The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

It is refreshing to see major media coverage of Christians who actually apply Jesus’ teachings to their everyday lives.  I am speaking of the families of those killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

These families have forgiven the one who visited this violence upon them while at the same time calling on him to repent and change his ways.  Instead of retaliating in like kind, they have retaliated with love.  Like Jesus, they are not giving the perpetrator a free pass (John 8:3-11); they are calling on him to change and they are asking for justice.

They also provided leadership to their community on how to respond to acts of hatred.  Just look at the difference between Ferguson/Baltimore and Charleston.

Following the teachings of Jesus can make a positive change in people’s lives.  The members of Mother Emanuel are a prime example.

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Missionary Work

In an article about Liberia and its recovery from Ebola, a couple who came from the US to Liberia to teach agriculture made the following statement concerning the people of Liberia:

They don’t need millions of dollars. . .They need people who come live among them, exhibit godly lives, and guide them into the future that they are capable of growing. [1]

It also raises a question in my mind:  What exactly what is the task of Christian missionaries?  Is their primary job to preach the gospel or is it to:

. . .let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Is it more important that we just talk about Jesus’ words or should we put Jesus’ words into practice?

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[1]   Jamie Dean, “Not over yet”, World, April 18, 2015, p.17.

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Moving

This blog has been somewhat sporadic the past few months.  The reason has been because we are moving to a new house.  Moving has been an interesting experience.  It is similar to when my computer crashed about year ago.  So much of my life is based upon the routine—I know where my books are, I know where all the kitchen utensils are, I know where all the tools in my garage are.  Routine is good in that it enables us finite humans to cope with the complexity of life.  I do not have photographic memory so I do not remember where I last put that tool.  Therefore, if I always put that tool in a particular location, I always know where it is.

The problem is that when that routine is disrupted, it produces stress, discomfort, and uncertainty.  It takes time to determine where to put all my stuff in a new house.  And more likely than not, I will change my mind about where to place a particular item a couple of times.  Meanwhile, when I want a particular item, it takes a while to find out where I put it.

Our belief system operates in the same way as the routines we all follow.  Our beliefs help us make sense of this world and our lives.  They simplify life in that we use our beliefs to quickly make decisions without a lot of analysis.  We use our beliefs to quickly interpret and make sense of the events we experience.  Because our belief system is so critical to our lives, determining if our belief system is valid should be a top priority.  Instead, most of us just accept what we have been taught or what we pick up from those with whom we associate.  Is this a smart way to live our lives?

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Gospel Hymns

I love the old gospel hymns.  I love rock and roll and the blues.  What I would like is for a group to set the hymns to rock and roll music; to do for the old gospel hymns what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did for Christmas carols.  Does anyone know of a group that has done this?  If so, please leave a comment.  I’ll check them out and post any groups that meet this criterion.  Or maybe some new group would like to take this on as a project.

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Christianity at Work

In our last blog, we noted that we see so little discussion on how to apply Christianity to our work.  Maybe that is because we have made Christianity a belief system instead of the way we live our lives.  If Christianity is just a belief system, then applying Christianity at work becomes finding ways to convince our co-workers to accept Christianity.  The problem is that takes time and our employers are interested in us doing our job, not in our philosophical and religious discussions.

However, living our life as Jesus would live it does not require words or time.  As Francis of Assisi proposed we should preach the gospel constantly and only if absolutely necessary should we use words. [1]

Applying Jesus’ teachings to our work is much more difficult than trying to “convert” someone at work to our belief system.  However, the Bible does not give us a pass on how we conduct our professional life.  The same standards apply to our personal and professional lives.  An example is Zacchaeus, a tax collector, who after his encounter with Jesus resolved to repay those he had cheated in his collection of taxes (Luke 19:1-10).

So how well do we apply Jesus’ teachings at work?  How do we treat our co-workers?  Do we take advantage of our subordinates?  Do we disparage those with whom we are in competition for the next promotion?  Are we silent when our superiors propose a program that will unfairly take advantage of our customers or suppliers?

_________________________

[1]   Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home, Nashville:  Word Publishing, 1998, pp. 207-208.

