Official Christianity….

I am going to jump ahead a little here so that I can put something into your mind before we tackle early church leaders. To illustrate my point I want to once again use a quote from The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox:

Thus, it is now clear that the “official Christianity” that eventually emerged was only one among a range of “Christianities” that thrived during the earliest years. The distinction we still make today between “orthodox” and “heretical” movements did not exist. There was nothing inevitable or preordained about which version, if any, would predominate.

It is very important in our study of church history to remember that what we know today as “the church” was initially only one of several Christianities that thrived during the early church history. We will be studying how this one version came to dominate all the others. I think you will be surprised at how that came about.

For now it is enough to know that for several centuries there were no distinctions such as heresy or orthodox. To me heresy has a particularly brutal history of its own. What the power structure did to stamp out opposing beliefs was initially beyond my comprehension. I had no idea how draconian those practices were.

I only bring up this particular topic as being one of many surrounding church history. We must never forget that the church was not immune from the old saying that “power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts”. Like our constant disputes today between Republicans and Democrats in empire politics the church has had similar battles throughout its history. Each side was totally convinced that they are right and the other side was wrong/heretics/blasphemers.

We must remember that the history of the church is also and maybe primarily about the history of man and power struggles. All power seekers claimed divine inspiration but the “official Christianity” that survived was more, at least in my mind, because of the brutal power they held over their advocates than having more divine authority.

Church history is indeed a very messy history that is only recently beginning to see the light of day. But it is necessary to see this mess in order to understand why the Age of the Spirit will likely dominate in the decades and centuries ahead…..

Welcome to the Re-Purposed Red Letter Living Blog

After an almost one year hiatus I will soon be posting again on this blog with this new format and a new direction.

Where I Have Been:  The first three years this blog examined how current day churches are doing in following Jesus’ words as found in the red letters of most Christian bibles. That study was concluded in August of 2011 and is still available here for your review. If you want to know more about the results of this study click on the “About This Blog” button above.

Where Am I Headed: Going forward besides studying the red letters I will be concentrating on how we got to where the church is now and where it might be headed.  I do want to warn you up front if you are not familiar with this topic that the church has a very messy history.  We will investigate that in some detail here. As cited above you can learn more about this future work by clicking on the “About This Blog” button at the top of this page. If you are interested in these topics come back often. I plan on posting at least a couple of time a week here if not more. You can subscribe to this blog via email in the right column here.

Our Sheltered Lives…..

I am a frequent visitor to several Christian blogs. One of the bigger ones I recently visited was discussing  Matt 26:11  The poor you will always have with you.  There were the usual posts saying that Jesus was inferring that “since the poor will always be here why bother to do anything about it”. These types of comments used to get me upset but I know that is NOT was Jesus was saying so they don’t get to me like they used to.

But there were several comments the to post from people who clearly don’t understand what it means to be poor. First of all I want to be clear that all of the comments were from people in the United States. There were about 30 comments in all on this particular post. One person said something to the effect that poor people are the ones who are still watching TV on the old tube type sets. He didn’t understand why it would be his duty to help them buy flat screens.  Another mentioned that some “poor” have to drive cars that are over 5 years old and that is just too bad; they need to get better jobs! Let me say again that this was a Christian blog. Clearly these people have a very narrow and myopic perception of what it means to be poor. They evidently are just not aware of what being poor is really about. It truly amazed me just how sheltered lives some people live.  

Some people have labeled today’s twenty to thirty year olds the “Entitlement Generation”. The reasoning goes that this group of people have been raised to believe that they are entitled immediately to high paying jobs and lavish three thousand square foot or larger homes with mandatory oak hardwood floors and granite countertops.  I suspect that some of the responders in the above posting are in that category. They seem to have very little concept of what the world actually looks like outside their communities doors.   I must admit that I myself didn’t have much of an idea of what the world was really like when I was their age either (but that was many many years ago). I had been raised in a lower middle class community where everyone was white and working class.  We didn’t have a lot but we didn’t suffer either. It was not until I got to college that I realized that the rest of the world was not particularly like us. Of course college changed much of that except maybe for the economic status. There were not then, or probably not now, many people in college from poor families.  That aspect of my education came later. Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised even in the Internet age  that twentysomethings don’t really know what poverty is.

