Monday, December 31, 2018

Mathematics. It’s the Key to the Universe

Here is our relationship with God, written as a mathematical expression. 

C=F/(R>0) where C is connectedness; F is the flow of the Holy Spirit; and R is our resistance. Here are some questions to think about as we prepare to welcome another new year. 
  1. Is this true for all humans or only ‘Born Again Christians’?
  2. Why must R be greater than zero, mathematically and practically?
  3. Was there ever a person whose R was in fact zero?
  4. What is your R value? What can you do to lower it in the new year?

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Everyone is different. Once we get past the obviousness of this statement we can begin to understand how profound the truth of it actually is. It means my opinion, no matter how strongly I believe in it, no matter how logical it is or how much supporting evidence I may be able to find, is in the end my own. You, being a free moral agent, may agree or disagree but that will not make things any less right or wrong. It simply means we disagree. 

Tolerance, in some circles, has a bad reputation. What passes for tolerance today is mostly the idea of being tolerant (more on this tomorrow). Tolerance frees us from the burden of having to convince-or having to be convinced-one way (mine, for example) of seeing things is the correct way and the other (yours) is not. Tolerance goes beyond mere lip service to an opposing point of view; we are now free to discern whatever truth may be lurking in the shadows of the ‘opposition’. Accepting one another as individuals helps us see the Imago Dei in one another. We can now be truly present to the one another. This is how tolerance moves from the realm of idea into a discipline we can practice.

Biblical tolerance cannot exist in a vacuum. It it must be accompanied by other virtues such as justice, mercy, forgiveness, humility, love. The Hebrew Bible has a word for this-hesed, translated as steadfast love, lovingkindness, kindness, unfailing love, mercifulness, pity and more. Hesed refers to an attribute of God and has nothing to do with the idea of tolerance, which more often than not leads to intolerance toward anyone whom I do not perceive to be as tolerant as I am. Tolerance, accompanied by hesed, is a way for us to mirror God, who puts up with a lot foolishness from His beloved children. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Knowing, Being Known

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When our mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love...mindfulness is very much like the Holy Spirit. Both of them help us touch the ultimate dimension of reality. Mindfulness helps us touch nirvana, and the Holy Spirit offers us a door to the Trinity.”

Excerpt From
Living Buddha, Living Christ 20th Anniversary Edition
Thích Nhất Hạnh & Elaine Pagels
This material may be protected by copyright.

When it comes to God mindfulness becomes a two way street. He is always present to us, showing us steadfast love (see, for example, Ps. 23:6; 139:7-12; Jer.23:24; Lam.3:22-23). How often are we truly present to Him? When we pray, most of us, despite our best efforts, inject some of ourselves into our prayers. In Bible study we tend to do the same thing-this is how I understand that passage; this is what I think this means. Now I’m not saying these things are inherently wrong. Both Jesus and Paul invite us to let out requests be made known to God. Paul warns Timothy not to neglect the Scriptures; to study to show himself approved.  What I am saying is to be truly present to God requires a certain quiet mindfulness-removing ourselves from the equation, so to speak. We do that by not doing anything. We cultivate silence and stillness and listen. It is an acquired skill, but this is where transformation of the heart occurs. This is where we transition form knowing about to knowing; to allowing ourselves to be known. 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

“ is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God...And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:16, 27.

“ returning to me
and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength..” Isiah 30:15

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Be still and know

Psalms 46:10 (NRSV)
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”

“There are many conflicting feelings and ideas within us, and it is important for us to look deeply and know what is going on. When there are wars within us, it will not be long before we are at war with others, even those we love. The violence, hatred, discrimination, and fear in society water the seeds of the violence, hatred, discrimination, and fear in us. If we go back to ourselves and touch our feelings, we will see the ways that we furnish fuel for the wars going on inside. Meditation is, first of all, a tool for surveying our own territory so we can know what is going on. With the energy of mindfulness, we can calm things down, understand them, and bring harmony back to the conflicting elements inside us. If we can learn ways to touch the peace, joy, and happiness that are already there, we will become healthy and strong, and a resource for others.”

Christians would call this opening up our hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Or simply trusting God. 

Isaiah 26:3 (NASB)
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Excerpt From
Living Buddha, Living Christ 20th Anniversary Edition
Thích Nhất Hạnh & Elaine Pagels
This material may be protected by copyright.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mending the Breach

“They forgot God, their Savior...
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” Psalm 106:21,23.

