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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category


Today, y’all will get a two-fer. I have already intended another post, which I’ll write in a bit. However, something popped up on my Twitter time line this morning that I would like to say something about. It concerns religion. My religion.

A disclaimer: If this isn’t your thing, no problem. To someone on the outside of the debate, it may seem petty. I completely understand. It is petty and I would prefer not to say anything. I could be silent, but then I take the risk that someone in our faith that doesn’t know would be affected.

But, one might say, “Awful judgmental aren’t you? Aren’t you commanded not to judge others?” This is a valid statement. However, scripture does say that we will judge each other in regards to things of the faith. And, I’ll try to do it politely. So, here goes.

The above is a twitter item from a Terri Green. Her tweet was retweeted into my time line from someone I follow. For the record, the tweet is from February. The video with the tweet doesn’t show here, but I believe the link to the video clip works. I’ll describe the video.

It was a short clip of several pastors, one of which is JD Greear from North Carolina, participating in a youth event. They were doing a lip sync to a Whitney Houston song, I believe one of them said. There was some dancing around the stage. There was no nudity, profanity, animal sacrifices or anything I would consider out of the ordinary at a youth event. It seemed silly and corny, but what do I know. I’m old.

I’m just going to respond in one simple way: David danced.

Not me. That’s King David. My wife has tried twice to get me some dancing lessons and it’s been a dismal failure. But, King David danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6). He was unrestrained and undignified. I say that because his wife criticized his undignified dancing in the streets of the city where all the maidens could see. David’s response, “I’ll dance even more undignified than this.”

Miriam danced. The Psalms call for music. The first century believers had hymns (some recorded in Paul’s letters; see Philippians). A small number of secular quotes made it into the text of the New Testament. And, around the throne of the Living God there are always songs of praise, adoration, and rejoicing, all the time.

I don’t know what Terri Green’s beef is; whether it is the dancing or the secular revelry by pastors. I really, really don’t care. I still don’t see the problem. So, I’ll just continue on playing my bass; rock and roll when I can, hymns and praise at church as I’m called, and not worry about the rest. Sucks to be a stick in the mud, methinks.

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Today was a hard day at work, so I’ll probably keep it brief on this post.  However, I do want to thank those of you that are reading these essays and interacting.  Even if readers do not agree with my beliefs, values, and observations, it’s still good to know someone is reading.

I wish to extend from the last post about wealth and status.  I pointed out the observations I made about the views of folks concerning those with little wealth.  I need to also examine my thinking about those with great wealth.

First, my faith is not anti-wealth.  Gaining wealth is biblical and there are plenty of examples of folks that were and are blessed by God with great wealth.  However, the scriptures are very clear that wealth is a distraction or an impediment to following God.  There are warnings across scripture on those that handle wealth poorly, especially by treating others badly.  It is important for one to recognize that wealth is from God, not just from personal effort.  This is the same as a farmer must view that the bounty of the land has more to do with God’s blessing than with hard work.

What I have observed over the past three decades is that the concentration of wealth is being placed in fewer and fewer hands. CEO’s of many companies now earn many times more than the average employee of the companies they lead.  Even CEO’s that fail at leading a company into prosperity often leave a bankrupted company with significant wealth.

In addition, we are learning of many ways in which large corporations seek tax cuts, property tax abatement, and have armies of accountants and lawyers to reduce tax liabilities to near zero.  They do this under the umbrella of ‘job creation’.  Look Mr. Mayor.  We’ll be bringing thousands of jobs to your city.  Give us thirty years property taxes for free and you’ll make it up on all the people we bring in. But, does it? Who is minding the store?

Please understand that I have no problem with paying my taxes, as long as everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE else is doing the same.  I’m not against tax cuts for those that can create jobs.  I’m not against tax abatement to sweeten the pot getting a new large business to move to town.  However, I am against companies and businesses effectively reducing their tax payments to minimal percentages of their total income thereby placing the burden on folks that earn a great deal less.  That’s not logical as a sustainable plan for the future, nor is it fair to the taxpayers as a whole.

