Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Experience and Tradition

I was asked to respond to the following:

Although it can be tough at times, I prefer experiential knowledge. Pioneering. Everytime we copy something it dilutes its originality. In regards to religion as well, yes it's important to pass it on, but the more experiential knowledge you have the more potent you are. To seek things out for yourself instead of repeating what you heard or were told. Look at the value of an original painting, being authentic and genuine has weight. Searching for your own truth in the things that interest you is well worth it. You will not have an empty knowledge but a robust understanding in which can inspire or help others or simply satisfy you inside. For reference please use the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and the verse Matthew 16:17.

Here is my response:

Without the knowledge of those who have passed on, then knowledge can never be built. Without the knowledge of the ancients until 1969, no one could have put a man on the moon. It wasn't NASA that put a man on the moon, but all of humanity up until that time. Even so, if we want a deeper relationship with God, we need not depend on our own. Why should repeat the mistakes of Abraham and David? They made the mistakes so that we do not need to. Why should we be stuck with the spirituality of ancient pagans? We have learned so much more.

Finally, you referenced tradition in order to buck tradition-- Siddhartha and Matthew. Make up your mind-- are you about 100 percent experience? Then why reference tradition? Instead, admit that all we are is part tradition and part experience-- our everyday life and our spirituality. The important part is that we are personally choosing how to interpret our experience and the traditions we received. That is what makes it our own.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What's the Problem?

Obama is not the problem.
Corporations are not the problem.
Government is not the problem.
The Republicans are not the problem.
The Occupy movement isn't the problem.
The Tea Party isn't the problem.

Homosexuals aren't the problem.
Fundamentalists aren't the problem.
Muslims aren't the problem.
Politicians aren't the problem.

Us caring more about ourselves than those in need is the problem.
Us expecting anyone other than ourselves to sacrifice is the problem.
Our greed and materialism, hatred and anger is the problem.

Jesus' love is the solution.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I Am Not A Part of Occupy Anything

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I thought it was pretty cool.  It was encouraging  public awareness of a great discrepency.  The numbers weren't totally right, but 5 percent of all Americans own about 2/3 of all the wealth in the U.S., so the principle was correct.  "I am the 99%" is a catchy slogan.  And it talked about real people's real lacks and how the system ultimately wasn't working.   I am for all that.  Creating awareness is great.

But as it went on, I became more uncomfortable with the movement.  It wasn't the internationallity of it.  That was fine.  It wasn't the protest nature of it-- I personally don't like participating in such protests, but I don't have problems of others protesting.  And massive protests can do some good.

Ultimately, my discomfort was the fact that it was just a huge blame game.  The purpose seemed to say that the 1 percent (which is really five percent) are bad people and "something should be done".  That "something" seemed to be blocking city streets and generally making a nuisance of oneself.   Again, I don't have a problem with protests or inconveniencing a few in order to benefit many more.  But the movement seemed to emphasize the negative, while not really unifying behind a positive action.

In the end, the protesters were excellent at attacking.  Of course, there's a lot of people we could blame.  The banks, corporations in general,  CEOs in particular, the government-- whichever branch you like, consumerism society, political parties, and on and on.  Lets face it, our society is broken.  The Occupy folks, just like the Tea Partiers before them, makes that clear.

But at least the Tea Partiers had a positive message-- "let's vote in the right people with the right values" seemed to be their main message.  That had a positive impact.  Perhaps many people don't like who was voted in, and perhaps the values didn't always make practical sense, but the movement did have an impact, an action.

The Occupy folks just seemed like a lot of whiners, really.  It seemed to boil down to rich people are bad and the government is bad for supporting the rich people and the cities are bad for trying to stop the Occupy people from possession public parks and streets.  In the end, everyone is bad.  It's all bad.

But if you want to make change, you don't tell people how bad they are, even if they are bad.  Instead, you show how they could do something more positive than they currently are.  I would have joined the protests if they would have recommended to the 1% (who is the 5%) that they create more jobs.  With health insurance. For the people who really need jobs now.  These guys have the wealth to create jobs, they just aren't working on it.  Why aren't they?  But more than that, why aren't the protesters speaking something positive into the arena?

I am not opposed to the Occupy folks.  In my heart of hearts, I agree with them.  But I hope that this movement can actively do something positive with their energy.  They lived on the street-- can they help the people who are stuck there permanently?  They caught the world's attention-- can they use that media outlet to bring positive change?  I hope and pray that they will.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

"Persecution" in Nigeria

In the last decade, there have been more than ten thousand deaths related to riots and slayings of a religious nature. Many of these have been Muslims killing Christians, as we have seen in many articles posted in the West.  The headlines are clear: "500 Christans killed by Muslims in Nigeria" or today's headline: "Muslim Radicals Kill 150 in Nigeria, Goal Sharia"

What these headlines completely neglect is that Christians are also killing Muslims in Nigeria.  This isn't a one-sided attack from one religious group to another.  This is what we call war.

To label this as "persecution of Christians" is misguided.  Yes, innocents are being killed, as they do in all wars. And this is a crime against all humanity.  But innocents of both Muslim and Christian beliefs are being killed by both Muslims and Christians.  And it is both the Muslims who are trying to control the law and Christians, in opposition to their religious and political enemies.

This isn't persecution, it is prejudice.  It is two sides refusing to listen to each other.