“And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; I have returned their conduct upon their heads, says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 22:30-31

What a difference in outcomes! The Psalmist tells us Moses, by standing in the breach, averts disaster for his-and God’s-people. Ezekiel has just finished describing a thoroughly corrupt society, from royalty to priests to prophets to government officials. No breach-mender here; Jerusalem will experience the full force of God’s wrath. 
So what might standing in the breach look like today, especially considering our current political climate? Here’s a thought. People who feed off negative emotional energy-fear, anger, hatred-don’t care what side the energy comes from. Fired up protesters outside a rally are just as good as the fired up base inside the rally. Our enemies know this and are quick to exploit it; particularly on social media. Which goes a long way towards explaining why Trump is so in love with Twitter. Understand, I am not condemning protests across the board, or social media. I am saying there is a better way to do them. 
There is a growing body of research today indicating connectedness is a basic human need (see, for example, Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness; and The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams). One common thread running through both books is the way our brains are wired for empathy and cooperation. This does not mean we need to agree with each other on everything. It does mean we need to listen to one another, really listen. It also means less time arguing on social media. I’d be willing to bet very few minds have ever been changed in any substantive way because of a Facebook post. If you absolutely must post or tweet, do so clearly and concisely, resisting the urge to label (which is the first step in the process of dehumanizing your opponent). Make your point and move on-which implies you must have a point to make in the first place. When posting or tweeting, it may be helpful to go about it as if you will actually see your (perceived) opponent face to face. Soon. Like, for example, Sunday morning in church. This is a basic, easy to remember principle. Proverbs says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Remember Jesus’ teaching on anger (Matthew 5:21-22. In fact, this might be a good time to just go ahead and review the entire Sermon on the Mount). See also Romans 12:9-21. 
Which leads me, more or less, to my main and final point. God told Ezekiel the corruption in Jerusalem was so complete there was no one left to intercede. Matthew 5:23-24 instructs us to reconcile with whoever may have something against us before we offer our gifts at the alter. These days we may not offer gifts; we do offer prayers and intercessions which are easier and more effective-at least on our end-when they are not clouded over with anger. Or guilt. And speaking of prayer, may I be so bold as to suggest ‘Lord come to his/her/our assistance. Lord make haste to help us’. Or ‘Thy kingdom come’. 
Fear, anger and hatred need an object. Jesus has mended the breach between heaven and earth. What breach will you mend?



Saturday, June 9, 2018

Salvation Rights

Salvation Rights

“Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in seeking to preserve and create community...The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community...The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history..If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community”
Martin Luther King, quoted by Peter Mommson in Plough Quarterly; Spring 2018.

We are saved as individuals; we are saved into relationship-with God and with one another. Scripture provides ample evidence;
see, for example, Jn 12:32; Ro 12:5; Eph 2:1-22; 1Pe 2:5. How does this effect our individual rights and liberties? Again, scripture has much to say: 1 Cor  6:1-8, 8:7-12; 9:12,15, 19-23; Phi 2:1-11; Gal 6:2-5. See also Mat 5-7. This relationship with one another and with God is called The Church and we are saved into it but we are most definitely not called to hide within it. We are called to influence culture, demonstrating and preserving God’s truth by being His presence-to be salt and light in the world. In the world because it is where we are; there is no place else where we can be. Today, as in Martin Luther King’s day, we are not living up to our calling, as evidenced by the church-at least a sizable portion of it-attempting to redeem secular society by political means. 
We are not redeemed, nor does the Church exist, to enable the exercise of individual rights-this is what brought down the curse to begin with-“But the serpent said to the woman...God knows that when you eat of will be like God, knowing good and evil...the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise...” Ge:3:4-6 (NRSV). Exercising individual rights and liberties at another’s expense-especially when the rights in question rob another of their God-given dignity-is simply the modern version of knowing (and deciding) good and evil for ourselves without input from God. This is where conflict inevitably arises-my good is not always your good. Whose good gets to win?

