material that is skeptical, cynical, or outright hostile to any idea of the Judeo-Christian God.  I am not doing this to pick a fight or judge people, but rather to find legitimate questions and obstacles in connecting with such an entity.

 

I’ve found that all negative sentiments fall into a broad scope of trends.  I’m sure my list isn’t exhaustive, but here are four reasons for non-belief, in an order of degree:

  1. There are those who simply wish to be irreverent.
  2. There are those who feel God will cost them too much.
  3. There are those that are confused or come to dubious conclusions, because they don’t understand what Scripture is actually saying.
  4. There are those who feel a great distance from God for one reason or another.

 

I fail to mention science or intellectualism because; the same tools can be used to argue the case for God with equal effect.  So getting back to these four trends…

 

In post-modern culture, irreverence is cool.  That is unfortunate and not much can be done until it is seen for the foolishness it is.

 

Reason two is logical in its own way.  If there is a being above us who is superior in every way; morally, intellectually, and authoritatively, then it will cost us.  It means we’ll have to abdicate the throne as kings and queens of fate.  We can no longer dictate what’s right or true as it suits us.  We can no longer do whatever we want without restriction or consequence.  (Not that we ever really could!)  That might be the cost of embracing the truth.

 

Our culture is in the twilight of Biblical understanding.  What that means is; most of us only know enough Bible to be dangerous.  Combine that with our irreverence and obsession to vent over the internet, and you have the perfect storm of woefully misguided opinions.

 

Of all the reasons for doubting God, the last is the most genuine.  The ultimate reason we doubt God is that we feel so far from Him.  For many, we feel so distant that He is nowhere in sight.  Why should we believe in someone we have never experienced?

 

The Bible offers an amazing little word that is the only solid answer. King David used this little word when he wrote, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

 

What does David mean?  How does one “taste” God?  The word can, of course, mean to literally taste; but it also means to experience something in the most real and profound way.  Across two major languages and thousands of years, the word “taste” is repeatedly used in the Bible as a metaphor for experiencing God.

 

So the next question becomes; how does one experience God?  In Psalm 34, David uses the terms “all times” and “continually.”  Whatever it is we do, it has to be consistent or it simply won’t work.

 

He uses action words on our part like “bless”, “praise”, “fear”, and “seek.”  The commonality to all these words is a sense of deep humility.  We are free to be irreverent or glib, but don’t expect God to respond.  Even if it is only exploring the possibility, it is fruitless to seek God without a profound sense of humility; God is God, you are not!

 

In both the Old and New Testament we are told; the number one rule for encountering God is to seek Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  (Deut. 6:5, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matt. 22:37)  It is only then God promises we will find Him.

 

We are free to be irreverent or settle for misinformed conclusions.  But to do so is to cut ourselves off from even the possibility of encountering God.

 

The only potent affirmation of God lies in personally experiencing Him, and the Bible makes it clear that, that involves a very particular type of seeking.

 

So before you swallow any conclusions about the Judeo-Christian God; be sure to “taste.”  God’s own promise is; you won’t be disappointed.   …Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.

Be Transformed, Not a “ROAD PIZZA”!

racoon_roadHave you noticed?  When the weather starts getting cooler, animal activity goes up.  I guess it’s that last flurry of preparation before the weather gets really cold.  Unfortunately, the car fatalities go up along with it.

 

Driving home recently, I came across a family of raccoons.  One darted across the road, one slid away into the nearest ditch, but the third… you guessed it… did that “I’m not sure and I’m going to surprise you” maneuver.  You know, that move for which squirrels are absolute masters.  -A turn to the left, a fake to the right, and then go for it, darting back to the left and directly under a wheel of your car.  It’s not long before subsequent vehicles conform that little body to the shape of the pavement; just a fuzzy flat disc.

 

It’s not that the little fur balls are suicidal, in fact that natural instinct is what has allowed them to survive natural predators for generations.  But road vehicles are not natural predators; and therein lies the spiritual illustration.  There are times we must rise above our natural instincts to live.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1Corinthians 2:14

 

To be “spiritually discerning” means you follow a moral guide that sits higher and sees further down the road than our natural impulses in the day-to-day physical world. To set a course wisely through this life and the after-life requires more than natural instinct.  It involves more than reacting to the immediate circumstances.  We see the headlights of life’s challenges barreling down on us; if we succumb to a natural jerk-reaction, we are very likely to choose the wrong direction and end up under the wheels of misfortune.