But, then there is pragmatism.  One the one hand, yes, it would be wrong to force corporations and businesses to be more responsible taxpayers.  Taking the advantages that we’ve allowed them isn’t illegal, just distasteful. Yet, we’ve already seen this type of situation before.  Go and read of the Gilded Age of the turn of the 20th century.  The kinds of squalor that many lived in versus the opulence of the wealthy was stark.  That situation did lead to a rise in populism and eventually forcing the breakup of many monopolies.

So, where does that leave us?  I think the two best things we can hope for in bringing some common sense back to wealth is a mixture of good examples and at least some threat of negative legislation against the large corporations.  Sounds harsh, doesn’t it.

Believe it or not, I liken the problem to that of the Mafia.  You know them.  The criminals and crooks of the prohibition era and many still operating today.  We see them as petty thieves, thugs, and often murderers.  Yet, if you ask the Mafiosos how they see themselves, they’ll say they are just businessmen and you do whatever it takes to be successful in business.

I see a lot of those same similarities in businesses gaining wealth today.  They simply believe that doing whatever it takes to gain a profit is alright and they shouldn’t be fettered by anything like morals, ethics, or plain old generosity.  I don’t think that is the answer I’d like to give Jesus when He asks.  I better watch my P’s and Q’s as well.

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A friend recently challenged me about why I think as I do.  I was stunned a bit when asked, as I often ask that of others, but don’t often have it asked of me.  It’s not a bad request.  We should know why we think like we do.  I consider myself an individual and not part of the mob; just being carried along.  Therefore, I consider it a good thing to make myself really look at why I think (or believe) as I do.  Since I find it better to do such a thing with writing instead of speaking, this series of posts (yes, there will be many) will be about why I think as I do.

Today, I’m just going to cover the basics.  What are the foundations of my way of thinking and how does that influence all the other many concepts and issues that make up the me, myself, and I.

The basics of my thinking exist in my belief system as a follower of Christ, logic, pragmatism, and the heart. 

I’ll interchange thinking and beliefs as I see these as similar items and concepts.  Values are the “working out” of my thinking in everyday life (IRL to some).  

Everything, but everything is filtered through my belief in Jesus as the Son of God, Who died on the cross in order to save me from both the sin of Adam and from my own sins.  Jesus accomplished this through His death (the shedding of blood as an atonement to fulfill the Old Testament covenant), burial, and resurrection.  I believe in Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit; not as nice concepts or myths, but as real living beings through whom all things in this universe gain existence.  I believe the Bible is a real collection of books, written by men (possibly a woman or two), inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us as a revelation of God, history of His working to redeem and guide humans, and a foretelling of things to come.

I follow logic as a regular rule of life, filtered through my Christian belief.  Logic is the knife by which we can evaluate situations.  Logic, as I see it, requires me to move to a result of true or false.  In observation, my use of logic often sets me at odds with others because logic reduces to one of two outcomes.  Some call this a black/white outlook.  I recognize that outlook bothers some, but I’ll own it.  I also acknowledge that there are times when logic has difficulty reducing to two outcomes.  When these occur, I just do my best to use other sources and thinking to help.  That’s when I remember the axiom that life is messy and move on.

Pragmatism is the ability to use a system of thinking that many call common sense.  Some may also call it the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method.  While, yet others call it using Occam’s Razor (the obvious and simple solution is often the best).  Pragmatism exerts itself in my thinking when I realize that while my faith and logic call for a situation to exist in a certain way, pragmatism limits that outcome because there are hurdles that I or others are unwilling or unable to cross.

The heart is what separates humans from animals.  Yes, some will disagree. That’s for a later post.  For now, it’s an axiom.  Deal with it.  Back to business. If I simply followed faith, logic, and pragmatism, I really could see everything in life as just black or white.  That’s where the heart comes into play.  Through compassion, love, good feelings or bad, we adjust the outcome when faith, logic, and pragmatism alone will not provide a complete answer.

But, wait, you say!  Faith involves the heart!  Or, faith is all about heart!

No, not to me.  Faith is real.  It is a relationship with an existential Other so different from ourselves that normal rules don’t apply.  Yet, that relationship isn’t bound just by “feel good” or emotional considerations.  It is also bound by God’s revelation and His character, His perfect moral character (more on that later).  