The above referenced passages, and many more, indicate that, contrary to modern thought and practice, the one who surrenders often wins. It is as Jesus teaches-“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24 (NRSV). Surrendering individual rights and liberties is one way of denying ourselves to save ourselves; one way agape love builds and preserves community. Insisting upon our individual right to...(fill in the blank) almost always pits one against another, breaking communion (and community) and in the end no good, greater or lesser, is accomplished. In order for one to win another must loose. Any time one looses we all lose. The word ‘lose’ itself is defined by SIRI as “to be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something);or to cause (someone) to fail to gain or retain (something). Life as God intends is not a zero-sum game. The more we give of ourselves (lose) the more we receive from God (win) Who, by the way, loves to empty Himself into His children. As if emptying Himself were even possible...

Martin Luther King makes a couple other points worth noting. One is the cross as restoring broken community. It isn’t just about getting your sins forgiven or going to heaven when you die; God was, as Paul tells us, reconciling us to Himself. Restoring us to communion with one another is part of the reconciliation process. Because the nature of the Trinity is self-emptying love (other- centered, if you prefer) our lives are meant to be other-centered. This is what restoring broken community means. To paraphrase Paul, in Christ there are no black or white, brown yellow or red; no gay or straight; no Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Socialist or Tea Party. There is only “all of [us] in Christ Jesus”.
The second point worth noting is “creating reality”. Another way to say this is restoring normalcy. The situation we have in this country today is not normal. It is not God’s reality; it is the reality we create when we allow the gospel truth to be compromised; when we redefine our worldview to fit our definition of right and wrong. Don’t ever let anyone tell you God’s reality is not practical or obtainable or for this present age. Just as one chronically homeless creates a new normal so as to cope with a new situation and, as a result, comes to fear the old (housed) normal; so we have created a new normal to justify our self-centered way of life. Like Jesus, Paul and the Church before him, Martin Luther King is calling us to return to God’s normal; to life as God intends. This life is possible, and it is time. 


Friday, June 8, 2018

Who is My Neighbor; Who is My Samaritan

Regarding the Baker and the Same Sex Couple; or 
        Who is Your Samaritan 
When Jesus said turn the other cheek He was not saying ‘stand there and let someone wail on you’; He was saying ‘you be the one to break the cycle of violence’. When He said ‘give your clock as well’ He was not saying give away all your clothes, He was saying ‘be the one to go beyond the minimum effort required to serve your brother or sister’. When someone asked Him ‘Who is my neighbor’ He said said ‘whomever needs your help-and by the way, your neighbor may be a Samaritan’.
It is quite possibly Jesus will say to the baker “Well done, good and faithful servant”. It is also possible He will say “I sent that couple to you, why did you turn them away?”. It is even possible He will say both. 

Insisting upon our individual rights, our civil liberties, is always the American way. It is not always the Way of Jesus. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

We Are Loved

You Are Loved

You are loved. Forget everything you think you know about theology. Forget the doctrine. Focus on these three words. You are loved. YOU are loved. You ARE loved. You are LOVED. Maybe I am loved might be a little better. I am loved. I AM loved. I am LOVED. We’re on solid Biblical footing here. For God so loved the world, He gave…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this…This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. God loves you and Jesus loves you. It’s a fact. Not just a sentimental children’s hymn with a catchy tune. A concrete absolute one-hundred percent reliable take it to the bank that’s a fact Jack fact. Yes it is. And you (or me for that matter) will never make any real progress in actual Christian character formation until we can get our heads around it.

What brought all this on was an encounter I had this afternoon with a person in the grip of addiction. This person had come to see me last week, maybe the week before, desperate to get clean. I know a guy so I made the call, hooked her up. I’m not completely sure what happened next but I’m thinking it was something like one step forward three steps back. Anyone who has ever suffered through an addiction will immediately understand. If you haven’t you probably won’t. Anyway today was a one step forward day, albeit rife with concern over when the three steps back would come. All I could think to say was ‘Know you are loved’. ‘You are loved and love never gives up and neither will I’. It was a powerful moment and not something I’m accustomed to. I’m pretty sure I love this person. Not that lusty erotic romantic love that defines so many of our relationships but true Godly love; Agape love. It is a gift from God and seems to be making a difference in both our lives. A faith building love; a love that dares to hope all that good stuff in the Bible about healing and protection might just be true, even for normal everyday people.

So here’s something to think about. What if all healing, wherever and whenever it is found, comes from Jesus. What if it is not dependent on whether or not the one healed is a believer but totally dependent on God? That some are healed and some are not may seem arbitrary or even cruel but we only see one side. God told the prophet Malachi “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” What if love is the full tithe? Or prayer or "to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” What if healing is part of God's blessing?

