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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category


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. (more…)

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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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Today, March 17th, is St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, the US, and probably Canada as well.  It seems to be a day about alcohol consumption mostly, as if we needed another day for that.  Not that I am against alcohol, I like my Guinness as much as the next person.  And, if Ireland wants to have everyone connect Saint Patrick with Ireland nationality and pride, that is alright too, and a reasonable connection.

However, Saint Patrick’s Day is to commemorate Patrick of Ireland, a bishop, a monk, and a Briton.  Yes, a Briton (but notice the spelling is different).  Patrick did more for the world than inspire a day to drink green beer (which doesn’t exist in the wild) or eat corned beef and cabbage (which I will probably do later).  As someone said much better than I but I forget his name, “Patrick’s monasteries kept the light of civilization on while it was going dark across the continent of Europe.”

Patrick was born to a Roman Briton clergyman along the west coast of what is now England, sometime during the 5th century (401 to 500 AD).  His family was Christian and Roman; his father Calpornius was a deacon, his grandfather a priest.  Yes, at this time, there was no actual Roman Catholic Church and the idea of celibate bishops and clergy hadn’t come into real existence, yet.

As a young boy, Patrick was captured by raiding Irish Celts and taken back to live as a slave in Ireland.  He grew through his teen years as a shepherd in Ireland, but escaped back to England as a young adult.  Because of his spiritual journey while a captive, he converted to Christianity and became a missionary back to Ireland after receiving a vision.  Patrick recounts a similar vision to the Apostle Paul’s Macedonian call in the Acts of the Apostles.  Paul was called in a vision or dream by a young Macedonian man to come over from Asia to witness in Macedonia.  Patrick recounts a similar vision to come to Ireland by a young Irishman calling out to him.

In Ireland, Patrick converted many people, ordained priests, and established monasteries.  Whether or not he banished snakes from Ireland is the stuff of legend, but the work of the monasteries in Ireland is heady stuff.  Irish monasteries continued gathering writings from across the known world, copying and storing them for later.  Regardless of the legendary history of Patrick, this young man helped to form a Christian society where there was none and helped maintain literacy and civilization at a time when it was becoming more difficult.

The fall of Rome brought severe problems to Europe without the stabilizing effect of a large government.  One can debate for a long time about the goodness or evil of Rome,but it did provide structure.  When that structure fell, chaos began to reign.  In this chaos, the church of Rome began to rise, yet its view of literacy and the arts and sciences was quite different from the former Rome.  At least a century after Rome left Briton, missionaries from Rome found a lively, well-established Christian society in Ireland.  There were differences in church practices in the Irish churches which led to later conflicts with Rome.

I am doing most of this from memory, with a few checks on Wikipedia.  If you really want to know more about Saint Patrick, check that site or any good book on early Christian history. So, don’t shoot me if I have made a mistake on some of Patrick’s history.

Patrick was no superhero, but he inspired many and taught many others.  Other Irish missionaries would go on to become great men of Christ’s kingdom as well.  Despite how anyone looks at the legends surrounding Patrick, no one can deny the effect he had upon the world by creating places where Christ, literacy, and faith were upheld and practiced.  Regardless of why anyone decides to celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, I still choose to remember the young missionary that answered his own “Macedonian Call” to go where he was led by the Spirit and did a great work for God.

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I was talking this morning on the phone with an insurance lady that remarked how her grandmother told her that when she was older that the years would just fly by.  Now in her 30’s, the lady was realizing her grandmother was telling the truth.  This year, I turned 53 and time is moving quickly enough that I may soon have to have a conversation with Mr. Einstein about relativity.

Yes, we have come to another end of year.  However, please don’t look forward to my resolutions.  I resolve not to resolve.  After several mistakes as a younger person who said he would never do such and such, just to find out that later he very much was going to do such and such, I no longer try to test God‘s patience, nor my own.  I have a rough idea of the path I should be upon, only enough to see just a few steps in front of me, and there I will go.

No, instead, I am going to reflect a little on this past year and how it has and will shape my new year.  I am learning many new things and realizing that I am not that younger person any more (and my sweetie most likely says, “Thank the Lord!”).  I still haven’t become the person I wish to be, but as the apostle says, “I am daily straining forward to earn the prize”, or something very close to that any way.