And worst, this is a large population, calling themselves "Christian" yet being very un-Christlike.  We need to pray for these Christians.  Not that they escape persecution, but that they learn to love their enemies.

Schleitheim, "Christians Killing Muslims"
Religious News Summary, Crosswalk, Nov. 9, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

What To Do With False Prophets?

From Religion Today Summaries:
Family Radio Stations, Inc., founder and chairman Harold Camping said he was wrong to predict Christ's return and confessed that, after decades of misleading his followers, he regrets his misdeeds, the Christian Post reports. Camping, 90, who falsely predicted the world would end Sept. 6, 1994, then May 21, 2011, then finally on Oct. 21, 2011, also said he was wrong to say that God had stopped saving people after May 21. Since 1992, Camping has claimed that he had discovered a special numerical system in the Bible that allowed him to calculate the exact dates of biblical events such as the flood, the crucifixion and the day of Jesus' return to earth. When Camping's final doomsday prediction failed to happen, Family Radio removed its teachings regarding both the purported May 21 and Oct. 21 rapture dates. According to a member of Camping's staff, he is no longer able to lead Family Radio or his ministry.

In an analysis of the NT, it spends a lot of time talking about false teachers.  What they act like, what their false teachings are and how they approach "ministry".  Some main passages include Matthew 7, Matthew 23, II Peter 2 and Revelation 2.

But what the NT doesn't say, with any of the detail we would appreciate, is how to deal with false prophets.  The Hebrew Scriptures are clear: stone them or curse them (Deuteronomy and Jeremiah).  Clear cut answers to a serious problem.

But in the NT, the issue isn't so clear.  If you've got a false prophet, you discern the truth and you don't let them teach, sure.  But what else do you do?  Do you kick them out of the church? Publicly rebuke them?  The NT doesn't say.

In fact, the only thing that is clear is that Jesus will be judging the false prophet Himself (see the letter to Thyratia in Revelation 2 and the end of Matthew 7).  And this judgment is extremely harsh.  But shouldn't the church get more involved, more than just not letting the person teach?

Not necessarily.  And this is because Jesus is just as concerned about the false prophet as He is about the rest of His followers.  He doesn't want to lose even a person who taught lies in His name.  Jesus has not come to judge the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.  This doesn't mean that He doesn't judge... but the church should always be ready to catch a fallen disciple.

We need to be clear about what is true and what is false.  But let's always be there to accept the fallen, to forgive them, to love them, even when they hurt the church.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dawning of the Age of the Heterdox

A post on the Inter-Faith/denomination Forum on Facebook by John Brandkamp:

An interesting issue that keeps coming up here is the concept of what is "orthodoxy" and who gets to define that. In certain respects I'm quite "orthodox" (within the Evangelical Protestant tradition) and yet in other areas I'm quite off the beaten path. It seems to be a movable feast to say the least. And it seems to be as true in other traditions as well. Are we left with a cacophony of theological noise and nothing else?

My (lengthened) response:

Conveniently, there's a term called "heterodox": those of us who are generally orthodox or at least accepted by the church but have some points of view that disagrees with generally accepted theology. I wonder if this age of the Christian church is the "heterodox" age.

While there is not the multiplications of denominations, as there was in the Reformation era (circa 1530), but there are certainly the multiplications of beliefs.  Just within the evangelical movement, one of the more conceptually restrictive movements, there are a variety of political ideas and belief systems.  Both Jim Wallis and Pat Robertson can call themselves "evangelical", but they certainly agree on very little.

This is more so in other denominations and religious groups.  For the most part, we have all had to learn how to get along with people we strongly disagree with, people who hold radically different beliefs than ourselves.  What is "orthodox" is being shrunk to some very basic beliefs, that seem to matter less in our everyday lives.

On the one hand, this is good.  We need to learn to rub elbows with, and not judge, those who see life differently.  This is why God established marriage as He did.  We become one with a person who cannot think "right".  Yet we need to learn to live with that person, to care for that person, to support even some of their "wrong" decisions.  To have the church at large do this can be constructive.

On the other hand, it could undermine the whole idea of orthodoxy and lead us to a concept of relative truth.  We need to determine what is really, basically true, and stick with that.  For me, there is one basic truth-- Jesus is Lord.  There are some basics that come from that one belief, but there's also a lot that I hold dear that can be disagreed with by good followers of Jesus.  

The key to heterodoxy is to have that balance of accepting diversity and defending basic truths.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prayer Against Temptation

Lord Jesus, send the clarity of your light into my mind
and expel all darkness from my heart
Fight strongly for me
and drive away the temptations
that rage like wild beasts within me.
Then my conscience will be at peace,
and the praise of your name
will sound within the temple of my soul.
Command the winds and storms of pride to be still
and the sea of covetousness to be at rest.
Subdue the north wind of the devil's temptation
Then there will be a great calm within me.
                       -Thomas a Kempis

Cotton Patch Version

Clarence Jordan wrote a version of the New Testament called The Cotton Patch Translation.  It truly was a translation, he had studied the Greek and made out the meaning as best as he could, and then he translated this understanding to apply to the language and geography of his mid-20th century Southern United States.  What comes out is spiritual and humorous and deeply compassionate.