We are not just loved. We are made in the Image of God; we bear the Imago Dei even if it is a little more tarnished in some of us. We are what He made us-His craftsmanship, His handiwork, His masterpiece. We are loved and that love is meant to be shared, but we can’t share what we don’t know. We are loved. Believe it. Know it. Share it. We have a lot to discover and a lot to share and a whole lot of people who need healing.

Peace JRG

Monday, February 19, 2018

Guns + Violence = Gun Violence

Guns + Violence=Gun Violence

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shootings social media and news networks have generally been focused on gun control. Over the weekend surviving students from Marjory Stone Douglas High School have become quite outspoken about what they perceive to be the failure of our political leadership. They of course have every right to speak out-some would argue they have an obligation to speak out-against gun violence in our schools. While the “I call BS” quote seems to be gaining lots of traction, my favorite is the response to second the amendment rights question, stated emphatically: “I have the right to live!”. We should be listening; we should also be thinking about why they are taking the lead here, and not us ‘responsible adults’. We are finally being held accountable by those who are most affected and I wholeheartedly support their efforts, and their message.
As my title suggests, gun violence has two components; guns and violence. Today I will set the gun half aside-our children seem to be doing fine addressing this and hopefully the passion and determination of youth will get the appropriate attention. What has not been getting much attention is the violence side. Maybe I should re-phrase that. Violence has been getting attention insofar as gun rights advocates point to all manner of violence, apart from guns, to make their case that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. As if to say violence is acceptable because it always has been and always will be part and parcel of our culture. Since it always has and always will exist, the only reasonable deterrent is to meet violence head on with more violence. Following this logic to its inevitable conclusion leads us to armed guards in every school-hopefully carrying automatic weapons only because hand-held nukes are not yet practical. In response, to paraphrase Paul, let me propose a better way.
            First, a few disclaimers. I am not coming after anyone’s guns, even if I fail to understand Conservative Evangelicalism’s fascination with all things guns and military. Violence always has and probably always will be with us, at least until out Lord returns. There are and will continue to be situations where armed resistance is necessary; such times are best left to highly trained and skilled professionals. Nor is this about the Second Amendment, although I will touch on that. Now, with that out of the way let me say violence is a lie and a sin against God. Responding to violence with more violence is two lies and two sins against God and for a Christian-especially a Christian leader-to respond to violence with the threat of more violence is three lies and three sins against God.
Violence is a lie because it assumes the only acceptable response to any given situation is the imposition one’s beliefs by force of will upon another. It is a lie and a sin because in committing a violent act I am saying I am more important than you; you must bow to my wishes. Violence is a sin before God not only for that reason but because God, secure in the knowledge that He alone is capable of determining right and wrong, must now watch His creatures usurp His authority and decide right and wrong for ourselves (“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden…for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5; italics mine).  The questions now become ‘whose good is greater; who gets to decide, how will the decision be enforced’ (see also James 4:1-10, esp. vs.5). Because God forbid we let Him decide or tell us what to do-who knows where that will end up.
Responding to violence with violence is two lies, first because of the violence itself; second because of the assumption that a violent response is necessary. That somehow violence can only be contained or controlled by greater violence. Of course, this greater violence is acceptable because it is being perpetrated by the “good guys”. The Biblical principle is a little different: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Jesus unpacks this in Mt. 5:21-26; 38-41, His point being ending the cycle of violence wherever possible is always preferable to perpetuating it, even in the name of justice and especially where justice is decided by whoever has the most firepower. Most arguments I have heard favoring a violent response to violence are thinly disguised justifications for second amendment rights. I will say it again because it bears repeating: I do not understand the Conservative Evangelical infatuation with all things guns and military. (That isn’t completely true. I do think I might understand it as it fits nicely with the false worldview of Nationalism. I just can’t quite believe it’s happening). One more point-I do not believe armed guards in schools to be the deterrent their proponents believe them to be; they simply run the risk of encouraging ever greater violence (ex. Oh good, I can get the guards first. Need more guns. Need more ammo.)  I’m old enough to remember the college student who placed a flower in the barrel of a National Guard rifle at Kent State. That would have worked out better for all involved had there been a little more Gospel present.
Which leads me to Christian leaders advocating violent response (or, for that matter, encouraging armed students in their colleges and armed parishioners in their churches). Three lies-the lie of violence itself, the lie of a necessary violent response, and the lie that the Gospel is somehow insufficient or impractical; as though the Gospel message is fine for the Sunday pulpit or daily meditation in the privacy of our homes but out there in the real world we need serious protection. Because everybody knows God just can’t protect our kids, right? And anyway, we kicked Him out of our schools. Another lie-an omnipresent God cannot be kicked out of anything anywhere. What’s missing is the awareness of His presence, which we should be cultivating in our own lives and teaching our kids. And since He isn’t allowed in our schools we’re pretty much on our own, aren’t we? Listen to the voices of the Parkland survivors. They are crying out for our God. Every Christian-but especially every Christian leader-who posts some pithy pro-second amendment saying or some cute meme featuring a smoking gun or an AR-15 in defense their personal rights has just seen any credible influence or ability to preach the Gospel instantly evaporate. These kids-the whole of society, for that matter-do not need a culturally compromised Gospel. They do not need a faith focused on a behavior-reward system designed, as someone else I can’t remember put it, to procure a good exit strategy and they-we-certainly do not need more guns. They need-and they know they need-a faith which impacts day to day, minute by minute life. They need someone whom they can trust with their lives and follow with all their hearts. So do you. So do I. To paraphrase Paul “woe to us if we do not preach the Gospel”.
I know that faith, even if I fail to practice it a lot more frequently than I should. I know that God, even if I fail to follow Him a lot more closely than I should. So here is my final point; final answer. I publicly condemn in the strongest possible terms violence of any and every type. Adult shooters firing into a concert? Nope. Young adult drivers driving into a crowd of protesters? Uh-uh. Kids bring semi-automatic weapons into schools bent upon maximum destruction? No way. Firefights in the halls? Oh hell no. We have reached the point-we are way past the point-where we must ask ourselves what is more important-the right to keep and bear semi-automatic weapons or the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? We might even ask ourselves about the deeper meaning of Jesus’ statement “He who loves his life will lose it”. I know a couple teachers might be willing to help us out with that one. We have the answer. Will we render it null and void by proclaiming it is somehow not enough, or will we trust in The Lord with all our hearts, not on our own understanding? Will we acknowledge Him in all our ways and allow Him to direct our paths? Or will we reserve a few things for ourselves? After all, we are only being practical……