The heart modifies the brutality of logic and pragmatism; it completes faith.  Yet, the heart is fickle.  It cannot always be trusted, as both Scripture and a good preacher, Joe Beam said. The heart is capable of lying; therefore, it cannot be used without the other methods of thinking.  But occasionally, when the other methods struggle to help define my thinking, the heart supplies just enough to get things right.

Please remember that these definitions of my foundations of thinking are mine, as I see them.  They aren’t meant to be the dictionary definitions or the classical definitions.  For the record, they don’t have to be.

How do these four basic methods of thought define my thinking?  I’ll explain it this way.

The words of God described in the Bible show believers a specific world view.  God made the universe and humanity.  Man is made in God’s image but is now fallen because of Adam and Eve’s failure and also because of mine.  Our redemption is through what Jesus did on the cross not through our own efforts.  Right and wrong are defined by God, not by humans.  Through the teachings of Jesus, believers should consider themselves as members of a universal kingdom with Jesus as the head of the kingdom.  We are to be influences in the world we live in.  We still have choice, so we can influence for good or for bad.  

I find that when I consider the whole of humankind as those created by God, in His image, then I must (logic) see value in all people regardless of color, language, religion, or ethnicity.  I should seek the good welfare of all people.  Though pragmatism says I can only do that in a small area through family, friends, and acquaintances.  Yet, the heart inspires better solutions than just the small ones I can contemplate.

That seems to be very simplistic, and yes, it is.  Because today’s social language revolves around many “hot button” issues, I’ll be spending time in future blog posts dealing with how I think about those issues.  While this is not an exclusive list, and I hold the right to change some as I go, I will explore the issues of social welfare, economics, religion (mine and others), and ethnology (our country, its people, government, etc.).  I recognize (pragmatism) that several of these may require more than one post.

Thinking about how one thinks is meta-cognition.  It’s not a bad thing to do every once in a while.  By posting this out here, it obligates me to not be lazy but to go and get it done.  I’ll leave it to you all to hold me accountable.

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Recently, listening to someone that I thought I respected, I was told that I shouldn’t use “Rube Goldberg” methods in trying to solve problems. The person in question had seen how over the years, I would use any means at hand, complicated or simple, to accomplish the goals set before me. This often resolved into not pursuing the goals any further because this person couldn’t understand how I got there.

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On Thursday, the 14th of June, Flag Day of all days, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited a passage of the Letter of Paul to the Roman church. Specifically, he referenced the following:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:1‭-‬4 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/rom.13.1-4.NIV

Sessions referenced this passage as he spoke to law enforcement during a speech in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was commenting on his department’s zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration on the southwest border. This policy has caused controversy and dissension because it requires that children be separated from their parents and detained while the parents are arrested. It also requires detaining unaccompanied minors instead of release to other familiy members.

I am not going to tackle the thorny issue of whether or not children should be separated and detained because I consider it wrong. Period. The only passage of scripture I need for this reasoning is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is from the Law of Moses and reiterated by Jesus.

What I am going to comment on is the lack of insight and incorrectness of Session’s use of scripture in this manner.

First and foremost, while I believe any Christian in public service should neither deny nor hide their faith (or leave it at the door as some suggest), we should not quote scripture in “mixed company” or act as if scripture is somehow binding upon non-believers.

While all of scripture is “God-breathed and useful for instruction”, it doesn’t apply to believer and non-believer equally. Scripture was written to the church. In the case of the Old Testament, it was written to the nation of Israel. The Mosaic Law was binding on Israel only (with some rare cases involving non-Hebrew people living among the Israelites and taking part in ceremonial holidays).

Except for what we believe is the call that Jesus wishes to reach and include all peoples everywhere in His kingdom, most of scripture isn’t binding on non-believers. Therefore, it is arrogant of Jeff to reference a word from the Apostle Paul as if it applies to everyone or that it is useful for him to admonish non-believers concerning Paul’s words. Paul’s words admonish and instruct the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ that lived in Rome (his audience) and by extension those of us that profess Christ.

Second, use of this passage must remain in context with what Paul meant it to mean for his audience, the Roman church. Paul wrote a church he had never visited. He knew very few of the congregants. But, the church lived in a turbulent time. Nero is Caesar. The great fire of Rome had yet to occur, but when it does, Nero will not just fiddle around, he will do what other politicians do; look for a scapegoat. He will find his scapegoat in Christians. It is written that when Nero began the persecution, he lined the roads with the burning bodies of Christians upon the cross. Therefore, Paul was urging his audience to not stir up any trouble unnecessarily. He does this by telling them to recognize Rome’s authority just as if it came from God.