Here are a couple examples:

“So then, with what shall I compare the people of this day, and what are they like?  I know, they are like children playing in the streets, and shouting to each other, ‘We put on some jazz, but you wouldn’t dance ; so we put on funeral music, but you wouldn’t go into mourning.’  For John the Baptizer offered you a harsh, rugged life and you say, ‘This guy is nuts.’  I, the son of man, offer you laughter and joy and you say, ‘Look at that man, a gadfly and a jitterbug, a friend of Yankees and a nigger-lover.’ So if intelligence can be judged  by all that it produces, well—! “

“The officers did a lot of other remarkable and wonderful things among the people.  They were meeting together at Grant Park, and while nobody was brave enough to join them, folks did speak mighty highly of them.  But increasingly quite a group of both men and woman put their faith in the Lord and were enrolled.  Besides, the sick were carried into the streets and put on cots and stretchers so that even Rock’s shadow might fall on them as he passed.  Also, crowds from towns all around Atlanta flocked in, bringing those sick in body and mind and they were all healed

“But the mayor and the city council, who were members of the Conservative Party, blew their top. They arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail.  But that night an angel of the Lord opened the jailhouse doors, led them outside and said, ‘Go, stand on the courthouse steps and explain to the people all the matters concerning this kind of life.’  They listened carefully and at the crack of day they went to the courthouse steps and started teaching.  Now the mayor and his assistants called a meeting of the Council and all the prominent white citizens and sent to fetch the apostles.  But when the fuzzes got to the clink, they didn’t find the apostles in it.  They went back and reported: ‘We found the jailhouse locked according to regulations and the guards were on duty, but when we opened up and went inside we didn’t find a soul.’  When the police chief and the Council heard this, they tried to figure out what the hell had happened.  About that time somebody came bursting in and shouted, ‘Hey, those joes you put in the jug are standing on the courthouse steps preaching to the people.’  Then the chief and his fuzzes went out and got them without using brutality, because they were scared the crowd might throw bottles at them.  They led them in and stood them before the Council.  The mayor tore into them and said, ‘We warned you in no uncertain terms not to spread the ideas of that fellow.  And now look, you’ve agitated all of Atlanta with your ideas and are trying to pin that guy’s lynching on us!’

“Rock and the other officers replied, ‘It’s our duty to obey God rather than humans.  Our ancestors’ God raised Jesus whom you mobbed and strung up on a tree.  God promoted him to be his number on Leader and Deliverer, to bring to white folks a change of heart and a way out of their sins. And all ofus are evidence of this statement, as indeed the Holy Spirit which God give to those who are controlled by him.’

“At this the city fathers blew a gasket and wanted to kill them on the spot.  But a Baptist by the name of Gamaliel, a Sunday school teacher with a good reputation in the community, got up in the Council and ordered the apostles to be put outside for a little while.  Then he said, ‘My fellow citizens, be extremely careful in your actions against these men… I’d advise you to keep your hands off of them and let them be.  If this plan or program of theirs is a purely human scheme it will blow itself out.  But if it’s God’s thing, you can’t put a stop to it without declaring yourself at war against God.’  That made sense to them, so they called in the apostles, beat them up, warned them not to talk about Jesus anymore, and turned them loose.  The apostles then left the Council meeting, happy that they were counted worthy to be disgraced for the Name.  Every day, both on the courthouse steps and from door to door, they never quit teaching and preaching that Jesus is Lord. “

Thursday, September 29, 2011

High on God

A quote I read on the Alethia forum found here: (I don't know who it is by, sorry)

Ever since I first became a believer, I have had a constant addiction to the presence of God. I do not know of any other way to live the Christian life, apart from a loving compulsion to continuously be near this God of gladness. One of the primary things the Lord showed us years ago was that intoxication on Him is the very essence of “first love.” God is not interested in your dispassionate praise or disinterested service. He is going for the depths of your heart strings. The thing that intoxicates you to the core is the very thing you worship. There is a deep, inner craving that draws us outside ourselves and into the realms of divine ecstasy. This is our inheritance as children and lovers of God. The only kind of love that will lay down its life is a love that has transcended life itself.

Heaven should be the prevailing norm. Ecstatic trances may seem strange or unusual to the natural mind, but they are the ordinary effect of Heaven’s joy poured out on the average believer. Wherever the church has failed to set the standard in this regard, the enemy is ready to offer a cheap counterfeit.

Everyone is created for love’s delirium, and this is why drug addiction is such a major draw not only for our youth, but in every sector of society today. Mind-altering drugs, like many occultist religious practices, do induce trance-like states. But these are illegal means of channeling spiritual activity, and they open adherents up to demonic influence. Pharmaceutical means to altered states of consciousness are direct counterfeits to the ordinary state of bliss humankind should experience in Christ. Adam was created to walk in bliss with God in Eden. Humanity was not created for depression, toil and the curse of a fallen world. People unknowingly pursue drugs and alcohol to recapture this lost sense of the presence of God that man remembers from the garden. As we know, these addictions only provide a fleeting, momentary sensation that is followed by devastation to health and homes, ending in broken families, poverty, suicide and destruction for future generations.

Even the temporary pleasure offered by drugs is shallow and utterly incomparable to the surpassing ecstasies of the Living God! Only believers have access to the purest stash of open Heaven delights. Though they do not realize it, drug addicts are trying to find this pleasure for which they were created. But most believers are also clueless to the infinite kilos of ecstasy available in their own bellies!

My response is below:

I have never felt that "spiritual high" and I don't really want it. I'm not refusing it, I'm just not seeking it, as it is not a need of mine.

