May 2008


Can your faith do this for you : supply you each day with a deep sense of well-being, a sense of being content with yourself and your surroundings?

The Christian Faith defined as the Life of Christ himself indwelling the Church, which is his Body, has this quality as expressed so well by the Apostle Paul when he wrote-

I Have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content! (letter from prison to the Philippian Church)

The most logical question that comes to mind is, “How did Paul learn this beautiful art of living?” For him it was a major and necessary part of his faith in Jesus, the Christ, for he speaks of this in his other letters. For instance, he tells Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain“. And he tells us that this had to be learned. If Paul had to learn it, who was his teacher? He was trained under the famous Rabbi, Gamaliel, a leading authority in the Sanhedrin; did he learn the art of contentment from this teacher of Israel in the Jewish Scriptures?

I’m leaving you with this question to ponder before giving you Paul’s own answer, found in another one of his letters from prison. Think with me for a few days just how desirable this quality in life is to actually possess and then meditate on how you believe in your own situation you can learn this art, this habitual practice as part of your daily routine. Through out the history of the Church there have been examples of those in prison for their faith that have also demonstrated this contentment and calm. If you are familiar with the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor/professor imprisoned under the Nazi regime in WWII, and later put to death just before the end of the war, then you will know something of the beauty and worth of this quality in a person’s life under the most difficult of circumstances.

Read a classic on-line: The Art of Divine Contentment by Watson

    SOUND FAMILIAR ?

This is a revolutionary age. The hurricane winds of change are howling around the world. The human race seethes with unrest and rebellion. Our political institutions are polarized, divided to the left and right without any common ground in the center. Despite the signs of current prosperity, our debt-ridden, hair-triggered economy seems precariously balanced on the verge of collapse. We have barred and deadbolted our homes, making ourselves prisoners while criminals roam free in our neighborhoods, grafitti-tagging and shooting at random, filling our hearts with fear. With every day’s headlines, with every new atrocity or terrorist attack, we see more evidence that there is a very thin line which separates civilization from anarchy. We seem to be approaching not just a political breakdown, but a cultural meltdown. -Ray Stedman

Things don’t seem to change much. These comments were written in 1972 and as any student of history knows, similiar commentaries on the state-of-the-world have been made throughout time. As we said in a previous post, the basic human situation and the dangers confronting us as well as the work of finding solutions is a given in this present age of right vs.wrong.

So what is our highest priority? What is the one activity that stands above all the others that we can spend time and resources to fight this reality in which we all find ourselves in the middle of? This is my blog and you expect me to say what I believe is the answer to that, don’t you? I must show you that I have studied the question seriously and diligently and have in fact come to an answer that I do not hesitate to sign my name to. I have taken ownership of this as the answer and am spending my life and resources on it as the highest priority. And yes, it comes from the biblical story, the same story where I find the best answers to all my serious questions involving the basic issues of life and death, good and evil.

The two lights                                                      

You are the light of the world! A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Jesus, the Light of the world, to his disciples.

So I do not hesitate to declare to all who will listen, for the peace and unity of humankind, for the healing of the nations’ violence and poverty and corruptions of all kinds- the very best thing that can happen is for this light be as bright as it can be; this city of light be set on a hill clearly in every community of the world so that all that may see the light and be enriched.

The only human society I know that claims to be the Society of Jesus, the Jesus of the biblical story, and says their purpose and desire is to follow and obey Him, is the Church. So my answer is that the highest priority is to get the Church healthy and conformed to the original design of her maker so that she can be the source of power in the world against all these woes that cause death and destruction and untold misery. For the answer is not found in the Capitol Building or the city of Washington,D.C., nor in any earthly government, but only in the Prince of Peace and his city, the heavenly Jerusalem, as it is called in the biblical story. As she reflects the true Light and in turn shines it into every human culture and situation in the world, there is real hope. I send out an earnest plea for those of all Faiths not based on this same story, to pray for the churches you might be familiar with and to do all you can to hold them to their God-given mission to be the City of Light to the world. According to my personal faith, it will be the best thing you can do for yourself and for your people.

This is the highest priority for the Church and for the world.

(the quote is from Ray Stedman’s book on the Church-BODY LIFE ) READ the book on-line, another little paper-back classic.

 

 

 

 

 

Prominent evangelicals urged Christian conservatives Wednesday, May 7, 2008, to support “an expansion of our concerns beyond single-issue politics,” angering some leaders on the religious right who have been closely allied with the Republican Party. The Manifesto was made public at the National Press Club in Washington,D.C., by a panel representing the Drafting Committee of the document that was some three years in the making.

In a 19-page document called “An Evangelical Manifesto,” more than 70 theologians, pastors and others said faith and politics have been too closely mixed. They warned against Christians adopting any one political view. The first order of business for the Manifesto is an attempt to reform the evangelical movement itself by regaining the original meaning of the label. But simultaneously they are speaking to the public through the media informing the American society at large as to what this movement has been historically and theologically rather than culturally and not reflective of any one ideology, including I might add, on a major issue like the Iraq War.

