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 8, 2018

We All Belong to Him

Acts 9:3-5 (NRSV)
Now as [Saul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Saul-later to be known as Paul, author of much of our New Testament-had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” in Jerusalem and was on his way to Damascus with “...letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” In other words, he had a fist full of arrest warrants and extradition papers and nobody in Damascus would be safe. At least that was his plan; our Lord had other ideas.    
How Saul of Tarsus became Paul of the New Testament is a beautiful story of God’s unconditional love and transforming grace but it is not what I want to talk about today. What I want us to see is Jesus’ complete identification with His people-“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”. As far as Saul was concerned he was not persecuting God; he was doing God’s will, ridding the world of these evil Pharisee-defying heretics one believer at a time. Jesus’ teachings-his very memory-would be removed from the face of the earth forever and Saul was just the man to do it. Or so he thought. What Saul did not understand was Jesus Himself is the God Saul thought he was serving and, more than that (as if that wasn’t enough) Jesus so totally identifies Himself with His people that, whatever Saul did to them, he might as well be doing to Jesus Himself.
Now, hold on to that thought for a moment and imagine yourself as a large dot in the middle of a huge circle. Now imagine all the people you come in contact with as smaller dots orbiting you (not because you’re that important; it’s just a convenient illustration). Those closest to you would be your immediate family-husband, wife, children, parents. Next out would be, maybe, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws. Next close friends; or co-workers, then maybe church family, next the checkout clerk you see every other day or maybe the people you feed at a homeless shelter, maybe the group you see at your favorite coffee shop-are you getting the idea? All these people orbiting you, some close, some not so close, are those in your sphere of influence, which is what the circle represents. 
Now, in spite of what we may think, we really do not know the relationships any of these people have with God-their eternal destiny, whether or not they are saved, if they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior, if they are in a state of grace-however your tradition defines it. It’s all the same, just different words. In fact we don’t even know if some of them have any religion at all. However, we do know a couple things. First, we know “The Lord is not slow about his [coming] as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”-Peter tells us that. Second, we know Jesus totally, completely identifies Himself with those who believe in Him. Do you see where I’m going here? If we assume everyone in our sphere of influence will, at some point, find themselves belonging to Jesus, how should we then treat them? If we treat those whom we are pretty sure will never belong to Jesus differently from those who do, and we discover at some point that those very people do in fact belong to Jesus, how will we explain ourselves? Remember, from Jesus’ perspective, the question is how will we be found to have treated Jesus Himself. 
Let’s widen our sphere of influence a little bit. We have already included anyone with whom we have any type of person to person contact, however brief or insignificant. Now let’s consider anyone we may find ourselves thinking about, whether we know them personally or not. Without getting to deep into the metaphysical aspect of our thoughts as mental and emotional energy, can you see the difference simply thinking about people as belonging to Jesus might make in our overall countenance? Not to be too New-Age about it but I’m pretty sure we need all the positive emotional energy we can get right now. 
Now that you have the principle the possibilities for expanding you sphere of influence are infinite. We pray for people we don’t know and will never meet all the time. How would praying for those people as if they already belong to Jesus (and we all belong to Jesus, one way or another) change your way of thinking? Which leads me to my final point. Assuming everyone in our spheres of influence-regardless of their position in our orbit-belong to Jesus, what difference will that make, not only in the way we think about them but in the way we actually treat them?
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.