The human experience is varied, and what different people want or need to be "complete" is different. Some need a "high" to feel joy or think that joy is defined by a "high". But I think that the "joy in the presence of the Lord" is the same as taking joy in any other person. It is a pleasure to be with them and you seek their company because they make you feel good. This isn't a "high", but a practical joy. If I can be content with my life, that is sufficient, given the promise of suffering that Jesus said we would have. Highs and lows just make me dizzy. Rather, I seek peace and contentment with whatever comes my way, in the presence of God or in the shame of incrimination. And so I was made for a life of service and creating peace within drama. That's just how I roll.

I think a "high" is a good part of life and I have no qualms with it. To display such a high in the Lord shows the world that we can party in a different way and experience the highs and lows of life. Some must have that experience. But it is necessary that not everyone pursue such experiences. We need people to build, to administrate, to think sensibly, to maintain a vision for years (even decades), all of which are difficult to do while seeking the next "God-fix".

This is why God gave us different gifts and experiencing the "high" of God is simply a gift. It is one I don't need. If God decides otherwise, that's fine. But I remember the experience of Mother Teresa, who experiences the presence of God fully when she was young. But once she began her life work in Calcutta she never felt it again (until now, I am certain). She needed to be focusing on others, administrating and building, instead of seeking her high.

There is a season for everything. And the great thing is that this life is just one season. We have plenty of time to experience that which we haven't in eternity.

You can read more:http://aletheia.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=mystical&thread=3483&page=1#ixzz1ZM7XFETA

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Note To Fanatics (like me)

I don't think I would have cared for the twenty seven year old myself. 

I'm visiting family in Pennsylvania and I remember some of the things I said and did my first visit here and I decided I was a jerk.  Oh, I was a jerk for all the "right" reasons.  Heck, I had almost all the same values I have now.  But I had no experience in actually being a radical Christian.

Red letter Christians have just as much possibility to be a jerk as other people, especially in the fanatical variety.  Whenever one is a fanatic of any type (whether Christian or atheist, liberal or conservative, for peace or for war) the greatest danger is the refusal to allow others to live as they are going to live.  Fanatics just can't see why anyone would have a different point of view.  "If you hold to these presuppositions, then you must come to this conclusion."  And so you expect that if anyone else belongs to your general group (Christian or Republican or peacemonger or skeptic or whatever) then everyone in that group should be the same type of ideology you are because that is simply logical.

We need to realize, fanatics are the way we are because we hold to a rare or unique point of view.  Others won't hold to our point of view. We have the right to hold our point of view, but we cannot insist that others must convert to our logic.  There are plenty of people who come to different conclusions and just because we hold one point of view, it doesn't mean anyone else must.  We all are given the freedom of choice, and we must accept others' freedom to make different choices.  Maybe right, maybe wrong, but we are all responsible to ourselves and our gods to follow consistently our own ideology. 

Also, just because we have followed a certain line of logic, it doesn't mean that it is better than other people's point of view.  I can show that a Christian shouldn't support war.  But if I insist on this point of view for all Christians, I am missing the fact that there are a lot of different kinds of Christians and, in the whole realm of Christendom, I am in the minority in my presuppositions as to what makes the best kind of Christianity.  Thus, others can be perfectly good Christians and hold to a different point of view.

I didn't see this when I was twenty seven.  I hope that I'm more accepting to different points of view, or at least more ready to allow God do the judging and not me. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ian's Syllogism

Nothing is greater than infinity.

Infinity is greater than one.

Therefore, 0 > 1.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Are Christians Anti-American?

An internet friend of mine wrote an essay about how religious people-- he mentions Muslims, but also pulls in Christians-- are opposed to American values, specifically the values of liberalism (not "leftist" values, but values of American freedom).  You can read his full essay here  My response is below:

In principle, I would agree with you, Froham.  The pure forms of all religions would strongly stand against American values, if, by that, one means capitalism and liberalism.  I find it disappointing when Christian pedagogues say that the laws of the United States are based on the ten commandments.  That either shows a lack of knowledge of the ten commandments or a complete ignorance of the constitution.   Contradiction #1: "You shall have no other gods but me."  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".  One restricts religion, the other opens it up.  Laws against idolatry, taking the "Lord's name in vain", breaking the Sabbath-- just can't be done on a national level.  And, according to the constitution, shouldn't be established on any level (although historically, we know that such laws existed).

Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha were all opposed to capitalistic and liberal principles.  Moses imposed an extremely high socialistic tax system-- 33% just for the priesthood and the poor.  Governments took a tax out on top of that, and there was an additional "gleaning" tax for the poor.  Buddha's psychological principles call for the denial of desire, which denies capitalism completely.   Muhammad clearly opposed worship of any god beside Allah.  And Jesus called for the surrender of all unnecessary wealth to the poor.   All these are in opposition to American values.

However, to say that the religions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism are opposed to American values is to overstep.  What I have found in this thread again and again is an ignorance of how world religions work, as if they are each one singular thing, with a unified set of doctrines and similarly unified set of morals and values.  Wow, are they not.

The majority of religious Americans are completely in agreement with American values, whichever world religion they adhere to.  The fact is, the constitution and capitalism have been much more successful in evangelism and conversion  than the strict adherents of any religion.  The majority of religious adherents hold to the principles of a generally free market and liberal values more than they hold to the values of their holy books.  And the reason American values have been so successful in promoting their ideals to those who should be opposed to them is many: American values promise freedom and define the term to be pleasing to the ears; American values convince the religious that  they can live in compatibility with religious values, even to the degree of the religious reinterpreting their holy books so that they sound more like Rand than ancient religion. 

