Month: December 2015

Love, Peace, Joy

My last blog for 2015 – a big shout out thank you to all of you who wandered through my thoughts this year!

Take a look at these commands:

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Facts: we will have enemies – get over it.  There is evil and good, righteous and unrighteous – you’re not going to stop the evil – it’s here to stay.  Anyone can love the loveable.  Go out and love the unloveable.

We are children of our Father in heaven.  Let’s try living like it.  Love someone.  Make peace.  Spread joy.  Be a light to your corner of the world.  Whether you affect one person or millions it doesn’t matter.  The fact that you are influencing is what is important.

Give a hand up.  Give a smile.  Carry someone’s bags.  Love like a child with innocence.

Love, peace, joy – they are very simple instructions.  See if you can make a difference.

syria

Refugee children in Syria/ wikimedia
Source
DSC_0871 (Syria 1, Emergencies 6)
Author
Trocaire from Ireland

 

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Walking the Journey

I came across this verse totally by accident.  It spoke volumes to me.  We have all walked through valleys.  We have all struggled.  We have all faced a dark night.

Deuteronomy 2:7 The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.

Look at the promises:

The Lord has bless you in all the work of your hands.

He has watched over your journey.

Vast wilderness – He knows the wilderness you are in – you don’t need to point it out to Him!  He knows exactly where you are, where you have been and where you are going!  He knows your next challenge before you do.

God has always been with you.

You have not lacked anything.

The journey may not be easy but God is with us each step of the way!

108

 

Get what you ask for

Here is a fun message for today:

I typed in the words “Get what you ask for” in a Bible search.  This is what I got:

Jonah 1:11
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
It found a verse with all the words in it.  It just wasn’t what I was looking for!   Sometimes God gives us exactly what we ask for.  Sometimes He doesn’t.  Sometimes we need to wait.  Sometimes He gives us MORE than what we ask for.
The issue really isn’t about “getting anything” other than building our relationship with HIM.  If that’s what you get then you’ve already got more than what you asked for!
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Goliath

“It’s all fun and games until you poke your eye out” – we all heard this message from our mothers growing up.

We all had BB guns as kids – they’re probably not politically correct anymore.  The old ones were not very powerful but there was always the fear of shooting someone in the eye which would have been horrible!

David didn’t have a BB gun when he faced Goliath – he only had a sling shot.  While his type of sling shot was more powerful then a BB gun, it would take a lot of skill to be accurate with it.

Imagine facing a giant in today’s world with only a BB gun.  He would have protective gear, a machine gun and hand grenades.   Imagine facing a NAVY SEAL or Army Ranger!  Imagine the laugh and disgust that would come to the mind of that soldier.  A boy with a BB gun.  Is that all the enemy can send out?  (this is not a comparison to terrorists who sadly send children out with explosives taped to their bodies).

David had a great aim and hit his enemy.  He brought down Goliath.

You may be facing an enemy today – a giant that looms over you.  You may only have a BB gun.  Will you take down the giant?  Will you conquer the enemy?  Are you fighting for Lord’s army or for your own selfish ambition?

Can you hit the enemy in the eye?

I Samuel 17:41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

tree

 

One Hit Artists

This may be my favorite post of the year:

I was looking for a song that I liked from my teen years.  When I found it I saw the name of the recording artist.  I couldn’t remember their name.  I can’t say that I ever knew their name.  They were a “one hit” artist.  They never recorded another hit song and they disappeared from fame after this one song that hit the chart.

Many groups have experienced this – they come and go with only one hit song.   It doesn’t mean that they weren’t great musicians.  It only means that they hit the charts for a moment.  Many great musicians don’t ever accomplish that much.

When we think of people in the Bible, we often think of the main characters – Moses, David, Joshua, Peter and Paul.  These men had repeated input to God’s Kingdom.  But what about the “one hit” people?  Were they any less significant?