Many of us have been very hesitant to be labeled “evangelical” since the rise of the “Moral Majority” because we have seen a deterioration of the theological base on the one hand and a corresponding emphasis on certain, highly politicized agendas among leaders using the label. This is a much needed correction that I urge everyone to pay attention to. From this date on, it will be irresponsible for example, for any journalist in the country to ignore what was said emphatically at this press conference and continue to use the word evangelical to describe a specific political position. It will be very helpful for those of other Faiths, especially Jews and Muslims and Atheists to study this document clearly. In many ways it sets the “gold standard” for what biblical Christians of all stripes seek to live by, the teachings and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It also plainly announces the intention to join with others to work for the common good of the country and the world and to do so in a “gentle and reverent manner”. It is a new call to civility in the public square. It is also a not-too-subtle declaration to any political party that would try to claim the evangelicals for their own agendas.

Watch this water-shed press conference as four Prominent Evangelical leaders representing the Committee articulate for the secular press what they hope will restore the savor to the salt. VIDEO

READ the MANIFESTO (pdf)

E4Unity is not ashamed to promote the kind of things that are articulated so well in this document in our present cultural context as it relates to faithfully serving our present generation.

J.H.Bavinck was a renowned Dutch Missiologist. His book, An Introduction to the Science of Missions, (1954) was translated from the Dutch and published in Philadelphia in 1960. It has been used as a textbook in many schools ever since and it is still in print.  The following article is his perspective of those universal questions that all of us in one way or another seek to find answers for in our search for a meaningful life. We don’t have to agree with his categories to benefit from an understanding of just how similiar we are in some very basic instincts of life. The comments are from another book, The Church Between Temple and Mosque.

The Five Magnetic Points- J. H. Bavinck

Man by virtue of his place in the world, must always and everywhere give answers to the same questions. He has to struggle with the basic problems which his existence itself entails. He is afflicted by grief and misfortune; he meets both adverse and prosperous conditions; deep in his heart he has a vague feeling of responsibility; he has to adapt himself to the course of nature; he is aware he is only a small being in the immeasurable greatness of the universe; and he knows very well that sooner or later death will knock at his door. Wherever he goes, he is surrounded by a multitude of questions, and although he has the power to escape from them for a certain time, he cannot help being overwhelmed by them at times. His being on earth is itself such an immense riddle that it threatens to crush him. The answers to all the questions with which he has to struggle may be different, but the problems themselves are always the same. And he has to respond to them, not only in his thinking and feeling but also in his whole attitude to life, in his acts and rites, in his existence itself; his whole way of life is a response. Therefore it stands to reason that this universal religious consciousness, with all its antagonisms and tensions, is something real and is to be found wherever men live and toil.

We have a lot to talk with people of other Faiths about. Somehow I have to believe that there must be a “civilized” way we can be who we are and let others know by our lives “whose disciples we are”. May the beauty of the Lord our God be seen in those who claim to know Him.

Read the article Religious consciousness by J.H. Bavinck 

 
 

 

Peace Window-United NationsThe Church’s Gift to the World

 

As declared earlier on this blog, the Church of Christ, according to the Christian Faith, is the most powerful force on earth when she is healthy. The Church has been given a life and a message to give to the world. Because of all the dissonance in what the world is hearing today from the churches, that very gift is turned into something unlovely and undesirable and more than a few are rejecting what they perceive as the message.

 

As a recent post was meant to show, the message is not about do’s and don’t do’s nor is it about the externals of religion such as rites, ceremonies, and creeds. No, the message given to the Church for the world’s healing, is all about a person: the Lord God’s Anointed Son, Jesus. He himself is the one that must be communicated in our message and if He is not, then we have failed. It’s really that simple. He alone is the one who brings true and lasting peace to the nations. He is the Prince of Peace. The Gospel of Peace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

T.M.Moore, in his column, Second Sight, wrote a series on the very subject of the good news of the Church’s message of peace. He began in the Advent season and concluded it in January of this year. It is so good that I quote from it and if you like what you read, you can follow the link back to the final article in the series.

 

The Good News of the kingdom of peace is certainly that—Good News—but it is not exclusively that. In the same breath that Jesus granted the gift of peace to His disciples, (John 16) He warned them that trial and tribulation lay ahead. The record of the apostles, and of the entirety of church history, is that our Lord knew whereof He spoke.

The prospect of peace, while available to all, is extended only to those who find favor with God. This was the announcement the angels made to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. Frequently mistranslated, the angels’ announcement was not, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” but, “Peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). God parcels out His peace, from the depths of the soul to all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities, through all of culture and society, to those with whom He is pleased—to those, that is, who seek His peace in the kingdom of peace and through the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ. And this, of course, large numbers of people are manifestly unwilling to do. We may expect many of them, therefore, to oppose our agenda of peace, not because they do not wish for peace, but because they want peace on their own terms, apart from any obligation to Jesus or God…

In view of the certainty of opposition to our agenda of peace, how shall we keep peace as a priority within the community of faith? And what shall we do to seek peace, pursue the prospect of it, and allow it the primacy in our lives, in every area of our lives?