Monday, January 29, 2018

The overwhelming majority of Christians I know seem to subscribe to the atonement theory of Jesus’ incarnation, which says, as I understand it, the incarnation was God’s response to human sin. In other words, without human sin the incarnation would not have been necessary and therefore would not have occurred. However, there is another incarnation theory, accepted by the Eastern and Roman Catholic Church and dating back to the early 1100’s, which says the incarnation was not God’s response to sin but was God’s plan all along. Sin necessitated the cross, but Christ would have come either way; not because He had to but because He wanted to.

The difference is important. In atonement theology the incarnation begins with sin-Christ must come and die so God may once again love and accept us. Recall the Day of Atonement-the ancient ritual where a goat is sacrificed to pay the (blood/death) penalty for sin while another goat-the scapegoat-having had Israel’s sins transferred to it by the High Priest’s laying on of hand-carries the sins away into the wilderness. Thus, the people’s sins are both paid for and removed-forgiveness is completed, and consciences are cleared. Modern atonement theology as I understand it sees Christ accomplishing this once for all on the cross-which I whole-heartedly agree with. It also sees this as the primary purpose for Christ’s coming. This is where we part ways.

I do not believe Christ had to come and die to change God’s mind about humanity. According to Paul God already loved us- “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us... For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” Romans5:6-10;(NRSV; Italics mine). Jesus Himself says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 (NRSV; Italics mine). God already loved His creation; Christ came to change our minds about God.

Consider the Genesis 3 account: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10 (NRSV).   I see three points here. First, God walking in the garden hints at regular practice; the couple’s hiding says they knew it was coming. Second, after their betrayal the couple’s first act was to hide in fear. Third, God does not abandon His fallen creatures-He comes looking for them. These three points remain true today. God still desires our friendship and our love; we still tend to hide from His presence and He still seeks us out. God did not seek Adam and Eve out because Christ died for them, God sought them out because God loves them. God’s love comes first and never ends. When Christ comes, before He dies He shows us how to live (remember this, it will come up again).