As we carry out God’s will, are we trying to be massive influencers, one hit leaders, or are we simply doing what we are called to do?  Whether we make a “hit” or not is really not important.  It’s the character that we walk out in the course of our life that may or may not lead to a “hit”.  Walk with God and let Him have the glory.

Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

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Is it harder to go or come back?

If you talk to anyone going out on a mission assignment – whether it is short term or long term – there is a question: Is it harder to leave home and go or is it harder to return?

There is a natural fear or reluctance in moving to another country:  Leaving family and friends, fear of adjusting to a new culture and language, questions over succeeding or failure in the mission.  It is a fear of the unknown and change.

But anyone who has been to another culture faces the dilemma of returning . . . Now the questions arise: Can I deal with the materialism?  Can I deal with the first world problems?  I’ve changed, how will I relate to family and friends?  Will people treat me differently?  Will I be disillusioned?  Will home no longer be home?

All of these questions about going and returning are valid and they need to be faced.  Some will adjust easily to a new culture.  Others will have a difficult time.  Some will come home with ease.  Some will never really come home.

How has your adjustment been?  Was it harder to leave or to come back?

Numbers 15:2
Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home’.

 

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Would you wear a hijab?

Wheaton College suspends Christian professor who wore a hijab

Wheaton college suspends professor wearing hijab to support Muslims — for her explanation, not the act.

A tenured Wheaton College professor who, as part of her Christian Advent devotion, donned a traditional headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave.

Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the private evangelical Christian college in Chicago’s west suburbs, announced last week that she would wear the veil to show support for Muslims who have been under greater scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook.

But it was that explanation of her gesture that concerned some evangelical Christians, who read her statement as a conflation of Christian and Muslim theology.

“While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer,” Wheaton College said in a statement.

Hawkins, 43, planned to wear the hijab everywhere she went until Christmas, including on her flight home to Oklahoma, where voters in 2010 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning Shariah, or Islamic law.

She said in a Tribune interview that it’s “a time of real vitriolic rhetoric by fellow Christians sometimes and people who aren’t Christian who conflate all Muslims with terrorist — and that saddens me — so this is a way of saying if all women wear the hijab we cannot discriminate. If all women were in solidarity, who is the real Muslim? How is TSA going to decide who they really suspect?”

While Hawkins did not need to seek approval from Wheaton, she did seek advice from the Council on American Islamic Relations, to make sure she did not offend Muslims.

Renner Larson, communications director for CAIR’s Chicago chapter, said he was intrigued by her decision.

“There’s a lot of misconception about why women wear hijab and this idea that women are forced to wear it,” said Larson, who is not Muslim. “For a lot of people it’s a very powerful choice, especially in the United States it can be a hard, uncomfortable choice. So often women wearing hijab are the targets of attack and hatred because more than anyone else they are so immediately recognizable as Muslim.”

Wheaton administrators did not denounce Hawkins’ gesture but said more conversation should have taken place before it was announced.

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity,” the college said in a statement. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”

Last week, a coalition of student leaders at Wheaton drafted an open letter calling on evangelical Christian leaders to condemn recent remarks by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. that students armed with guns can “end those Muslims.”

Gene Green, a professor of the New Testament at Wheaton, said what motivated Hawkins is the same concern many faculty members at the school share about the unfair scrutiny facing the Muslim community.

“Dr. Hawkins and others want to follow the example of Jesus, who went to those who were discriminated against,” he said. “He ate with people whom others rejected. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, and the Muslims are our neighbors.”

Larson, who attends a Unitarian Universalist church, said he was dismayed to hear that some view Hawkins’ gesture as compromising Christianity.

“It’s disappointing that showing solidarity means that you are somehow sacrificing your own identity,” he said. “I do what I do not to be closer to Islam but because it makes me closer to my identity as an American who believes in American ideals.”

At St. Martin Episcopal Church in Chicago on Sunday, Hawkins was embraced for her act of solidarity. During the service, other parishioners shared their own stories of how they were reaching out to their Muslim neighbors. Hawkins said she expected the embrace from the welcoming Austin neighborhood church. She didn’t expect the backlash from her own evangelical brothers and sisters.