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St. Benedict

In our last post, we quoted a prayer by St. Benedict.  St. Benedict is a Catholic saint who lived from 480 to 543.  He is probably most famous for his St. Benedict’s Rule whose “purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices, but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic life of such laymen as wished to live as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel”. [1]

Instead of practicing a theoretical Christianity he tried to practice a Christianity that could be lived in the real world.  “Benedict had the revolutionary idea that work was a necessary instrument of virtue almost on a par with prayer, and often indistinguishable from it. To him it was the natural condition of man, and he envisioned a state of life in which the physical components of work, prayer and reading were in all ways equal. He warned against outward expressions of piety and excessive mortification, especially when they were found to be, as is most often the case, an end in themselves. His was a voice of moderation and reason; his Rule is, indeed, a document about how a man can live with God in an imperfect world.” [2]

While I do not consider living in a monastery living in the real world, St. Benedict’s aim was noble.  Those of us who work in manufacturing or in call centers or in the medical profession or in a nonprofit organization do not have a St. Benedict to guide us; we must figure out for ourselves how to live with God in our profession.  It is odd that we see so little discussion on how to apply Christianity to our work.

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[1]  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm

[2]   http://christdesert.org/Saint_Benedict/St__Benedict_and_His_Order/A_Brief_History/index.html

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A Book of Prayers

Recently I was at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, St. John’s Catholic Church just outside Batesville, IN for a wedding.  This church is in the countryside among the rolling farm lands of Indiana.  For some reason I felt really comfortable there.  It was like many a good soul has worshipped in this church.

I have not been to church much but when I do go I always learn something.  Maybe that is telling me I should go more often.

This church had a book of prayers and one prayer sums up what we are trying to accomplish in this blog.  It is a prayer of St. Benedict.

Gracious and Holy Father, grant us the intellect to understand you, reason to discern you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, a spirit to know you, a heart to meditate upon you.  May our ears hear you, may our eyes behold you, and may our tongues proclaim you.  Give us grace that our way of life may be pleasing to you, that we may have the patience to wait for you and the perseverance to look for you.  Grant us a perfect end – your holy presence, a blessed resurrection and life everlasting.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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Eyewitness

Christians often assert that we only need to investigate the accounts of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life to have certainty of the validity of what the Bible teaches.  But is this true?

Because of DNA testing, there have been scores of people who have been released from prison for a crime they did not commit.  Some were convicted based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses.  It is a firmly established fact that eyewitness accounts are not necessarily accurate.  We are all finite which means our perception of what actually occurred is at times faulty.

God made us finite so he obviously understands our limitations.  So how can he expect us to believe the historical events written about in the Bible are true?  Maybe he does not.  Maybe he is more interested in how we live our lives than in whether we believe a particular historical event is true.

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An Instant in Time

It is somewhat surprising that a movie about World War II raises questions about the Christian doctrine of salvation.  But the movie Fury does so at least in my mind.

In this film a Christian character, Boyd, displays his faith by holding the hands of dying German soldiers and urging them to “in their last moments to call on the name of Christ and be saved”. [1] So what is the question this scene raises?  It appears that Boyd is doing exactly what Christian doctrine says he should do.

The question is simple:  Why would God ordain that salvation be conditioned upon what we say or believe at one instant of time instead of what we do in our entire life?  Is what we do with our entire lives meaningless and of no regard because of what we do at one point in time?  The Christian doctrine of salvation would seem to indicate so.

 __________________________

[1]  Megan Basham, “Fire and Fury”, World, November 1, 2014, pp. 23-24.

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The Renovation of Our Soul

On this blog page you will notice a link to Amazon and to a book I have written.  This book documents with scores of scripture passages and 179 footnotes the logic behind the main theme we have discussed in this blog—namely that salvation is the change of our soul so it becomes like God and not through belief in Jesus.  Belief in Jesus is only a means to this end, not the end itself.

In all my discussions with Christians, I have not heard any argument that invalidates what I have written.  But then, more likely than not, I have not heard all the arguments against my position.  So read my book and let’s discuss!

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