No poverty is not doing without a flat screen TV or a car that is older than five years. Poverty is where you do not know where your next meal is coming from. You do not have a roof over your head. You do not have safe drinking water. You are surviving on as little at $12/week. Unfortunately a good percentage of the world (some figures show it up to 40% of the world’s population) are in poverty. Yes, that even includes people in the United States.

Let’s end with a prayer. God our father, your Son welcomed all who cam to him, even the outcasts and the despised. Give us faith that dares to come to you, trusting only in your love. Give us a love that accepts others, as we have been accepted by you. Compassionate Savior, too often we forget how many in our world are homeless, poor, and hungry. In your mercy relieve their suffering and pain. Remind us that when we help a person in need we are serving you.

Two Types of Worldviews…

In the next few posts I am going to do some personal reflections. Will they be objective; of course not, after all they are personal to me and where I am in my life right now. If I am nothing else I am compassionate about things I truly believe in! I don’t pretend to have answers to the questions I have but I am constantly seeking wisdom from God’s word, particularly the red letters.

Here is my first observation:

 There seems to be two basic types of worldviews around today.  

  1. I am the master of my fate: I am in control of my life. I am accountable for everything that happens to me. If I run into an obstacle it is up to me and me alone to overcome it. Therefore everything that I accomplish and any wealth I accumulate is mine and mine alone. Do not tax it or take it away from me to give to others who do not deserve it. I alone deserve it and I don’t need to  share it with those who were not as strong as I am. They are failures; I am a success.   They need to pull themselves up like I did.                                                                                        
  2. There but for the grace of God go I (I paraphrase this as “Shit Happens”) – Many things that happen in my life are really out of my control. Prosperity primarily depends on where you were born. How you grew up and the opportunities that were given to you. It is up to those who had better opportunities and therefore prospered to have compassion on those less fortunate than themselves. We must share the prosperity that we have gained. It is not ours alone.

I’m sure that there are people who call themselves Christians in both of these camps. But, I personally am in the second group. For at least the last several years I seem to be constantly thinking about those on the margins of society in the US and around the world. If I had not been born to a lower middle class family in the Midwestern United States I could be spending all my current time just trying to survive from day to day. After all, this is typical with almost half the present world’s population. Instead I have plenty to eat, a nice place to live and not many worries (except for the self made and often self centered kind). We people in the western societies need to be reminded more often just how easy we have it.

I would not even attempt to guess what the percentage of Christians are in each of these groups. But, what does the Bible say about these two worldviews? I think I need to study on this some but I have a general idea that group 2 is closer to the way the Lord intends us to live and I will continue to strive to be in that group.

What is the meaning of life? – Part 2

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.

Book Review – Letters from a Skeptic

 


 
 

 
 

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.

The Jesus Factor

On Sunday I listened to a sermon from my pastor that truly moved me. It is about a subject that is very near to my heart. For that reason I am posting a copy here without comments. Please take the time to read it. You will be enriched by its message. It is kind of long (most clergymen are long winded aren’t they?) but it is worth the read. 🙂  Thank you Pastor for allowing me to post it on this blog. Here it is:

 You can’t help but be awed at this gracious outpouring of compassion from the Lord. Conservatively, Jesus fed at least 10,000 men, women and children that day. The bread of life eternal supplied bread and fish for all; not just a tidbit for each, but he satiated the hunger pains and they were all filled. A vast crowd, yet not one is left unfed. What a symbol of the sufficiency of Divine provision for those in need. Superabundant provision, more than enough, twelve baskets left over. How royally and munificently the Lord of all provides for his dependant children!