“I do care about my Christian brothers and sisters, and I didn’t set out to offend them,” she said. “My position has been held for centuries.”

mbrachear@tribpub.com

Twitter @tribseeker

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Secularism a Religion?

RELIGION

Unbelief As A Belief System: Core Tenet For Christians’ Fight For Religious Rights

Activists hold posters during a March 2005 rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to support separation of church and state. The court heard two cases regarding whether Ten Commandments monuments should be displayed on government properties.

Activists hold posters during a March 2005 rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to support separation of church and state. The court heard two cases regarding whether Ten Commandments monuments should be displayed on government properties.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Christian conservatives who are battling for the right to promote their faith in public or official settings see themselves locked in an epic contest with a rival religion. But that rival isn’t Islam. It’s secularism.

“Secularism and Christianity are distinct, immutable religions,” writes David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, a group he organized to promote more political participation by conservative pastors. “Secularism advances the fundamental goodness of human nature, where historic Christianity sets forth a pessimistic view of human nature.”

The notion that secularism can be seen as a religion is ridiculed by many nonreligious people, but Lane and other Christian conservatives have their own Supreme Court hero to back them up: the late Justice Potter Stewart, who served on the court from 1958 to 1981.

The late Justice Potter Stewart, who served on the Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981. Stewart was the lone dissenter in a 1963 decision banning Bible readings in public schools.

The late Justice Potter Stewart, who served on the Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981. Stewart was the lone dissenter in a 1963 decision banning Bible readings in public schools.

Charles Tasnadi/AP

The lone dissenter in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, a 1963 Supreme Court decision that banned Bible readings in public schools, Stewart argued that prohibiting such religious exercises put religion in “an artificial and state-created disadvantage.” Such a ban, Stewart said, “is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.

Defining Secularism And Its Relation To The State

That view of secularism as a religion has since become a key part of the conservative argument against a strict separation of church and state. It suggests that when government authorities ban prayers or Bible readings or Nativity scenes on public property or in official settings, it isn’t avoiding the appearance of state support for religion, it’s unfairly favoring one faith tradition over another.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan cited Stewart’s dissent in arguing for a constitutional amendment authorizing school prayer.

A secular viewpoint is normally understood as one that excludes religious references, so Stewart’s claim is controversial, even among some people of faith.

“Secularism is a way you look at the relation between government and religion,” says Barry Lynn, a Christian minister who also directs Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “If you say religion should keep its hands off government and government should keep its hands off religion, that to me is what a secularist is. You can have any or no theological beliefs backing that up.”

Some scholars nevertheless say some advocates of secularism do have their own worldview and belief system. Among them is Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a leading lay Catholic intellectual.

“I don’t think there really can be any question that there are forms of secularism, including some that are very prominent today in universities and other elite sectors of our society — belief systems that are comprehensive views — that function in people’s lives the way that religions function in the lives of traditional religious believers,” George says.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, goes further.

“In some virulent forms of secularism, you have a moral code that is being imposed [that] often comes with the force of penalty of law,” he says. “It acts as a religion in terms of demanding conformity and seeking out heretics.”

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center suggests that secular attitudes are gaining strength in the United States, with fewer Americans saying they pray daily or attend church regularly.

But can secularism really be considered a religion?

Unpacking What It Means To Be Secular

No way, says sociology professor Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. He specializes in the study of “nonreligious” people.

“To me, what makes religion religion is the supernatural beliefs,” he says. “So a scientist who is gazing out at the universe and trying to make sense of it by looking at facts, physical properties, material reality, is not engaging in religion. The person who looks out at the universe and thinks there’s a magic deity behind it is engaging in religion.”

Phil Zuckerman speaks to his class at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. Zuckerman specializes in the study of "nonreligious" people.

Phil Zuckerman speaks to his class at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. Zuckerman specializes in the study of “nonreligious” people.

