I’m reading a book about beekeeping. In the beginning of the book the author states that the most important thing we need to learn in life is how to learn and we learn by making mistakes. Yes, we can learn from the mistakes of other but the primary way we learn is through our own mistakes. He also states that the reason children learn so rapidly is because they are not afraid to make a mistake. We adults let our ego get in the way of learning because making mistakes implies a certain deficiency—a lack of knowledge. The result is that we do not push the boundary of what we know. If we want to learn we will make mistakes but what is most important is that we learn from our mistakes. 
It is because we are finite that we must learn through our mistakes. Because we are finite we will encounter situations where we will not know what to do. If we do not know what to do we will try something and quite a few times what we try will be wrong.
When we make a mistake in the area of morality, we call it a sin. Now most of the time we know what we ought to do but there are times where we do not. Regardless, what is important in either case is that we learn from our mistakes (sins). That is what God requires. Ezekiel 33:12-16 and Ezekiel 18:20-24 tells us that Israel’s pattern of behavior was important to God and our pattern of behavior is determined by whether we learn from our mistakes or not.
God considered David to be a man after his own heart in spite of David’s failings because David learned from his mistakes. When the prophet Nathan talked to David about his inappropriate relationship with Bathsheba, David could have told Nathan to take a hike or could have had him killed—after all David was king. Instead David learned from his mistake and his repentance is recorded in the beautiful Psalm 51.
Each one of us will make mistakes throughout our lives. The question is whether we will learn from those mistakes.
 Michael Bush. The Practical Beekeeper. X-Star Publishing Company, 2001, pp. 12-13.
A recent book has as its premise that liberal states have a lower divorce rate than conservative, conservatives tend to be more religious so therefore religious beliefs are bad for marriage. Well, I’m not quite sure of their logic since religion is only one element in a person’s life and also correlation does not necessarily equal causation. However, my interest lies in the response of Christians to this idea.
Janie B. Cheaney questions this statement by asserting that if we make a distinction between religious affiliation and religious practice this statement does not hold because those who attend church regularly are less likely to divorce than those who do not. 
It seems that some Christians want their cake and eat it too. Most doctrinal statements assert that only by belief in Jesus and his death for our sins can we be saved. However, when issues such as the above come up they are quick to talk about practice not just belief.
If salvation is just a matter of belief, then why does it matter what our practice is? I would like an answer.
 Janie B. Cheaney, “A little religion”, World, September 6, 2014, p. 21.
Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air in the Roman Catholic Church. His emphasis on helping the poor instead of enjoying the perks of his office is very Christ-like. However, I do disagree with him when he states there are limits to free speech and that we cannot insult or make fun of the faith of others. While I do not believe making fun of or insulting others is acceptable behavior, I am not willing to willing to support laws against hate speech. Once you start to limit what people can say, it is a slippery slope to banning all manner of speech including religious speech that runs counter to the current moral climate of a country.
Jesus did not tell us to use the coercive power of government to silence our critics. Instead he told us to “. . .Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28, NIV). While being insulted for our beliefs is never a pleasant experience, we need to follow Jesus’ teachings instead of using Machiavellian tactics.
The tsunami in Indonesia in 2004 left a path of destruction that left little standing. In the city of Banda Aceh, the only structure standing in many areas of the city was a mosque and as a result many lives were spared. How did the mosques survive? Was it the sturdy construction or was it, as some Muslims maintain, divine intervention? Also, some Muslims believe the tsunami was God’s punishment for their lack of devotion to God. 
These beliefs of Muslims are no different that Christian responses to natural disasters. We humans, regardless of our particular religious beliefs, have a tendency to attribute anything we cannot control or understand to God. Is this response valid? The 2004 tsunami killed around a quarter million people. Did God determine he needed to kill this many people to persuade the survivors to be more religious? If he did, that is a very brutal God.
 Andi Jatmiko, “Mosques gave refuge in tsunami”, Tulsa World, December 24, 2014, p. A13.
In some areas of the country, this might not be an unusual sight but here in Tulsa, OK I recently spotted a bald eagle in the wild. It was the first time I had seen this bird in the wild. Now I know there are places nearby where eagles have been released into the wild and one can see them at these locations. However, to just be driving along a road and see a bald eagle just like one would see a hawk was a special experience.