Bbbring! The phone stirred me from a quiet meditation on God’s great mercy and goodness. After I said my hello the voice on the other end said “Uh, hi ,I’m calling all the churches. See, about seven weeks ago, I was injured on the job. I ruptured two discs in my back and am now unable to work. My five kids, wife and I are in dire straits. Our savings are gone, and for some reason, the company is refusing to pay disability. They won’t talk to me, so I have to hire a lawyer to get funds.”

“I called the local homeless shelter and they had seven, seven, individual diapers lying around, to give us. That will last about two hours with my little ones. Our cupboards are bare, and I mean bare, and we don’t know what to do. We’re good Christian people, and are just asking if you can help us at all.”

“Well,” I replied hesitantly, because I knew that he wasn’t going to like my response any more than I was, “we’re a small church and we don’t have any funds available to help, and I don’t know where else you can turn to for help,” I answered, almost apologetically.

“Do you have any members that you can call that they might be willing to give us something?” he asked. Ok, that raised my hackles a bit, that he would ask such a thing. “No, I don’t. I’m sorry. The best I can think of is to call the Crisis Pregnancy Center; they may be able to supply you some diapers.” I hung up and said a little prayer that the Lord would help them out.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Back to contemplating the great goodness of the Lord. “How royally and munificently the Lord of all provides for his dependant children,” the commentary said about the feeding of the five thousand. Funny, somehow something’s changed, I realized. Before I was about to fall on my knees in humble adoration at the Lord’s bounty. After that phone call, though, I wanted to tear out the page and rip it up. Here was a family in need and where was the Lord’s abundant provision? In fact, every week, I hear such pleas for the Lord’s help. Where’s the Lord when loaves and fish need multiplying now?

And worse yet, I thought about my stuffed cupboards, my full pantry, my freezer stocked with meat. And felt guilty. Oh, is that the leftover baskets of food? Is that where that family’s needs are to be found?

And I also thought about the five dollars I had in my wallet, and the savings and checking account balances. I thought about how well I have it, never having to beg and wonder where the next meal is going to come from. I thought about the aisle after long aisle at the grocery stores in the area, all that food, and it was all out of reach.

Why me, and not them, Lord? Or better, why not me instead of them? I could have told that man, that man who had to swallow every ounce of pride left in him not only as a man and husband and loving father, but as a human being, I could have told him to come over and I’d give him what I had on hand. Wouldn’t have done much good, though.

And I also thought about the trash I had taken out last week. A trash bag that had leftover food in it, food from a plate full that I couldn’t eat all of, so I threw it away. Every time, literally, every time I turn on the faucet and wait for the water to turn hot, I think about people that are dying of thirst and watch all that water going down the drain. How they might salivate over such waste! How they would beg and plead and maybe even kiss my feet if I would let them have a drink of the water.

I know you’ve experienced similar. You walk out of the restaurant and there, on the corner, is a guy with a cardboard sign that says, “Need help. Anything will do. God bless.” Or you’re heading to the grocery store to add to the already overabundant stock pile of food you have and you see him standing there, torn clothes, scruffy beard, and a sign that says, “Vet in need of food.” And I know what you think, because it’s the same thoughts we all have. Am I supposed to help everyone? And how much are we to help? And if we don’t give to everyone, is that a sin? We quickly remember the parable of the sheep and goats and how Jesus says that whenever you feed or clothe or visit someone, you are doing it to Jesus and that just brings on tons more guilt.

There they are, all those people on that mountainside that day, more than live in the our two local adjoining towns combined. And there they are, the twelve, and there it is, the proverbial golden opportunity to help those in need, practically a set up if you ever saw one. Hmmm. Are those guys on the street corner and those phone calls the church receives the same kind of set-up? There seems to be some concern on the part of the disciples about the crowd’s well being, as they ask Jesus to send them away so they can eat. Just like us. You have to be a zombie not to feel some amount of compassion and concern. And as we pass them by, we whisper a prayer that the Lord will give send them away to find something to eat.