One time I had a thousand dollars stolen from me.  The policeman caught the thief, but I refused to press charges because Jesus says to "love your enemies."  (He was charged and convicted on other thefts).  The officer said, "I hope not many people believe like you."  I responded, "Well, I try to teach it, but don't worry, no one listens to me." 

We all tend to adapt.  American culture is pervasive in certain nations.  The pervasive culture will always win out amidst subcultures that really want to fit in. Mennonites have wanted to remain separate for centuries, and did so.  But since WWII, they got tired of the separation and decided to assimilate, for the most part, except for just a couple values.  Thus, I find myself fighting a business-oriented board that runs my denomination.  Sigh.  Sometimes it makes me want to be Amish.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So Tired...

I am tired of Christians slamming homosexuals, Muslims, or people of a different political party. Jesus is not about prejudice or blind, irrational anger. Be slow to anger, quick to listen. And if you must have prejudice in your heart, at least have the decency to be quiet about it so you don't drag Jesus' name down to your level.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Biblical Principles of Conflict

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:7,9)

Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:50)

Accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions....Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls.... Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way of faith. (Romans 14:1, 4, 13)

Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:... enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:15-23)

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble."  Submit therefore to God.  (James 4:1-7)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:14-18)

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)

If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)

Let all that you do be done in love. (1Corinthians 16:14)

How To Disagree

      I often find myself in disagreements.  Maybe it's because I'm a disagreeable person, I'm not sure.  But over many years I have found that there are basic principles that are helpful in conversations in which we disagree, whether face to face or on the internet.  While I don't always follow all of these principles, I think that our discussions would go better if I, and all the rest of us, could follow these basic guidelines when disagreeing.

           Expect disagreement
No matter how much we may agree with each other, disagreement will happen.  This is not a bad thing.  If we disagree, we can discuss issues and come up with a better solution.  What is problematic is when the disagreement is completely unexpected or comes from a position we consider illogical or immoral.  There are times that we will be hurt by the fact that someone we otherwise respect we disagree with in an important issue.  However, we must be careful not to let that hurt or anger at a position determine our response.

 Listen to understand the other person’s position
We may want to listen to other’s point of view in order to find specifics to undermine it.  What is more important is that we understand what the other person is saying.  If we begin the conversation as an attack, then we won’t even know what exactly we are attacking, and many of our counter-arguments will not actually be about the other person’s point of view at all.  We must be careful to know their position before we even begin a response.  This might mean we will need to ask questions to have them clarify their point of view.

Look for the ideas  you can agree with
If someone disagrees with you, this doesn’t mean that there are no areas of agreement in the broader realm of the subject.  Look for the areas of agreement.  Those areas of agreement can be mentioned to soften the blow of the clear disagreement.  Also, the areas of agreement can be used later to discuss another way of looking at the whole problem, a point of view which both parties might agree with.

 Never insult or demean the other person or their belief system
Just because they disagree with you, your logic or your moral ideas does not make the other person bad, illogical or immoral, and they should not be treated as such.  Do not bring in false conclusions to their point of view—you can be concerned about the implications, but don’t assume that they will happen.  Never use insulting language.  Do not demean their character, nor demean the sources of their belief system.  That will only increase anger, not discussion.  And it certainly will not create agreement.

Try to respond with clarity
When you respond to the other person’s position, be sure to be clear how your points relate to theirs.  If you have an opposite viewpoint, make it clear, along with your reasons. Don’t keep repeating your point again and again.   Be sure whatever examples or stories you use are clear and pertinent.  Carefully use your language so it doesn’t make the wrong point.  On the internet, use emoticons to express what we might do with tone or facial expression, such as sarcasm or a joke.  It might be good to bring the other person along with you.  Speak about mutual goals and how your position is more likely to achieve those goals.

Give them an opportunity to respond in respect
Disagreement should be a conversation, not a monologue.  So this means we should hope and expect responses.  If the responses are insulting or hateful, then the conversation is over, because anger is the far most likely response to anger.  But we should give an opportunity for the one we disagree with to respond and for us to come up with a reasonable response to them.

If the disagreement becomes unproductive, it is time to stop
Any of us, at times, can have our emotions carry us where we are no longer productive.  So if a disagreement becomes uncontrolled or polarized, it is time to end the discussion.  Perhaps the conversation can be taken up another time, but it is not worth hurting each other for the sake of a point.  Perhaps one of the parties can see the heat of the argument, back up and cool things down.  This can be done with humor, or with a sincere apology.  But if cooling down doesn’t work, it might be time to back up and try again another day.