While that may sound like a rough thing to say concerning Rome’s behavior towards Christians or any group they disliked. Roman Jews had just recently been allowed to return after being expelled by Emperor Claudius for several years. It was important that the Roman believers live as good citizens despite the bad actions of their government.

While I understand that some American preachers used this passage in the past to uphold slavery, I reject that in the same manner for the same reasons. We can only seek to understand the principle as it applies to us, the believers in America. We have to be very careful with literalness and legalism here (if you want to know more about what Paul said about legalism, read the 14th chapter of Romans and Galatians, it ain’t pretty).

The principle we can glean from Paul’s words here is to be good citizens, even when it seems difficult. We have to behave as if he (with me its not ‘as if’ but He really does) appoints our leaders. Do I like the way many in authority treat the church (universal meaning) or its members? Do I like believers having to go to court to defend their right to uphold their own faith? Do I like it that the electorate chose Trump? The short answer to all of these is, “No!” My nature is to fight, to have it fixed, to win out over those persecuting Christians. And, if you think that our persecution is less than others, you’d be right…and wrong.

We are still called to be good citizens of our cities, states, and nation even when we disagree with its policies (like separating kids from parents in immigration battles). Our system does allow us to band together and petition our elected officials to change their minds. Our system does allow us access to courts to defend our beliefs. Our system of laws does not allow us to hurt others, start riots, or any other sort of mayhem. We are called to be good citizens so that we don’t bring a bad reputation upon Christ, His Word, or His people. Yes, you can carry that out where it is headed, but remember, non-believer–while it is my belief that you cannot be held to my faith’s tenets in public, it also does not afford you to criticize believers. That is our job to handle, just as I am doing here.

While the bigger picture of illegal immigration is that the current “zero tolerance” policy is wrong, it is also wrong for Jeff to use scripture as a support for his enforcement of that policy. I use ‘Jeff’ because I’ll not consider him above me in this matter. He is an equal brother and I’ll talk about him that way. Paul’s admonition to believers to be good citizens applies to the Roman church that is his audience and can be extended to us as a good principle to live by. However, it cannot be construed to mean that when the laws allow us remedy that we should avoid that either, Paul didn’t.

It is true that the best quote from this portion of Romans would be good for all believers concerning immigration issues, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others, has fulfilled the law.” We’d all be better off if we took care of those less fortunate than ourselves. God told Israel through the prophet Malachi that if they lived according to God’s intentions and brought their own sacrifice into practice that they would receive a bounty without measure. I believe if we as Americans did right by our neighbors that want to live with us and work that our GDP would be more than sufficient for all of us. I truly believe that. Why won’t you?

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We all know too well the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen deaths, most teenagers and many other wounded because a 19-year-old ex-student carried a gun into the building and began shooting.

The tragedy of this is unspeakable. Yet, this isn’t the only one if its kind, just the latest. Regular media, social media, politicians, and the surviving students all want answers and have opinions. And, I’m no different. Why?

Some background before going further: I own guns. I carry a handgun, licensed, of course. I am a grandfather. I recently took my granddaughter to her school’s Dad/Daughter dance because her dad, my eldest son is no longer with us. I am a father and a husband. And, I am a Christ follower.

If this horrifies you or disgusts you to the point you cannot remain civil, you may check out now. However, if you are willing, I’m going to spend a while over some days or weeks, no real plan yet, talking about these issues.

These will be my own opinions based on my anecdotal evidence of what I know and observe. If I am observing incorrectly, leave me comment. However, I know that some Democrats will not like what I say. Some Republicans will not like what I say. Some gun owners and carriers will not like what I say. Some gun control proponents will not like what I say. Some atheists will not like what I say and some Christians will not like what I say. Probably some parents and teenagers will not like what I say. So, since I will likely anger some of every group, please join in my equal opportunity crowd.

