Archives For August 2009

We humans are constantly on the epic journey to find the meaning of life. It drives some of us quite crazy. Let’s look at some of the idols we Americans frequently put in place in our lives:

  • We must have a bigger and bigger home to make our life meaningful — I must admit that I am a regular watcher of the TV show “House Hunters”. On the show is typically a family of mom, dad and often times a small child or sometimes two. The couple almost always says that their current house of 2,000 sq ft is simply too small now that they have a child. They now need at least 3,000 sq ft! The show then follows them around trying to find the dream house. I guess they never listened to grandma, or grandpa tells stories about how they raised 6 kids in a house of less than 1,000 sq ft. And of course they must also have granite countertops and, of course, stainless appliances in the kitchen; nothing else is simply good enough. Constantly seeking more and more is the driving factor in their lives.
  • The CEO’s of American corporations are now typically making more in a day than some of their employees make in a year. It wasn’t that long ago where heads of companies typically made about 20- 40 times the lowest wage earner in their company. Most CEO’s have such inflated egos that they think they are worth the increased amount. After all being so superior to others is the driving factor in their lives and the more money the more superior.
  • Some families spend up to $100/week playing the various State lotteries trying to hit it big. They are convinced that if they just had enough money that their lives would have meaning. I recently watched a documentary entitled “The Curse of the Lottery”. In that show there was example after example of people winning the “big one” and then within three years they were broke and their life was spinning down the proverbial drain! How can that be?? After all they won the big one!! Why didn’t it give their life meaning?

Postscript:  Here is the latest story on winning the “big one” .   http://buzz.yahoo.com/buzzlog/92967?fp=1

  

I could go on and on with examples but I’m sure you get the idea. Finding things of this world that will give our lives meaning simply don’t exist. I don’t quote Old Testament scripture often (I dwell in the New Covenant, not so much the old one :)) but here is a very appropriate verse for this post:

Eccl 5:10 NIV

Whoever loves money never has money enough;

Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

This too is meaningless.

 
So if you are looking to money and the things that it buys to be the meaning of life you better look elsewhere cause that ain’t it. Next time I will give you the secret about the TRUE meaning of life. I suspect many of you have already discovered it, or at least given the nature of this blog know where I am going.

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All humans seem to innately seek the meaning of life. It is built into the core of our existence. It is one of the crucial things that make us human. My Basset Hound Beulah is quite intent just to get her ears rubbed on a regular basis and to make our daily trek out to the mailbox. (All of you who might have a Basset know that you must keep them on a leash constantly or they will get utterly lost tracking a scent that totally envelopes their attention; i.e. The ever present leash even to the mailbox . Too bad we humans aren’t put on a leash when we get too focused on something that is not good for us :). We humans just aren’t the way our pets are. We need to know why we exist!

Many, especially us Westerners, spend our lives seeking things of the world to give us meaning. Before I understood where the source of this fulfillment really comes from I  spent an outrageously amount of time seeking the meaning of life. At one point I was totally immersed into the psychology thing. I read book after book of such titles as “I’m Ok – Your OK”. I became an Eric Berne freak. I couldn’t get enough of him or Maslow, or a number of other authors in the field of psychology. After a number of years I came to the same conclusion that the character played by Bob Newhart had in the TV series “Newhart”. “Psychology is a croak!” It just didn’t give me the sustainable answers I was looking for. I apologize to all you psychologists out there. I’m sure you do a mountain of good to those who really need it. But, I didn’t really need it!

 But at least I didn’t take the path that many do and get into drugs or such things. I fortunately also didn’t have a mid-life crisis where I sold everything to get a motorcycle and a young chick on my arm. (My wife would have killed me if I had tried that!) I was way to shy for that sort of thing anyway, thank the Lord. And I also didn’t literally go up the mountain to seek the ultimate wisdom of some other guru.