 The goal is not agreement or convincing, but love
In a disagreement, if the purpose of both parties is to prove they are right, then there is no convincing either side—for this reason debates don’t work because they create deepening polarization, so no real solution can be found.  But often a disagreement cannot find agreement between the opposing parties.  Even if they are looking for some kind of agreement, it cannot be found.  So, rather than create false expectations for those involved, the goal of the disagreement must be love.   We want to love our opponent by giving them respect.  We want to love those listening to us by responding fairly and clearly.  And we want the goal of our positions to be about love: love of others, love of the poor, love of nature, love of God—whatever the subject may be.  We need to remember that if it is important enough to have strong disagreement, the purpose must be to benefit someone.  If there is no benefit, then perhaps the disagreement isn’t worth having.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Lies We Tell

Christianity always does itself a disservice when they tell each other lies about how life "should" be.  "You should be joyful" "Believe that you are at peace and you will be" "You should be forgiving" "Just have faith that you are well and you will be well" .  Our emotions are God-given and they teach us things about ourselves.  God is not there to teach us about how we should be but to help us recognize our weaknesses, sorrows and poverty and to offer real salvation from them.  

Let's not invent our salvation in our own minds.

Government v. Private Sector

There are some things a national government does better than a private source and some that they do worse.  Which are which?  That is the debate.

My List:
Government does better at:

                    Basic welfare
                    Health care
                    Security issues (necessary violence)
                    Creating bureaucracy
                    Making enormous budgets
                    Spending lots of money
The Private Sector does better at: 

Cool looking things that don't mean anything
                        Making the rich richer
                        Complaining about the government
                        Spending lots of money

First posted on the Filmspotting Forum, Politics thread

Jesus v. Christianity

Here's what I see are some differences between Jesus' teaching/example and a good portion of the Christian church. Jesus was a revivalist, in a sense, trying to get monotheists back to a basic core, and Christianity still has the need of Jesus calling them back to the basics:

-Instead of promoting war, we should be promoting peacemaking

-Instead of judging, we should be compassionate to sinners

-Instead of punishing sin, we should be seeking forgiveness

-We should never establish a ritual, law or policy that harms others or limits the needy from meeting their needs

-We should be freely giving to the poor, not making increasing demands of them

-We should never promote any kind of prejudice

-Our churches should be full of the outcast, rejected and hated, especially due to sin and suffering

-Instead of displays of wealth, we should use our wealth for the needy

-Instead of our leaders having grand titles and signs of respect, they should be serving all, including doing dishes and cleaning toilets

Father, I pray that we can all learn to be more like Jesus and less like the world.  Let us be full of grace instead of rejection.

First posted on the Facebook group, Inter-Faith/Denomination Discussion.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Is Salvation?

So often in Christian circles salvation is seen as deliverance from the wrath of God, from hell.  Or it is deliverance from the world, an escape route to heaven.

Jesus said "The kingdom is near." The kingdom IS salvation-- we are not to be saved from something but to something. Salvation is a world that is changed into God's order.  Jesus' kingdom is a world that is without oppression, a world without death, a word without fear. It is also a world that ends poverty, that gives justice to everyone and all know and receive all they need from the one God.  It is a world that is lead by a community of the poor who know how to practice merciful and compassion to all.  It is a world in which we see each other as one family under one Father, God.

We will not see this complete salvation until Jesus returns.  But we need to practice.  We need to figure out how to accomplish this in our churches, now.  Salvation isn't something to wait for, it is something that we create through the Holy Spirit and the word and power of Jesus. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Position on Abortion

I believe that human life is precious and should be protected. And if there is a conflict between two lives, the best should be done for both lives, not just one.

The question in abortion is is the fetus truly a human life? This question is not specifically answered by the Bible. Thus people must make a philosophic and idealist choice as to whether to treat the fetus as equal or less than her mother.

I have made the philosophic decision that the fetus is an individual human at conception and thus must be protected from that point. That fetus is a human life and to kill it is murder. I will not harm others for the sake of this human, nor should anyone else. However, the fetus is precious, as is the mother.

It has been discovered that most abortions do not occur if the mother is not in poverty. Thus, whether abortion is legal or not, if we reduce poverty and support mothers in their time of need, then there will not be as many abortions. If everyone on all sides would agree to work on reducing poverty and to support pregnant women, then the abortion rate would go down on its own.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

War of the Peace-Lovers

Guest blogger today! This is an essay my daughter Nikki wrote for her Modern World History class. She's 15.

“My religion is better!”
“No, MINE is!”
A fight that happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME!! And I’m getting tired of it! People fight because they WANT to, NOT need to for their religion. It’s silly! I sometime feel like one of the few people who know what peacemaking is! And I’m at my sister’s throat very often. So, I will tell you the reasons of why there should be peace between religions.

First off, the basics of the three most common religions are the same. A lot of the change comes with “do you believe in Jesus, and if so, what is he to you”. Heck! It gets so bad, at least in Christianity, that different TYPES of the same religion fight! Most of us supposedly love peace, are good pacifists, and don’t sin(at least not very much) but their constantly at war, they sin left and right without repenting and are at each other’s… no everyone’s necks. Not very good at what’s supposed to be done.

Next,if and when the world comes to an end, what would we do if there was no gods or higher powers that created us and witches just had overactive imaginations(nothing against my friend)? What if the evolutionary and big bang theories were correct? Would there have been any point to arguing? I know I don’t enjoy getting angry over nothing. I know I personally believe in God, who created everything as is. But others don’t… and I get curious: what would happen if I were wrong? Would all of us, the Christians, die? I hate to think of it that way, but it’s possible. Anyone can be wrong when it comes to religion. Heck, maybe all gods are real… and they will treat their followers well in their own way. Then again I could decide to sound like an atheist and say all religious figures are fake and we’re all idiots, but I won’t because I believe in one. Actually, I think that it’s possible that many exist.