 Full article at Parceling Peace. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         Now we’re cooking baby!

I ran across a post today I’ve been just waiting to find and jump on.

WHAT IS FAITH?  This was originally posted by Stacey Lawson at huffingtonpost.com, but I found a link to it over on newsvine.com where I’ve started a little news blog. That’s where I jumped right in with my two-cents worth. (please read the original post and the very interesting comments at both places)

What Faith Is

Thanks Angel for the “Faith is Not Religion” link. Here is where I have found help from the social sciences and especially in a topic most christians know little about. Faith can be demonstrated to be a “universal” characteristic of humankind. It can be studied in its “generic” manifestations rather than in the more common sense of “ideological content”, for example doctrine (this is where most of the age-long struggle within christendom comes from).

Faith deals with very important human choices and loves, everything we invest our lives in. It not only involves our minds and imaginations but also our emotions and our wills. We usually don’t ask the right questions when it comes to faith in this sense; we ask “what do you believe?” That already takes us down the road to religion and creeds and institutions. Faith is about such questions as, who do you trust for wisdom in navigating the great events of your life?  What do you set your heart on, Give your devotion/worship to? What determines the ‘values’ part of who you are?

And then there are a whole host of other not-so-insignificant questions almost everyone at some point finds herself meditating about: where did I come from? why was I placed in the family/race/country that I was born into? what is the purpose of life? where is civilization going? what happens after we die?

As you can see, these are the kinds of things that faith deals with and it is a universal because of the nature of humankind, the way we were created.(opps, I slipped, and let my own faith system show up) There is such a thing as “faith development” or stages of faith. Perhaps one of the most outstanding contributions to this whole area was the book, “Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and The Quest for Meaning“, by James W.Fowler (1981). (READ the excellent reviews at this Amazon link)I highly recommend it to anyone that is interested in learning more about faith as used in this sense.

When science tries to answer faith questions what you end up with is not pure science but a faith system. For one who answers such questions with statements that turns to the individual within, that too can be seen to be a self-developed faith system. The so-called atheists also have their own kind of faith. This is probably new to many, this concept of faith not being per se a religion. But all religious people can learn a lot about themselves and their faith by learning to study it in its generic sense.

The Cry of The Skeptics to the Religious

 

 

I had a wonderful idea sometime after hearing of Elder D.J. Ward’s death and upon reading an amazing post by Mary Louise. I have collected over the years a file in my computer I call “The Saints Gallery”. It is just a small sampling of men like Elder Ward that I have known personally or that during my short lifetime I have been privileged to know something of their influence in the world. The idea has grown that I must share that on my blog as it is such a part of the influence of others on who I am.

 

Mary Louise post is letting us in on who she is, “a Vatican kid”. (see ROOTS)  Here she is quoting from a book, Man the Saint:

 

Those who abandon the one true God very soon become slaves of the most barren dryness of soul. They are simply pagans: and to-day they can be seen all around us straining their sightless eyes, vainly seeking that happiness for which their instincts cry out, groping about in the dark, blindly trying to find the way, the truth and the life. We try to help them. We have told them a thousand times to look to our Christ. They have tried to look but they see nothing. We have shouted at them that Christ is alive, really alive, the same man that He always was and always will be, but the force of our arguments was quenched by their cold indifference. And yet it is easy enough to understand this dryness and bitterness in the souls of these poor pagans when we read the cynical challenge in their eyes: “Show us by your lives that Christ is alive.” Their argument is all too just. We cannot expect them to be won over by treatises on apologetics and theology, some of them too dry and formal. Their argument is fair enough: “Show us by your lives that Christ is alive.”

 

But then the quote takes an unexpected turn and before you can leave off reading, it’s too late; the arrow of truth has been sunk deep within. This in turn introduces the topic of the Saints as commonly understood by the faithful in the Catholic tradition. My “Saint’s Gallery” postings will hopefully answer the challenge from the skeptics and declare there are lives that demonstrate that Christ is alive and walks among us even though they may be far too few. And these lives will demonstrate that even the best of the Saints are all clay vessels with their warts and all, not exactly the common understanding.

 

One final quote from the post of Mary Louise, in hopes you will want to take time to read it all.

 

“ It is a cause for bitter regret to see the insipid and crumbling spectacle we present to the world after twenty centuries of so-called progress. Our world is full of living Christians, but yet it is the lifeless who are in command. We have churches in plenty, but so few good lives. All we lack is lives, lives to inspire the dead, to convince them, to strengthen the wills of poor weak mortals,to enlighten the minds of the diseased, to soften the selfish hearts of greedy materialists –

passionate lives,         

generous lives,                                                 

 So few good lives!”

 

This is also what my earlier post on “The Most Powerful Force on Earth” is about.