 God built this “why we exist” urge in us for a reason. But it took me years to discover it. Many today are in the same vicious cycle that I was. For some it is vocational success; for others it is money; for others it is something else. It is almost always about “stuff”

 I will spend the next few posts talking about idols that we futilely try to put in place to seek the meaning of life.

I just wanted to make a quick post in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy.  It’s a shame that his life long passionate goal of making healthcare a right instead of a privledge for ALL Americans did not become a reality while he was with us. I know he was an honorable Christian and a good Catholic.   Here’s to you Ted I hope your dream becomes a reality soon. 

I know there are those out there who would like to trash his memory over issues you disagreed with him on. But, this is not the appropriate time and since I won’t approve them on this blog today, this is not the appropriate place.

Jesus clearly told us to be our brother’s keeper but somewhere along the way we Christians unapologetically shunned that responsibility. During the first three centuries Christians were very much their brother’s keeper. They often pooled their resources so that those most needy were taken care of. They not only cared for their own there is even documented evidence showing that they took care of those not even Christians.  But, of course, this is what Jesus did so they were just following his lead.

The vast majority of Christian congregations today spend about 95% of what they gather on themselves or their organization’s hierarchy leaving little for kingdom of God work particularly in the brother’s keeper area.  When that happened the moral goodness, which I believe to be also a gift from God to all humanity, dictated that the kingdoms of the world take over that task. Some do a much better job of it than others. The government of Sudan seems to totally reject the “brother’s keeper” mentality.  Many thousands die daily of starvation and political genocide. Whereas, thank the Lord, the government of the United States has generally taken up this task in our absence, at least to a partial degree. Or at least one of our political parties carries that mantle. 

Now I’m not saying that Christians do nothing in this area. Indeed some of the best humanitarian agencies in this area are Christian based. But, their total contributions is almost miniscule compared to the need. Having religious institutions take over all the care for the poor is probably now beyond the realm of possibilities so I guess we must depend on our governments to do that for us. They are instituted by God so I suppose you could say it is now their duty. To even suggest as some do that since we Christians won’t do it our governments should stay out of it also is a total affront to the teachings of Jesus. It is indeed a sad day that many Evangelical Christians seem to be saying that very thing today. Shame on us for shunning this compassionate responsibility!

Of course all Christians know the Great Commission. As most remember it we are to go out into the world baptize them and tell them about Jesus and how he died for our sins. But what many seem to conveniently forget is the words just beyond that where Jesus says to tell them to do what he commands! Many seem to think that being a Christian is just taking an “alter call” and saying the “sinners prayer”. Jesus says there is more to it than that. He spent his three year ministry helping us to understand just what we are suppose to be doing while we are here on earth. And he expects us to “obey what I have commanded”

Here is the entire Great commission at least according to the NIV Bible: Matt 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Some say our presence on this earth is a probationary period to determine if, by our free will, we choose to be sheep or goats. By our actions it will be easy to tell the difference. Come Judgment Day, yes there will be a day where you are judged on how you lived your life, you will have to explain the Jesus why you ignored his words. Will it keep you out of heaven? I don’t know. As James said in his epistle faith without works is dead. Will a “dead faith” get you into heaven? Why take the change. Obey what Jesus commands! Or at least die trying…

Epilog: I had a surprising insight about judgment day recently. It seems that some Christian sects, some very large,believe that only non-Christians will be judged. They say that God has completely forgotten the sins of all Christians and therefore there is no judgment for them. I personally don’t buy that. Jesus, or Paul, never put that exception in any of their words! (Matt 7:1-2, Matt 12:36-37, Rom 14:10-12, 2Cor 5:10)

Sanctity of Life??

August 17, 2009 — 1 Comment

I am going to take on a hard one here. The big “A”.  I have been in a conversation with some Christian friends of mine about the current healthcare reform now being debated in congress and around the country.  Some of my friends said the following: “I can’t support this reform as it might allow some to have abortions funded”!  I, certainly am also against abortion. It is killing an innocent life and definitely against Jesus’ teachings.