Even if you have completely different religions you can just avoid talking about it. I don’t even ask religion very often. It’s that I just don’t care, a person is who they are; religion doesn’t change that… that and I forget to ask. If you’re like me as far as you know your boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend could be in an opposing religion, and then you’d start “hating” them or ignore them like they don’t exist.

This probably won’t affect anyone but, I’m a Christian and my friend she’s a witch… no, she does NOT make potions with newt’s eye or fly using a broom! She speaks with spirits, which is why it opposes to Christianity. So… I act like I don’t know what her religion is. I act ignorant. It’s not like I want to be ignorant. If she starts speaking to spirits in front of me though… I’m not gonna stick around, I’m at least in the other room, and she won’t come to any church, I don’t think either of mind though, I certainly don’t. We ignore and avoid it. Just like I suggested.

I just feel that too many friendships are at risk because of religious arguments. And we should all shut up about it before more people die. Being caught up in the middle of a battle that I have no intention to fight, that’s what I am. If adults don’t feel the pain they’re causing, and very few children do, how are we supposed to stop the war of the “peace lovers”?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Too Much, Too Soon

Stacy just found the blogs and writes in:

I wanted to know your thoughts, if you have time, about being fearfully and wonderfully made and having disabilities and/or handicaps. This is something I'm not understanding and have not been able to find an answer I have peace with in my spirit. I've grown up as an army brat when it comes to churches going from conservative to charasmatic to really charasmatic and now attend a great Four Square which is both conservative and has quiet veins of charasmatic running through it which is a perfect fit for me. My issue though is that the school of thought I run into is that something like a handicap or addiction or whatnot is because it's something we allowed into our life, like an open window for the enemy to come in, or our parents sinned and let that spirit /problem in, or generational curses and the like. I've also heard that our handicaps or disability is a gift that is to be used for the glory of God and then others say it can be used by God but that we should always pray to be healed since God wants to heal us.

If we are fearfully and wonderfully made then were do handicaps/disabilities come in? How can one be fearfully and wonderfully made while being say crippled? Or mentally challenged etc. ? I don't see how those flaws fit in with the fearfully and wonderfully made part? I mean noone looks at a crippled person and says "That's great! I want to be that way too!". We all know it's an issue and noone would want that problem. And yet we're told we're fearfully and wonderfully made and God knitted us in our mother's womb. I mean did He knit that crippling/physical or mental problem in too?

My response:

I love my charismatic brothers and sisters, but they have taken their proper emphasis on healing and turned it into an "overrealized eschatology." This means that they take things that are promised to us in the final kingdom of God and expect that we should be living it all now.

In the kingdom, we will all be healed, there will be perfect justice, and we will all be unified. Right now, although there is some unity in the church, there is a lot of division and hatred as well, because we are still working on our maturity in love. Right now, although there is some justice through the church, it is only partially realized because we don't live under the Perfect King. Right now, although there is some healing, not everyone is healed. And some struggle with addictions and sins with no easy out.

We can see this in Scripture. There's the passage you quoted in John 9-- Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (Joh 9:3 NAU) Also we have the evangelist Epaphrophitus who was "sick even to death" but God had mercy on him to spare him and Paul. This means that he was sick, and he could have died. Eventually he was healed, but it wasn't an instant healing, and he could have died from it. Paul had no expectation that his co-worker should have just had more faith to be healed. Rather, it was the will of God that was the main issue. (Phil. 2:25-27).

Some say that we are promised healing in the atonement of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5). But in that passage we are also promised shalom, the peace and justice of God. However shalom is not yet fully realized, and so we cannot take that passage and say that everyone in all cases should be healed right now. Eventually we will be, but for now, we must struggle.

We can see this with Paul in II Corinthians 12. A "messenger of Satan" attacked Paul continuously. We don't know what this is. It could be a sickness or disability. It could be a sin he struggled with continuously. All we know is that it limited Paul's salvation and that it came from Satan. And Paul prayed about it, but it was not taken away. Instead, God told him, "My strength will be made perfect through weakness." God told Paul to accept his weakness-- to accept a messenger of Satan!-- as part of his life, because God's work was being done through it. Even so, our weaknesses: sickness, addiction, disability-- some of these will be healed. Others, however, we will have to live with because God is at work in us.

God makes it clear that our character will only become mature through suffering.

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
(Rom 5:3-4 NAU)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(Jam 1:2-4 NAU)

These "trials" or "tribulations" are actually best translated "tests" and they can take the form of suffering or persecution or personal weakness or temptations. This is how our maturity happens. Only in this way can we find perfect joy.

Hope that helps.

God bless you and keep the faith in love!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

In Praise of 400 Years of the KJV

The King James Bible is a touchstone of English literature. It is not the first English translation of the Bible, nor is it necessarily the best. However, it is the first universally accepted scholarly translation of the Bible, and it is the very rare balance between art and accuracy.

The language of the KJV is so gorgeous that writers such as Herman Melville, John Steinbeck, T.S. Eliot, and many others have been influenced by it. It is THE classic work of English literature.

At the same time, the translation is powerful. The methods of translation are so solid that any Bible who calls itself "standard" uses the same methods of literal translation. The KJV was called "authorized" because it was approved to be read in all the congregations of the Church of England, and later in the Episcopal church. And rightly so. The scholars had to balance the 17th century battle between the formal Anglicans and the Calvinist Puritans. Other translations of the Bible were rebelliously Protestant or Puritan. But the KJV scholars had no axe to grind. Instead, they were interested in simple objectivity and beauty.