I watched the eagle for a period of time and took some pictures. As luck would have it just as I put my camera away the eagle took off flying so I was not able to get any pictures of it in flight.
Click on the picture to enlarge it.
The above title is a well-known advertising tag line for the city of Las Vegas. A Lutheran church in Tulsa, OK had a slightly different take on the idea expressed in this tag line and placed it on a billboard:
What happens in church shouldn’t stay in church.
That would be a great tag line for this blog. We have always maintained that Christianity is not a belief system but a life that is lived in a certain way—God’s way. Going to church can give us the information we need to know concerning what God’s way involves. However, what really counts is if that knowledge does not stay in church but is lived in every aspect of our lives every day.
I was out Christmas shopping this past week and ran across a book of common sense sayings. Most were humorous but one that caught my eye was serious: “The best sermons are lived not preached”.
Now I think all of us would agree with that statement. Why do we do so? Because a sermon that is preached is just theoretical while a sermon that is lived is practical, it is authentic because it has been tried and found to be of value.
If we believe the above statement to be true then why do we believe in God’s case it is different? When we maintain that salvation is solely a matter of belief than we say that all God cares about is our statements of belief; that it does not matter to him if we actually live what we believe or not. Does that sound like God?
George Will recently wrote an opinion article on Adolf Eichmann.  Eichmann was greatly responsible for the wholesale slaughter of those who the Germans considered to be undesirables in the World War II era. Some think Eichmann to be evil incarnate. Others, including Eichmann, consider him to be a bureaucrat who was just following orders.
My question is: Does it really matter which person Eichmann was? Either way, millions of innocent people died horribly.
So why this argument about who Eichmann really was? Is it because we do not want to face the reality that all of us have some responsibility for the evil that exists in our world? Say that Eichmann was just a bureaucrat following orders. If he and several other bureaucrats had stood up and refused to carry out their orders, then it is possible the Holocaust would not have happened. Even if Eichmann was evil incarnate, then those under him who were just carrying out his orders had an opportunity to stop this madness.
The problem is we humans are more interested in power, prestige, and wealth than we are in doing what is right. History shows we will twist our logic and ethics to justify doing whatever we want to do. While the consequences of our actions might not be as severe as Eichmann’s actions were, they do contribute to the deteriorating moral climate of our world.
 George Will, “The warped idealism of a murderer”, Tulsa World, November 21, 2014, p. A14.
Some Christians assert Christianity is more about our relationship with God than a belief system or a list of rules by which to live.  What exactly does a relationship with God involve?
A relationship with people involves communicating with them, experiencing things with them, or sharing common interests with them. How do we do these things with God?
We can’t see God.
We cannot actually do things with God.
We cannot have a conversation with God. We can talk to God but how does he talk to us? How do we know what we hear is God talking to us? For example, a man wrote a letter to Billy Graham asking for his advice. This individual had met a woman, fallen in love, felt that God had brought them together, and wanted to marry. The problem was they both were already married. Because they believed God brought them together, they were inclined to divorce their spouses and marry.  While this couple displays an ignorance of what the Bible teaches about marriage, this incident also shows how Christians can take their experiences in life and their own decision making process and attribute it to God when God has nothing to do with it. We humans give credit to and blame God for much that is not of his doing.
So how do we have a relationship with God?
 Donald Miller, Greatest Hits, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004, pp. 271ff.
 Billy Graham, “My Answer”, Tulsa Beacon, Vol. 4, No. 51, April 7, 2006, p. 5.
I have just finished reading After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. Mr. Kornfield is a Buddhist and he notes that after going to various retreats and obtaining various degrees of enlightenment, one still must go home and do the laundry. Doing the laundry is just his way of saying one must deal with life and other people.
Christians have the same issues. We can hold all the correct beliefs but we still must deal with life; we must put those beliefs into practice which is a whole lot more difficult than just deciding to hold a certain belief.
Mr. Kornfield also notes that the purpose of spiritual knowledge and enlightenment is not about gaining knowledge but about how we love others, how we can be of service to others.  In other words, spiritual development is more about our actions than our beliefs or enlightenment.
It does not matter what religion we adhere to or what beliefs we hold, at the core we suffer from the same human frailties—we all want to take the easy road by having the right beliefs or having a mystical experience instead of doing the hard work of changing our soul so it becomes like God.
 Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, New York: Bantam Books, 2000, pp. 105 and 117.