This year marked seven years of cycling and five years of running.  Though I was only able to participate in one organized ride and my half marathon this month was cancelled due to the weather, I still ran and biked (and swam) for most of the year.  The discipline I have learned from both is invaluable.  No matter what may occur in daily life, I know I can get up most mornings and either run or ride off the dross (hope I used that word correctly).

In addition, the patience and sometimes just plain fearlessness learned from running helped me to do something I never thought I would be able to do.  I play in a band now.  OK, it’s a church band and I play bass, but it’s music and it’s worship, so there.  In response to a felt need, I started working at the first of the year to put my lackluster efforts at learning guitar into playing bass instead.

I worked with the band leader at our church, who was the bass player also.  I borrowed my daughter’s bass and started to relearn my scales and try to put those to good use in keeping rhythm.  I had the mistaken belief that this was simple since I had less strings and less complexity (4 instead of 6, and country bass).  I did not know what I was thinking. There is so much more to playing bass than just personal proficiency.  Yet, I did not quit.  Learned that one from running.

About May, the band leader said I needed to get ready because in the Fall he would be out some and I should prepare for an audition.  OK.  No problem.  I just needed to get serious.  In September, I started sitting with the band during their Wednesday practice to work on live playing (they played, I struggled to keep up).  I kept my bass unplugged and sat in a pew and followed along.  After a few weeks of this, it was time to put things to the test.

The band leader asked me to plug in and play with them.  It wasn’t the greatest of beginnings, but it began.  The band leader loaned me his bass since it had better tone.  I do think my daughter’s Dean Metalman V-shaped bass still had a little to do with that decision, but I’ll just say it was tone.  The next Sunday, I played for real, on the stage, plugged in, and everything. Very scary, but I survived the audition. My band leader said I could fill in the next Sunday when he was out.

While I survived the next Sunday with the band leader out, I brought back his bass to practice ready to be just the backup bass player.  Nope, not happening.  The band leader had his banjo out and ready to work.  I was in another week, and then another, and then another.  By now it was time to start working on Christmas music.  After a meeting and answering some serious questions, I was accepted.  I became the new bass player. Now, every Sunday it is my responsibility to keep the beat and help with the rhythm so that others can worship as well.

However, I was still playing on a borrowed bass.  Affording a new one was pretty much out of the question for some time.  I wasn’t sure just how to accomplish obtaining a bass that I could call my own.  But, following God and learning to be a runner and a cyclist taught me to rely on God, and determine what was really important.

I had two good six-string electric guitars.  One was a mid-1980’s Fender Stratocaster.  After a lot of thought and more than a little prayer, I sat down one Wednesday after Thanksgiving and put both of them on Craigslist in offer of a trade for a bass.  Within an hour or so, I had an offer of a trade on what looked like a great bass.  I called the guy up and we arranged to meet at my church before starting time.  He looked over both my guitars and even though the Fender had a little cosmetic damage, he was happy to trade.  The bass he traded hadn’t seen play in a year.  I now owned a bass.

Christmas concerts are over.  Candle light services are over.  But, every Sunday comes and I have to be ready to anchor my spot and know my music.  It takes work, like running.  It takes patience, like running.  It takes struggle and endurance, like running.  It takes making mistakes, like running. It takes learning new things and being fearless, like running (and learning to embrace the lycra in cycling).

I have a great year coming in 2014.  I get to get up every morning I wish to and run.  When it warms up, I will get up on Sunday mornings and ride, ride, ride.  I will continue to learn, and practice, and train so that I will be able to “take hold of the prize” as the apostle says.  It’s all a work in progress.  Happy New Year, and Happy Running!

 

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I am really not sure why we humans tend to get all sappy and nostalgic at the end of each calendar year.  It seems to be a habit even if your year doesn’t end on December 31st.  However, reflection and remembrance is a part of human life.  Making resolutions also seems to be the wont of many people at this time of year as well.  I suppose all that reflection brings about regrets and memories of failures during the year.