Jesus’ response must have floored them. They must have stood there with that dumbfounded, blank stare face. It’s the same thing we hear yelled at us from our guilty consciences when we see the homeless or destitute or hear about those who have lost jobs, homes, everything in recent times. The same words from the same Lord, “You give them something to eat.”

And how ironic that the disciples’ reply, which in some ways, sounded a lot like a snide remark, is so close to what we reply, may be not vocally, but we’re thinking it just the same when crowds of needy people invade our sight. “We can’t.” Why does Jesus expect them to feed the crowd? It makes no sense, because he has deliberately brought them to this place, to be by themselves and rest. Now, he expects them to do more?

But the question that really strikes at our sensibilities and bothers us to no end is: If God provides for all the needs of his children “royally and munificently,” then why are there so many in need? Is someone being selfish, hoarding more than they need? Or lots of someones? And the only conclusion we can come to when we see people in need is that we are the selfish. We feel extreme guilt because we have and they do not.

The disciples gave up what they had, the five loaves and two fish. And if we read from John’s Gospel, it wasn’t even theirs. A little boy had it. That meager supply may have been enough to feed the disciples for a meal, and to give that up was truly a sacrifice. Did they give it up grudgingly? Did Jesus have to practically yank it out of their hands, so tight was their grip of survival instinct?

Really, just what exactly is sacrificial giving? And so often, when we do give, the thought that crosses our minds is that it is not enough. Sure, I could have given that guy $20 for diapers, which would have lasted him a few days at most. But it would have done little to solve his long-term financial woes. Sadly, even if I could have given him more, he needed more than I could possibly give.

Sometimes, we don’t give because we don’t have anything to give, because we too are in need. Sometimes, we don’t give because we think it’s a scam. Is that guy on the street corner really out of a job or has he found a way to make a living feeding on others’ pity? At other times, we don’t give because we have been careless and wasted the blessings of God on foolish things and are in debt up to our eyeballs. Or we just use the same tired old excuses: I gave at the office. Or, here’s my church offering, that’s all I’ve got left. How much does God expect us to give anyway?

In order to find some satisfactory answers and fully understand this miraculous feeding, we need to look ahead a couple of chapters in Mark’s Gospel. Sometime after the second miraculous feeding Jesus does, for four thousand this time, the disciples are off in a boat and realize they don’t have much bread. You can just about imagine what they were thinking too. Maybe Jesus will make bread and fish appear for us again.

But Jesus uses the situation to warn them about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. As if that was even on their mind. Typical of their response, they think he’s upset because they don’t have enough bread. Bad stewards. Careless decisions. Oh that’s us alright.

But then, after they have discussed his comments among themselves, and surmise that yes indeed, Jesus is hungry and we don’t have a thing to give him, Jesus asked them, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?”

It’s not about bread, Jesus says. It’s not about feeding the hungry. It’s not about how much you give or don’t give. His final question, after reminding them of the finale of the miraculous feedings, the leftovers, was this: “Do you still not understand?” These two unique feedings are indicative of something far more serious, far more life-changing, of more eternal worth than just food.

Like a tired refrain, his unspoken answer is: It’s about Jesus. With the multiplication of bread and fish, everyone should have gotten the clear message Jesus was sending. He was in fact God in the flesh. For only God was able to give supernatural food and make a little go a long ways. Only Jesus is the true bread of life.

All we have is from the Lord’s generous hand. We know that. While we may want to claim some part in obtaining things we need, daily bread is not always a miracle, but always from God’s gracious economy. The ability to labor in the fields to gather the food is from the Lord. The seed is from God. The earth that receives the seed is from God’s creative hand. All that we are and all that we have is from the Lord. With thanksgiving and praise, we acknowledge with all humility that our whole lives depend on God’s goodness and mercy.

Your heavenly Father knows what you need even before you ask for it. But in the asking, we exercise faith that recognizes that our lives depend on God’s great goodness. Every gift calls us to look to the great Giver. With every gift, we acknowledge the creator of all good things, and for every gift we give our heartfelt thanks to God.