Today’s post is a short essay that I sent to my pastor shortly after the shooting occurred. Yes, I stand by my opinions in it. Yes, you have the right to think differently. No, you don’t have the right to judge me deficient as a human being because I think this way. So, here goes nothing…

I sit here this morning after my first cup of coffee and listening to the chatter on the news feeds and social media about yesterday’s school shooting in Parkland, FL. It is horrific and sad to know that this is the level our society has dropped to in these recent years.

Why does this happen? Well, first, I’d refer folks to go and read Job. No, Job won’t give you any answers you’ll like or want. The real answer in Job comes when Job is called by God to answer God’s charges against Job. Yes, Job did make a mistake and God called him on it.

That answer is: God is sovereign and doesn’t answer to us.

Why does this happen? Now, I’d refer folks to go and read Genesis 1-3. You won’t like this answer either. It begins with, you guessed it, God is sovereign (chapter 1) and ends with humankind’s failure to avoid evil. There is a huge concept running around today, and it even finds itself in our churches: man is essentially good. Sorry, but that is a lie. Humans have proven over the millenia that there isn’t any goodness in us except that which comes from the Spirit of God through Christ.

Again, the answer is: because humans are evil.

Many, many of our nation’s children are raised without any moral compass. They are allowed to do whatever. At ages too young for their developing minds to comprehend, parents allow them access to video games, movies, songs, and other cultural items meant only for adults. Why, because everyone else does. Too many parents are trying to be their children’s friends when they ought to be their children’s parents.

We set ourselves up in our schools to fail. We have an utopian ideal of what school life should be like and by golly we are going to stick to that. While it was good intentions to declare all schools as drug and gun free zones, doing so without any sense of what can go wrong is incorrect. There are some schools and districts that use extra physical security to safeguard students, such as metal detectors and searches, but very few. Instead, we believe that a sign will deter a person bent on causing harm. Even those items may not stop all instances, but I still think it is a good first measure.

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Yes, I know.  I am weird.  While other people have dreams of many different things, I haven’t heard of many that dream sermons.  I do.  On occasion.

This week I had a dream about something that I should have known for a long time, but yet it seems to not make the top 10 of things on my mind.  But, as a believer, it should.

Jesus had a family.

Yep. Gotcha there.  We all know Jesus had a family on earth.  Mary was his mom.  Joseph his dad.  James was a brother (or technically half brother).  And, on and on.  Nothing new here.  Move along.

Nope.  That’s not what I meant.  Jesus had a family.  He had a mom and a dad.  Specifically, what came to mind was this passage that I will quote:

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I used the King James Version because that’s how it was in the dream and the original English words most of us know are important here; “she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”.  Mary swaddled Jesus to comfort him and protect him.  He was her son and regardless of his lineage or divinity, he was a baby and needed his mother’s protection and love.
Swaddling is an ancient practice still used by some parents.  It generally only works with newborns and for a little while after.  The baby is wrapped snugly in blankets, arms, legs and all.  Motion is limited but the child is still and feels protected.
We forget these things about Jesus way too often.  Some of the gnostics just a few centuries after Jesus’ walk on the earth thought that his divinity would not allow him to touch this dirty, sinful earth and  he traveled all his life floating just above the earth.  In this view, he would be aloof, uncaring, and not connected to humanity at all.  Sadly, I think many of us tend to look at Jesus that way today, whether we are believers or not.
It is very easy to see Jesus in this light.  We want to distance our sinful natures from the purity of his divinity.  We want to look only at his god nature and not at his humanity.  We prefer to see the existence of the wrath he would bestow upon us because of the things we’ve done.  But, in reality, I think that is farthest from his nature towards us.  When Jesus took up the incarnation, he took it up fully, just as we have to do.  Jesus’ humanity was not separate from his divinity; both natures were fully integrated into each other.
Because Jesus had a loving and protecting mother and a caring father, he knew and lived his life inside a family.  I think that is a bit of why he loved all of us, because we are also his family.  I have no doubt that we are able to disappoint Jesus at times, but he does forgive us, his family and wants to love and protect us always.  Jesus really is our brother and God is really our Father.  We as humans and children of God would do so much better if we could lay hold of this truth and travel through life with it in our heads and our hearts.
On this, the last day of 2016, when so many are in turmoil around our world, I will hold to the truth taught by the man and God that once was swaddled in a manger by his mother.

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