What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

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.

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Sermons

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?

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Who Is Responsible for Evil?

George Will recently wrote an opinion article on Adolf Eichmann. [1]  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.

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[1]   George Will, “The warped idealism of a murderer”, Tulsa World, November 21, 2014, p. A14.

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Our Relationship with God

Some Christians assert Christianity is more about our relationship with God than a belief system or a list of rules by which to live. [1]  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. [2]  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?

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[1]   Donald Miller, Greatest Hits, Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 2004, pp. 271ff.

[2]   Billy Graham, “My Answer”, Tulsa Beacon, Vol. 4, No. 51, April 7, 2006, p. 5.

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Enlightenment

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. [1] 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.

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[1]   Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, New York:  Bantam Books, 2000, pp. 105 and 117.

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Consequences

The recent killing of a family of three in Duncan, OK by the son in the family has made national news.  The county DA has made the comment that the only remorse the son has shown was because he was caught. [1]

In a way is the son any different than us?  Do not all of us at times want to avoid the consequences of our actions?  What we really want is to be able to do what we want to do without any consequences.  In this case, the son wanted the wealth of the family so he could continue his extravagant lifestyle and the only way he could obtain that was for his family to die.  Somehow he thought he could get away with it.

How often do we not commit certain acts because of our fear of the consequences and not because we are convinced it is wrong?  It has been said in many different ways that the measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.  Our character is what we are really like, not the façade we put on for the world to see.  And as we have shown in this blog, it is our character that will determine our eternal fate.

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[1]  Dylan Goforth, “Duncan teen charged in the killings of his family”, Tulsa World, October 16, 2014, pp. A1 and A4.

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Vision

Bill Troy, the CEO of the American Society for Quality, states that for any organization to succeed, everyone in that organization must be guided by the same vision.  The problem is that most vision statements are “. . . merely a pretty collection of words that [don’t] drive decisions and behaviors” and as a result they are pointless. [1]  Such a vision, however practical, does nothing to help that organization succeed.

Is it not the same in Christianity?  If our belief in Jesus is just a belief and does not change the way we live, it is pointless.  If our lives are the same regardless of whether we are a Christian or not, what is the point of being a Christian?

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[1]  John Hunter, Curious Cat, a Management Improvement Blog, July 29 2014.

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Priorities

Evangelist Luis Palaus is approaching his ministry in Portland a little bit differently than most evangelists.  Instead of holding crusades and preaching he is mobilizing the Christian community to help solve problems in Portland and in doing so he is changing the prevalent attitude among non-Christians that Christianity is against things instead of for something. [1]

Why are Christians so focused on preaching, testifying, and witnessing?  Why do we have altar calls at the end of almost every church service?  It is because our belief system, the doctrine of salvation, says one must believe in Jesus and his death for our sins to be saved.  If this is the case, then a Christian’s first priority would be to persuade others to believe—that is the only way one can go to heaven.

However, as we have shown in this blog, salvation is the change of our soul so it becomes like God.  If the Christian community held this to be the doctrine of salvation, I do believe our priorities would change.  Our main priority would no longer to persuade people to believe but it is to help them become more like God.

This is not to say belief in Jesus is not important.  Jesus is our best source of information of what God is like.  Belief in Jesus is a means to an end (becoming more like God, becoming a better person), it is not the end.

An article about Palaus is titled “Pioneering Palaus”.  His actions should not be pioneering but should be standard operating practice for all Christians.

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[1]   Marvin Olasky, “Pioneering Palaus”, World, June 14, 2014, pp. 37-38.

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Memoirs

A growing profession that most of us have never heard of is the personal historian.  These professionals seek to document the struggles, failures, and successes of ordinary people, not just the famous. In describing the purpose of writing one’s memoir Beth McNellen states:  “Memoir forces people to look inward. . .What soul have you forge as you overcame the obstacles of your struggle?  It’s all you have hope in now.” [1]

Throughout our entire lives, throughout our struggles, actions, lack of actions, failures, and successes we are becoming a particular type of person.  And the question each of us must ask is:  What type of person is that?  As Christians our answer should be that we are becoming more like Christ.  But are we?  Is our first priority believing in the right doctrines or doing the hard work required to renovate of our soul so it is more like Christ?

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[1]   Lynn Vincent, “The Examined Life”, World, June 14, 2014, pp. 61-62.

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Black Mass

Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley, head of the archdiocese of Oklahoma City, has condemned a Black Mass scheduled to be held in the Oklahoma City Civic Center this September.  He has called for the public leaders and the board members of the Civic center to cancel the Black Mass because it is “sacrilegious” and a “blasphemous mockery of the Mass”. [1]

While the Archbishop is correct in that the Black Mass is sacrilegious and blasphemous he is incorrect in requesting that the Black Mass be canceled.  One of our fundamental rights is the right of free speech.  Sometimes what is said is offensive to others but that does not and must not limit what can be said.  We have too many people of all manner of political, religious, and even scientific viewpoints who think the opposing points of view should be silenced.

Christians should be sensitive to the issue of free speech.  Both Paul and Peter state the Jesus can be “a rock of offense” (Romans 9:33 and I Peter 2:8).  Does that mean those who disagree with us Christians are correct in their attempts to limit our free speech?  Some are trying to do just that—to remove all mention of God and religion from the public square.  If we try to limit the free speech of others then we cannot complain when they try to limit ours.

A better response to the Black Mass would be to do as Jesus tells us:  “. . .Love your enemies  and pray for those who persecute you. . .”  (Matthew 5:44 NIV).  And Paul tells us:  “Love is patient and kind. . .it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV).

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[1]   Lauren Brown, “Catholics object to Satanists’ ‘Black Mass’ at OKC Center”, Cybercast News Service, Tulsa Beacon, July 17, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 14, p. 1.

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