 

It seems so straight-forward; if we could put across the concept of cars and roads to the squirrels and raccoons, there would be far fewer mashed into the pavement.  If they just rose above their natural impulses and got directly off the road, they’d avoid needless tragedy.

 

For millennia, God has been trying to share similar advice with us.  …So many of us are mashed by wrong turns in life; by bad choices made in confusion or impulses of the moment.  We feel mashed into the pavement, wondering how we got there.  A major message of Scripture is simply; there are times we have to do more than the “natural thing.”  We need to rise above our “natural” selves.  Romans 12: 2 encourages us to be transformed in mind, that way we can avoid the tragic process of being conformed to the “pavement.”  How can we transform?  That is what Christ is all about; and that, mind friend, is certainly food for thought.

OCTOBER

octoberWriting little articles like this gives one an interesting perspective on time; for example, this article is for that block of time we call “October.”  By the time October’s is past, we will have gone from T-shirt to sweater weather.  The leaves that are green now, will have turned to a myriad of colors.

 

I began wondering; what kinds of things have happened throughout history in October?  My research revealed a cornucopia of good and bad.  There are events we’d rather forget and achievements we can’t imagine our world without.  For example, here is short tour of Octobers through history.

Good stuff-

1908- Henry Ford releases the first Model T and a car for the masses is born.

1969- The precursor to the internet is tested in California between two computers

1979- Mother Teresa is given the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor.

1985- Nintendo releases the first video games in North America

2001- Apple releases the first iPod.

Bad stuff-

1929- The stock market crash of “Black Tuesday” ushers in the Great Depression.

1933- A united Airlines Boeing 247 crashes in Indiana.  It is the first proven case of sabotage on a commercial airline in history.

1957- First American casualties in Viet Nam; 13 wounded in terrorist attacks

And a few profoundly spiritual landmarks-

1517- Priest and scholar Martin Luther nails his 95 revolutionary statements to the door of the castle-church in Wittenberg, Germany

1917- In Fatima, Portugal, from 30,000 to 100,000 people witness “O Milagre do Sol.” Visions of God are reported, emanating from the sun in a hue of strange colors.

 

Octobers are just a snapshot of life with so much good and bad all mixed together.  Albert Einstein once said; “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

 

Like the glass half full, both approaches to life can fit your reality.  But the thing is; our approach also shapes our reality.  The dictionary defines miracles as “A surprising and welcome event… considered to be divine.”  I sincerely believe, a world devoid of miracles is too dreary a place to live, and is in fact; not a complete picture of reality at all.

 

So, here’s a challenge for you; for this month, live like the “divine” is real… and look for the miracles.  –You will be surprised at what you discover.

~Anyway, it’s certainly food for thought.

TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS

Transgen
Transgender Bathrooms

Well… it is certainly a new “freedom”!  I don’t want to be flippant or “churchy”, but allow me to propose a certain line of thinking that involves a deeper meaning of “sin.”

It has been said that the root of all sin is self.  If you are familiar with the classic “seven deadly sins” (pride, greed, lust, wrath, envy, gluttony, sloth) you see the common root is an obsession with self.  In their manifestations in our day, like adultery, human trafficking, shoplifting, terrorism, or even road rage; it is all about self no matter the cost.

Even as “sin” revolves around indulging self, it ultimately imprisons self.  Consider the alcoholic or chain smoker; they are free to indulge as much as they like, but they are not so free to quit.  Consider the habitual liar, they get out of a lot of scrapes, but eventually all that lying isolates them.

That’s perhaps the greatest irony of sin; isolation.    For all the indulgence of self, the nature of sin ultimately isolates one’s self from one’s self.  Swallowing a lie about self is at the root of sin.  Sin erodes the concept of who you are, who you are supposed to be, or if you have a purpose at all!

So how does that little theological reflection fit into an article on “Transgender Bathrooms”? Well let me quote a passage that is possibly “illegal” in our current state of political correctness:

Romans 1:23-27   Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator… For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another.

At first glance, it may seem this is a warning on gender confusion, but that is really just consequential.  The passage is first and foremost, about the tragedy of an entire society exchanging truth for a lie, living unreality as if it were reality.