That God sought out Adam and Eve after their betrayal is an important point and is not, in my opinion, the act of a God who needed His son to die before He could love or accept us. Consider again Jesus’ words “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-19 (NRSV). Now consider Abram “And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 (NRSV). What was it Abram believed? What God said. What did God say? “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them…So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15:5 (NRSV). Christ had not yet died when this promise was made; in fact Christ appears to Abraham “The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…[since]… all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him… for I have chosen him…and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice…” Genesis 18:17-19 (NRSV, Italics mine), and allows Abraham to bargain with Him to spare Sodom (vs.22-33). Again, not (to me) the actions of a God who demands blood sacrifice as a condition for friendship. God chose and sought out Abram before Abram had done anything one way or the other.

And since we are considering Abram, let us also consider Hagar, to whom God appeared (it was Hagar who named God El-roi-the God who sees) and Ishmael, who also received God’s blessing (Genesis 16:7-15; 21:9-21). To be sure, the promise and the covenant comes to Abraham and is passed down through Isaac and Jacob. However, Hagar and Ishmael also receive God’s direct blessing. And not only Ishmael; when Jacob returns from his long servitude to his uncle Laban he finds an Esau who (presumably with God’s help) has done very well for himself (Genesis 33:1-11). Now, I suppose one could point to these things as evidence for God’s sovereign election, or even predestination. I choose to see them as evidence of God’s unconditional love for all His creatures. This leads to my next topic-a statement made by Richard Rohr in one of his January CAC meditations, which I will pose as a question. Are we human beings trying to learn how to be spiritual, or spiritual beings learning how to be human?

Blessings JRG

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The incident I’m about to relay to you all was told to me by a person of the utmost reliability. Although I did not witness it firsthand I have no reason to doubt it happened.
The city where I live, about 33,000, I believe, has one medical center/hospital with an emergency room. Yesterday, one of our homeless men was brought in, diagnosed with the flu-confirmed case, apparently-and released back into the general population with a prescription for Tamiflu which he cannot possibly fill and no place to go. The overnight low was in the mid-20’s and the local police took him to our day shelter which, due to the extended cold spell, has become a temporary overnight shelter as well. The shelter took him in and will fill the Rx as soon as they are able; he will at least be somewhat comfortable and will have a warm place to stay for a few days.
My concern here, aside from our guy with the flu, is that everyone else in the shelter-12 or so, plus staff-have now been exposed to the flu. People will be coming and going, hanging out at local convenience stores, fast food places and using public restrooms. The staff-day and night-will be going home to their families. Not to be too paranoid but this is how stuff spreads. How many others will become sick because one local hospital refused to treat a homeless patient without insurance?
We as a nation, in my opinion, are failing our brothers and sisters living on the margins who, for whatever reason, cannot adequately care for themselves. Universal, government-supported health care is operating with various degrees of success in many countries today and there is simply no excuse for not having it here. We do not need to re-invent the wheel-we can take the best and leave the rest. If we so choose. This is not socialism or redistributing wealth or anything else; it is simply government providing equally for all its citizens.
Over this past year I have heard much about moral decay under President Obama; most of which focuses on sexual issues. There is indeed moral decay in this country and it has nothing to do with sex. This decay presents as social justice but the real issue, as I see it-the elephant in the room-is the fact that there are those who have taken it upon themselves to decide who is worthy to live and who is not. The criteria is simple-one either has wealth that may be extracted or requires wealth to be distributed. In other words, if you’re working you’re good. If you’re not working, you are not good. If you are sick or disabled you are not good. If you require government support in the form of Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid you are definitely not good. Don’t believe me? Consider who benefits from the policies of the current administration; consider who is making these policies. Are policies being made to benefit the greater good of all Americans, or for the benefit of a chosen few? Look objectively here, think critically. There is no room for moral equivalency-each policy stands or falls on its own merit.
Christians in particular have the unique ability-and responsibility-to evaluate things in light of Biblical teaching. To this particular point I will simply say, pay close attention to the ancient prophets where they acted as God’s prosecuting attorneys; bringing God’s charges against God’s covenant people. Keep in mind, regardless of our theology, we all believe the Church Militant is the presence of God on earth today and certain universal and timeless principles hold true still.

Finally, let me say there are some with whom I disagree yet manage to maintain a close personal friendship, people I love and admire and respect. We simply disagree on some things, and I expect, even welcome, disagreement here as well. I believe, in the end, personal relationship is key. Let us not become so lost in ideology we forget how to disagree agreeably and in the process loose our love for one another.