My year has been topsy-turvy to say the least.  I have had significant changes in my work and career.  I am still trying to get used to some of the more recent changes.  I’m not one to dwell on failures so I don’t have a list of regrets.  Regrets also tend to be such a bad business anyway.  I guess the only significant foible this year on the athletic front was Hotter-n-Hell in August.  I had to DNF it because of a broken spoke.  That in itself doesn’t quite qualify as failure.  Yet, it did give me more initiative to learn how to overcome that problem through building (or rebuilding) my own wheel.  The proof in that pudding won’t show up until later in 2012, though.  I did have some sucesses as well.  I finally finished a ride that I had not completed in three years (Tour d’Italia – June).  I also completed my first triathlon and (ahem) my first marathon.  I’ve gotten to watch my kids grow up even more and learn how to deal with the world at large, and even to see my granddaughter at her school on grandparents day.  Yeah, I think there were plenty of good things happening in 2011.

I’m not sure when I decided to quit the whole ‘resolution’ thing, but I really don’t do those anymore.  I do prefer to set some goals for the year.  Resolutions are something you ‘resolve’ to do, but culturally and psychologically, they tend to be more judgmental and success/failure oriented than they should.  I also tend to think we set ourselves up with resolutions by making them unreachable then kicking ourselves for the failure.  Goals, on the other hand, don’t have to be that way.  Goals can be modified, adjusted, and reworked.  Goals can be delayed, if necessary.  One can measure efforts toward a goal as a percentage of success and then celebrate the percentage while making plans to continue.  I like goals.

I have finally gotten back to spending more time reading (grad school can really take that out of you).  I have several books lined up to read so far and I am going to try to keep at it.  I finally have back some of the desire to read more science fiction than I had in the past.  Hopefully, I’ll keep finding new works to read.  Spending more time reading is a good goal for 2012.

On the training front, I am already working on my eating habits.  I hope I can continue being diligent and will see my weight continue to drop.  I know that my speed in running and swimming has picked up because of weighing less.  I am also going to try and keep a longer long run going.  I am planning to do a 10, 12, 15-mile rotation beginning next month.  I had started doing 5-milers on Mondays.  I am not certain those will stay, but we’ll see.  I don’t plan on another marathon this year, but in 2013…we’ll see.  Running more miles with less weight is a good goal.

After ‘Santa’ brought me a Park Tension Meter for Christmas, I have succeeded in getting my Trek back together.  The rear wheel certainly feels solid and the statistics of the tension meter says I have a strong wheel.  Time will tell on that point.  It would be really nice to be able to ride my Trek all year, and my plans are to finish the 100-miler at Hotter-n-Hell again this year.  More riding is certainly a worthy goal for 2012.

I certainly enjoyed the triathlon I did this past September.  I am making it a goal to go back to that one come September 2012.  I am also going to work on the Olympic distance triathlon this year.  There is one in Waco in July that sounds good.  A 1500 meter swim in the Brazos river in July ought to be a hoot.  Two triathlons are good goals for 2012.

This next year, I will turn 52.  I do know that one of my goals for 2012 is to cease worrying about stuff.  If you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that is very hard for me to do.  But it’s a goal, nonetheless and one I am biblically commanded to do.  And, speaking of that general area, I am going to try and keep my mind open concerning theology this year.  I know that I am certainly becoming much more liberal in both theology and politics of late.  It’s rather refreshing sometimes, but it brings me into conflict also.  However, I think I am getting old enough I can just say to the…well, you know.

A new year is a time for us to reflect on the past year, and to prepare for the next.  I’m not quite sure why we do this just because it’s January 1, but it’s not a bad idea.  I do think it’s important for us to take our new year with a grain of salt.  Even with my plans to run, race, read, and worry less, I still have to factor in that I am not in control of all things.  God has designs that I don’t always know about, and it is important to be flexible.  He is the one that controls my steps and sometimes my plans run counter to His.  It’s always good to not let our goals take over everything.  Rigidity is not a pretty sight.  But, I look forward to seeing how 2012 will work out.  Some of it will be like I planned and some of it won’t.  In the end, I think I will look forward to the New Year.  How about you?

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