Will God refuse to give us who ask of him in faith? “He that did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also freely give us all things?” That’s where Jesus was leading the crowd and his disciples. That’s where He is leading us today. And it’s all about more than just food.

The real miracle of supply is found in the suffering and death of Jesus. One man’s blood was shed for all of humanity’s sin. One man’s death is the complete payment for your sin, and for my sin. It’s math God’s way. With that one sacrifice, God gave his best and the whole world was fed and completely satisfied. Our hungry souls are satiated with his righteousness. Our thirsty lives are filled to overflowing with living waters. The bread of life, the fountain of forgiveness, is the one source of all that we truly need.

And there’s really something else here. It’s what we might call “The Jesus factor.” Because of Jesus’ love shown to us, because the Spirit lives in us, we desire to help those in need. Sure, we sometimes fight our selfish sinful nature that wants to hoard all that we have. But to God’s credit, we overcome that inclination and give to those who are hungry, thirsty, naked or in prison, and in need.

And here’s where the Jesus factor comes in. Maybe you can only give a dollar or two. Maybe you can’t give money at all, but your energies in volunteering. Maybe you are strapped for time and all you can do is pray. That may not seem like much. You may think that one measly dollar is not going to help anyone, let alone save a life. You may say to yourself that your one hour at the food bank will not do anything to really help those starving and homeless.

But when all those dollars are gathered together, God does something truly miraculous. He adds in Jesus. And your one dollar or your one hour or your one prayer is magnified. Your baby bottle of change, maybe only half full, given in prayer and with thanksgiving for what God has blessed you with, is multiplied. Your one dollar becomes $1500 that goes to a place where lives are saved every day. Sure, a life is worth far more than a dollar. Oh, but look what God can do with even a dollar, when he adds in the Jesus factor.

Though five loaves and two fish would barely be sufficient to feed thirteen hungry men, Jesus still says, “Bring it to me.” At once it is given up, even though it appeared to be ridiculously insufficient to meet the great need of the crowd. Yet even that small gift, those puny loaves and few fish, a great sacrifice from others, was with the Lord’s blessing, made enough for all. More than enough. With leftovers.

While we might suppose that our one little gift, which may indeed be our sacrificial giving, is barely enough to make a dent, God can blast a huge hole. We might even be afraid that God might scoff at our small offering, as He knows what we really have. But God mocks no gift given in love and faith, no matter how small, how inconsequential.

Whether we give of our time, talents or treasures, whatever meager gift we bring, though it be inadequate for the world’s necessities and for those who cry out to us for help, Christ still invites us to “Bring it to him.” For God always uses what we give to him in praise and thanksgiving for the greatest good. And all because the Father adds in the Jesus factor.

You know it’s worked in your life. Every one of us as God’s dear children can attest to miraculous events in our own lives. Remember the gentle way the Father has led you through wildernesses of suffering, pain and setback. Remember the gracious revelations that God has given you through His Word that have increased your faith. Remember all the sins that our Father in heaven has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. Look and see how the Jesus factor has made an impact in your life.

The next time you give, remember the Jesus factor. Whatever we offer, let us it offer in faith and trust that God will use it and make it beneficial to as many as possible. Do not think that your offering is unimportant or not of use to the Lord. Do not think that God cannot use whatever you give for his glory and to help those in need. Always expect to behold how God can make one small gift turn into a great and glorious gift.

And above all else, consider each day how much the Lord has given to you. Consider what manner the Love the Father has lavished upon you. He has called you by his grace, he has bestowed upon you the inheritance of heaven, and he has brought you into his glorious light. And maybe that was all because of someone’s quarter dropped in the offering plate. What marvelous things God can do with such inconsequential offerings! Amen.