But how do Christian who make abortion a litmus test for everything else answer these typical questions by some:

 You Christians only believe in the sanctity of life in the nine months before birth, not in the eighty years or more after birth. You are a bunch of hypocrites!

To support their statement they give the following examples:

  • You support killing people who commit certain types of sins (murder, rape, etc). You say Jesus came to die for all of us. That we are all loved by him. Does that include just some sinners and not others? And didn’t God say “Vengeance is mine” not yours?
  • You will  eliminate the possibility of saving thousands of lives who otherwise be  lost to health issues in order to “maybe” save some fetuses.  What about all those people who die daily due to not being able to afford healthcare? Are they somehow less important to your god than those yet to be born?
  • You condone and often enthusiastically support killing your neighbor in a war simply because your government tells you to kill. It doesn’t matter that they are your “enemy” simply because they were born in a different country than you and are also following what their politicians say!
  • Where do you get off classifying which lives are sanctified and which aren’t? You are a bunch of hypocrites!

 I don’t know of any pat answers for the above examples.  Jesus clearly said that revenge is no longer justified and an eye-for-an-eye is no longer acceptable in the new covenant he brought to us. He told us unequivocally to love our enemies, and turn the other cheek. Again and again in the Bible Jesus tells us to follow his example . To my knowledge Jesus never passed judgment, except for the religious establishment of course, on anyone let alone killing anyone.  God said “Do not kill”. My bible doesn’t add “except for time of war or really bad guys”. I definitely think the Amish, Mennonites, and other like minded sects have it right in this regard. About the only thing Jesus killed was a fig tree for not having fruit out of season? I don’t understand that one but will let it slid as it is not important to my following Christ.

 Are we Christians being hypocrites when we want to enforce only our limited definition of “Sanctity of Life”? I am tending to think so but I will respect your right to think otherwise. This is a very difficult issue between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world.

 


 
 

 
 

I just finished the book Letters from a Skeptic by Greg Boyd and I must say I was profoundly moved by the contents. The book is essentially a series of letters between Dr. Boyd, who was once an atheist, but now a noted theologian and his unbelieving father Ed. The letters took place over a two year period and covered many items that are basic concerns that skeptics have about Christianity. It is not my intent to discuss any details of the book. I will leave that for you to discover yourself. Coming to Christ from the extreme skeptic side myself I had many of the same objections to Christianity as mentioned in the father’s letters. Unfortunately I didn’t have the advantage of a son who is a world renowned theologian to help me wade through them. It took me much more than two years to finally get over my stubbornness and allow the Holy Spirit into my heart.

I am just going to give you some teasers on the type of subjects covered:

  • Why has Christianity done so much harm?
  • Why did God create Satan?
  • Why does God make believing him so difficult?
  • Why are there so many differing interpretation of the Bible?
  • How could an all-loving God torture people in an eternal hell?

     

As he promised his father when they started this correspondence Dr. Boyd tries to answer all of these and many other of his father’s questions in “non-theology terms”. Anyone who has spent any time on this blog know that in my mind is critical in interacting with non-believers. They are turned off by all the technical terms and the “it has to be true because it is in the Bible”!

 

The epilog of the book literally brought me to tears. It was one of the most moving accounts of a conversion I think I have ever read. I can only imagine the joy in Pastor Boyd’s heart to see his father in his senior years finally accepting Christ’s invitation of salvation. The book was one of those that was truly hard to put down. I read it totally over a three day period. I can’t imagine any other book that would prove to be more useful in understanding the thoughts and reasons for why people resist Christ’s invitation and the possible answers to those questions. And I have read many books in this area (apologetics). It is a must read for anyone who is seriously trying to reach out to others with God’s word.