Scott Phillips/Courtesy of Pitzer College

At Pitzer, Zuckerman has founded an academic program in Secular Studies, the first of its kind in the country.

“We need to unpack what it means to be secular,” Zuckerman tells his students in a recent class on the sociology of secularism. “There is so much diversity and so many ways to be secular.”

One of Zuckerman’s students, Chance Kawar, says in an interview that his “nonreligious” identity stemmed in part from his experience in a Boy Scout troop sponsored by a local Catholic parish in San Diego. As a teenager, Kawar says, he realized he was gay.

“There was a lot of name-calling and bullying, and I actually got kicked out of the organization,” he says. “That was a very traumatic experience for me, not being welcomed by this religious community because of my sexual orientation. It was certainly a big turnoff for me in terms of religion.”

Finding Acceptance Among The Nonreligious

Not all of Zuckerman’s students are anti-religion, however. April Forrest, a 30-year-old single mother who is finishing her college education, notes during a class discussion that not all Christian churches are as judgmental as they are sometimes portrayed to be.

“You do find ones where it is about love and trying to make the world a better place and being more like God,” she says, “which would be like being as good as you can be.”

In a paper she wrote for Zuckerman, Forrest argued that God should not be blamed for bad things that happen.

“I believe in a loving God,” she wrote. “I know that life isn’t perfect. I watched my mother’s battle with drug addiction and depression. I’ve seen my father in and out of jail … I saw my uncle die of AIDS. … At 23, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. I struggle every day to do regular tasks. But I still believe.”

In a personal note to Zuckerman that she added to the paper, Forrest wrote, “I’m sure you have a lot to say back to this. Actually, I’m a little worried.”

In an interview, she admits to fearing that Zuckerman and her Pitzer classmates might think less of her because of her religious views.

“I guess there was a concern being here, where there is a culture of secularity,” she says. “I am aware that I’m a little different in believing in God.”

But Forrest found Zuckerman to be wholly respectful of her views. In an interview, he says he understands how people with religious convictions may feel out of place in some secular settings.

“I had a Mormon student burst into tears in my own office, saying she felt so alienated, put down, mocked, criticized,” Zuckerman says. “So there’s no question that in really secular enclaves like Pitzer College or Berkeley, if you’re a student of faith, you’re going to be made to feel defensive. You’re going to be made to feel less intelligent, and that’s definitely a problem.”

Secularists Not Dominating Cultural Landscape

Such cultural conflicts are what lead some conservatives to allege the spread of “anti-Christian bigotry” in America. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said in a recent speech that “secular progressives” are among those in America “trying to push God out of our lives.”

But Zuckerman, the author of Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, vigorously disputes such generalizations.

“I can tell you from my research that in certain parts of this country, nonbelievers are certainly not the ones dominating the cultural landscape,” he says. “If someone is not churchgoing, people are suspicious of them. Prayers are said at the Little League games. I’ve interviewed so many [secular] parents in the Bible Belt whose children are teased on the schoolyard and taunted that they’re going to go to hell.”

Zuckerman has data to back up his assertion that secularists are not a favored group. In a 2014 Pew survey where people were asked to rate 23 possible presidential traits,“atheist” came in dead last. The share of respondents who said they were “less likely” to support an atheist for president had declined by 8 points since 2007, but it remained the least attractive trait a candidate could have, ranking far below using marijuana, having had an extramarital affair or being homosexual.

http://www.npr.org/2015/12/14/458969716/unbelief-as-a-belief-system-core-tenet-for-christians-fight-for-religious-rights

Mary

 

 

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What would Mary look like today?  Estimates range from 14 to 18 years old.  She was a typical girl.  No one knew her as the mother of Jesus.  She was just a young unmarried teenage girl who found herself pregnant.

If she lived today, would she drive?  Have an iPhone? Pierced ears? Nose ring?  Carry a backpack to school?  Would she be white, Hispanic, black, Asian?

How would we view her?  Would we accept her?  Judge her?

Matthew 1:18  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.