It’s Just a Face

 

 We have all seen many pictures such as the above portraying Jesus. Most show him as a fair haired blue eyed person of European descent. Of course in reality that is likely not what Jesus looked like. He probably looked much more like most of the 9/11 terrorists than what we are used to seeing.  Let’s get over what Jesus might have looked like and spend more time thinking about what He tries to teach us. Some people, including I think C.S. Lewis believe that any images of God, including statues of Jesus is a form of idolatry. We must never get fixated on the physical at the least expense of the thoughts. It’s just a face and it almost certainly didn’t have blue eyes.

I find it interesting that the Bible never mentions anything about what Jesus looked like. We just don’t know because it is totally unimportant. I’m sure on His second coming there will be no doubt that it is him no matter what he looks like.

The Twenty Piece Shuffle

  
Subtitle: Some very inspiring words

I just finished a book entitled “The Twenty Piece Shuffle” by Greg Paul. It is about a ministry to the poor in the Toronto area. Greg Paul has done such a great job in putting us inside this ministry by telling stories of those who have frequented the mission over the years. It is a very worthwhile read to anyone who would like to understand more about these types of missions and the people who frequent them. At the end of the book Greg bears his heart via the following words

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God, I believe, has granted me resources of intelligence, health, money, emotional stability, position, citizenship, and much much more in the expectation that I will use those resources to lift up my brothers and sisters who are depressed, set free those who are oppressed, seek healing for those who are afflicted, and share with those who are destitute.

God does command, over and over, those who are rich and powerful – the 1 or 2 percent of the world’s population that includes the majority of us living in first world nations – to engage with and care for our poorest “neighbors” spiritually, materially, emotionally, and politically. So clear and consistent is this message, so redolent with it is the life and teaching of Jesus, that it must be said: A wealthy person who claims to follow Jesus and des not find some way to share his or her life and material goods with people who are poor has stumbled off the Way.

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If we could just get this message across to more of us who are rich and powerful wouldn’t it help God’s kingdom come on earth. If you are ready to be surprised by some of the people in this book both for their gentleness and their grittiness then you should pick up a copy of this book.

The Thing about Mary

 


 I have always wondered why Catholics are so focused on the Virgin Mary and Protestants, except for Christmas Eve, almost totally ignore her? If we read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, besides for Jesus’ birth Mary is mentioned only a couple of times in the text so that doesn’t lead us to believe that Mary had a very prominent role among the early Christians. Some say this is because the culture at the time of these writings treated women more or less as property of men and therefore their accomplishments were downplayed in the writings. Maybe that is true but there were several women who had significant interactions with Jesus during his ministry so I don’t think Jesus personally bought into that line. But then there is St. Paul telling women to be quiet in church and wait till you get home to ask your husband any questions. This seems to feed into that inferior woman mentality of the time.

When Jesus was crucified only the women stuck around. All the male disciples had, at least temporarily, abandoned him. It took the Holy Spirit coming into them to give them the courage the women seem to have never lost. And of course Jesus first appeared to a woman after his resurrection. So the women might have been shortchanged in the Gospel text. But that still doesn’t explain why Mary seems to be on an almost equal footing with Jesus in the eyes of many Catholics, at least attention wise?

I read somewhere, but I can’t remember where right now, that one view of this is that Mary was actually a PR project by one of the Popes around 500AD. Ok, I will probably get flamed here but I want to tell you what I heard. It seems that around that time Christians, meaning Catholics, were having a hard time competing with pagan goddesses who were very popular at the time. To counteract that the church started giving Mary much more status than they had before that. Now I don’t know how much truth is in that. I would welcome anyone to set me straight if you have evidence this story is way off base.

I personally think Mary deserves all our respect. After all she did give birth to the Son of God. But, I think the Catholics have gotten carried away with their almost deity of her. There is only one son of God and everything and everyone else takes a very distant second to Him. It is not about Mary, Paul, or the Apostles. Our attention should be focused on Jesus and Jesus alone. But as I usually say these are just my opinions and I will respect other who differ from them. One final pet peeve of mine, as with Jesus, Mary always being shown as blue eyed fair complexion young girl. Please remember that Mary was a Middle Easterner like Jesus. She very most likely had dark hair and brown eyes.