There are few things more fundamental to one’s self identity than gender.  Post-modern thinking views everything as relative.  If we can convince ourselves that all of reality is relative, right down to our gender, it becomes impossible to know the reality of anything, even one’s self.  There is no real self!  You can’t even look in a mirror and see your self.  It doesn’t matter what physical features meet the eye, gender is an illusion.  It is a preference.  Should your feelings change, so does your gender; so does a fundamental feature of your identity.

The idea of transgender bathrooms is born from that very concept.  It forces ALL of us to live by that concept.  Every time you enter a public bathroom, you are not male or female, you are just somewhere along a line of subjective preference.  It is not just those who embrace such a worldview; the law of the land is telling YOU that you are not in reality, male or female.  No one is; that’s why it is a law for PUBLIC bathrooms.  …Don’t even believe your eyes.

We used to have a term for it, when people “lost touch with reality,” it was called “insanity.”  And that is a good working definition of “sin”; it is spiritual insanity, which leads to intellectual insanity, that ultimately leads to death; even the death of self.

So am I saying that transgender bathrooms are “sinful”?  -Tragically misguided, but really not the big issue.

What I am saying is; when you witness social trends where the human being is eroded; in dignity or identity, you are experiencing what sin is really all about.  You are living the book of Romans.   Transgender bathrooms are simply one more milestone in that direction.

Are they a wonderful new civil liberty?  -A new “freedom”, to be sure.  But what good is it if we gain a whole world of “freedoms” and lose our very selves?  It’s not really about bathrooms, or even gender; it’s about exchanging the truth for a lie and slowly fading away in the aftermath.  That’s what concerns me.  Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.

WHAT WAS AMERICA’S “FIRST LOVE”?

Flag_AmericanThere is a lot of revisionism going on about where this nation came from.  For example, Bishop Paul O’Brien of the Universal Life Church claims:

The United States was started by men we today would call pagans.  They wrote a constitution without one word about God or Jesus in it.  And in the amendments they said there should be no laws respecting the establishment of religion.  This too is excluding God…Jefferson, Madison, Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Pain, Patrick Henry and most of our Found Fathers were deists.

Keep in mind, that the Universalists have a particular meaning for “deist”; in their words, “If there were a God who made the world, he is beyond some star and cares nothing about what mankind does.”

If the founders of this nation were “pagans”, then that’s what they were!  The question here is; is that actually true?  The wisest way to know is to review these men in their own words, so here we go:

John Adams, 1776:    Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.

George Washington, 1796:    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…”

Benjamin Rush, 1798:    The only foundation for…a republic is to be laid in religion.  Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.

Patrick Henry, 1799:    The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion.  This is the armor…and this alone, that renders us invincible.

Two great themes glimmer like a golden thread throughout all their thinking:

  1. The democratic society the founders envisioned, had to be founded on religion and morality.
  2. Religion and morality were absolutely necessary if there was any expectation of liberty and freedom.

Benjamin Franklin said this was for a very straight-forward reason:    Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

When these founding fathers talked of “religion” what exactly did they mean?  The Frenchman, Alexis De Tocqueville was fascinated by the rise of what he called, “the great American experiment.”  In 1835 his impression was this:

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.

So here’s the math: “Christianity” = “Religion”; “Religion” = “Freedom.”  Therefore; “No Christianity” = “No Freedom”

The intelligentsia of the day believed so completely in this that they warned of a future without it.  A leading lawyer of the day, Daniel Webster stated:

To preserve the government we must also preserve morals.  Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall.  When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.

That’s strong language!  If the nation should lose its link to God, the Constitution wouldn’t be worth toilet paper!

In their words, the first love of America was Christ.  Not that the church should rule the government, but that Christ should so permeate our collective mindset, that in effect, Christ ruled the nation.  And should this fail to be; there would quite literally, be hell to pay.  It makes me think of a warning from the Book of Revelation that goes like this:

Revelation 2: 1-7

“…I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. …Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.  … He who has an ear, let him hear…

It makes me wonder; in a time of revisionism and lies; in a cultural climate that would horrify our forefathers; how many people are left who even have “an ear to hear”?  I hope they hear and speak out soon! …Anyway, it is certainly food for thought!