I rarely use the KJV myself because the language is antiquated, and sometimes misunderstood. Some of the difficult passages are famously misused, such as "Abstain from every appearance of evil." This has been used to restrict people from seeming evil, which Jesus himself could not avoid. The original translation meant, "stay away from doing evil", not seeming like doing evil as our modern understanding of "appearance" means.

Although the KJV's usefulness is limited compared to its original use, it is still a powerful and effective two edged sword. We still read its version of the Lord's Prayer, the classic text of Psalm 23 and the beautiful version of I Corinthians 13. Their translations of the Psalms have never been matched in power and language (it is rumored that Shakespeare helped with the translation of Psalms).

We should take time to read the KJV again, or at least portions of it, to remind us of this most influential English text.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

(Psa 22:1-11 KJV)

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Is Evil?

Evil, biblically, means one who does harm to people. An “evil” spirit is not one that is in opposition to God, except to do harm to humans.

Why does evil exist? First, because God placed humans in charge over the earth. God gave a sliver of his sovereignty to humanity, and humanity chose to use that sovereignty for selfish, destructive motives.

However, most evil is simply ignorance– not thinking about what harm we cause others–, judgment–punishing others for harms we think they have done– or systemic– participating in a system which benefits some by harming others. Satan, as an evil force, is the head of a system of judgment.

We do evil to God by separating ourselves from Him by disobeying His will or by doing actions of hatred toward Him. We cannot truly harm God, but we can harm our relationship with Him and we can harm those who are made in His image. If we harm our relationship with God, that leads us to more evil, for all good things come from God.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Living in Oregon

Some one liners by Jeff Foxworthy. If I have a comment, it's in parentheses.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Oregon.

If you've worn shorts, sandals and a parka at the same time, you live in Oregon.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed the wrong number, you live in Oregon.

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Oregon.

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' and back again in the same day, you live in Oregon.
(Even more so if you need to do this in the same hour...)

If you feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash, you live in Oregon.

If you know more than 10 ways to order coffee, you live in Oregon. (Or Washington)

If you stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the "Walk" signal, you live in Oregon.
(If you walk out against the signal and against traffic, you live in Portland)

If you consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it is not a real mountain, you live in Oregon.

If you can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Dutch Bros, you live in Oregon.

If you know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon, you live in Oregon.

If you know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Clatskanie, Issaquah, Oregon, Umpqua, Yakima and Willamette, you live in Oregon.
(If you know how to pronounce Glisan with a long "e", Couch with a "oo", then you live in Portland)

If you consider swimming an indoor sport, you live in Oregon.
(Especially Styxx, who's room floods out a lot)

If you know that Boring is a city and not just a feeling, you live in Oregon.
(Jokes about Boring are just that)

If you can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food, you live in Oregon.

If you think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists, you live in Oregon.
(Or they are just foolish. TriMet reports umbrella losses in the thousands annually)

If you actually understand these jokes you live or have lived in Oregon

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some More Funnies About Blogging

So that the pics don't take over my sidebar. (I should really use tinypic)

How You Should Blog (Even If I Don't)

I just read "5 Commandments for Blogging" and I really disagreed with most of it. So I'm giving my own, according to what I like to read. I may not follow all of these rules, but I'd like to. That counts, doesn't it?

1. Don't write for the masses
If you are only writing because you want to see a higher count or because you want to get known, just don't bother. Be yourself and write about what is important to you, even if it's not important to anyone else. Don't change your public persona to be popular. This doesn't mean don't think about your audience. It means keep a balance between who you really are and what people want to hear.

2. Be passionate
Go ahead and post your most extreme ideas. It is passion that really makes an interesting article. This is not the same as emotional or insulting or troll-ish. Passion is what stirs your soul, not what others react in you. Write on what you love, not on what you hate.

3. Quote
Most bloggers don't quote other works or they keep quotations brief. But if you read something amazing, especially if it is little-known or out of print or simply unpublished, please take the time to share it with the rest of us. Just remember to say where you got it from, who wrote the quote and keep the length under copyright limits. Ask permission if possible.

4. Use pics
Text is dull by itself. Use a pic that reflects the mood and subject of the post. It's an eye catcher and makes us more likely to read what you have to say.

5. Not too long
I have a blog that is only a sentence or two each post. And another that is only pics. And I have writings that are more than a thousand words long. Frankly, I know for a fact that no one will read the thousand word posts. They are just too long. This is the internet, not a novel. No one is going to take an hour to read a blog post. It's just a fact of life. However, if you have an idea that takes a long time to explain, you can do it in multiple posts.

6. Not too personal
If we are writing about what happened with our neighbor the other day without any relevance to anyone else, why put it on the internet? A blog, like Facebook, is a public journal, not a private one. I don't want to know about your sex life, the things you hate about your spouse, or the tiny details that make up your life. That doesn't mean I don't want personal info. Tell me what movies you really like or really hate; tell me briefly about your top ten pet peeves-- that's fine, especially if it's funny. But let's not get into exclusively private territory.

7. Be entertaining
We can't be entertaining all the time. Not every post will be earth-shattering. But something in each post should be dramatic or funny or informative or thought-provoking. Not necessarily the whole post, but something. The title is a good place to start.