 
 As a epilog to this post I am well aware of the conflicts that some Christians, particularly Calvinists, have with Dr. Boyd’s view of what they call open theism related around man’s free will. I personally am not totally in the open theism camp but I am also not in the Calvinist camp on beliefs related to free will or few other issues for that matter. That being said, don’t let your bias in either direction prevent you from reading this book. Yes, there are some things that you might not totally agree with in the book but I truly believe the vast majority of the contents are enlightening no matter what you leaning is.

Jesus intends for us to serve others rather than for us to expect others to serve us. I think that many people in the United States have that message reversed. They dream of having enough money to have people constantly waiting on them and to fill their every need. After all, that is the American dream isn’t it? Well, it may be the American dream but it should not be an “Kingdom of God” citizens’ dream. Let’s look at some of the red letters in this area.

 Matt 20:25-28

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 Luke 16:13-15

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

NIV

 The words in Matthew make it clear that those who want to become great (in the kingdom of God) you must serve others. Jesus’ entire ministry was about serving and he expects us to follow his lead. The second verse (Luke 16) is more about loving money over God but many would argue that is also a issue predominately American in nature. The cornerstone of capitalist governments is the love of money. So, that verse feeds into both this post and the last one. Let’s not let our dreams be selfish in nature and especially not about money.

In the last post I brought forth the proposition that God loves all of humanity and does not particularly bless one world government more than another. I also pointed out that many today think that if we could just turn the US into a Christian theocracy everything would be wonderful. I pointed out that we have had Christian theocracies in the past and they were no more like Jesus (i.e.. The kingdom of God) than those pagan governments around them. And many times even worse!

This post I will spend some time talking about how I believe that a follower of Jesus should interact with kingdoms of this world (the United States in particular). Jesus made it clear that we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. To me that means keeping the two somewhat separate but that does not mean Christians should have total indifference to world kingdoms?

In the early centuries of the Christian phenomenon government officials were actually told to find another profession after they converted to the “Way”. The same went for soldiers. But, I don’t think that meant that we Christians were meant to stay out of the politics of this world entirely. Obviously Jesus said leave to Caesar what is Creaser’s and to God what is God’s. I earlier stated that I don’t think Jesus was political but you should not infer that he was not interested in things that are handled in the political sphere. John Howard Yoder in his book the Politics of Jesus does a good job of pointing this out. The problems we Christians get into today is that we latch on to some kingdom issues in politics and then somehow buy the whole package of that political party. For some it is abortion and therefore the Republican party. For others it is issues such as healthcare or safety net issues and therefore it is the Democratic party. We have to be very aware of such allegiances of accepting the bad with the good. It reflects poorly on the Kingdom of God and possibly drives many away. We should not be strict Republicans or Democrats but should instead back Kingdom related issues in whichever party they occur. As Jim Wallis and Sojourners bumper sticker says “God is NOT a Republican, or a Democrat”.

 But Jesus also indicated that where Caesar conflicted with God, God must win out for all Christians. In my mind it is kind of tricky just how involved we Christians should be in political affairs. The two extremes seem to be to stay out of it entirely or to reach for a Christian Theocracy. The optimum point is obviously somewhere between these two extremes. I don’t know personally where the ideal point is so I tend to try to stay closer to the non-involvement end but where safety net issues are concerned I tend to be very active.

Greg Boyd’s post on his blog entitled “The Patriot’s Bible – Really” is very insightful in this area. That is why it is in the “inspiring” block on the right side of this blog”. Just click on that link to see the text. One ironic point that Dr. Boyd made is that the early Christians were persecuted for being unpatriotic. They would not bow to Caesar or other such things. That seems to be the opposite of today where so many Christians are thoroughly attached to world kingdoms and not so much to the Kingdom of God. At least that is how I see it.

The book “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Pastor Boyd did a lot in shaping my thoughts in this area. I would highly recommend the book to anyone. But, if you are one to believe that Jesus particularly blesses America then be prepared to have that myth thoroughly destroyed by his biblical insight. To some it will be uncomfortable reading but well worth it if your current worldview eventually gives way to the kingdom of God view.