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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Developing Character

In an article on aviation safety, John King states that it is not the lack of skill that makes an unsafe pilot but “the lack of humility, ethics, and responsibility toward others”.  A safe pilot is one who has “self-knowledge, self-mastery, [cares] about what’s really important, and [gives] aviation the time and devotion it and our passengers deserve”. [1]

In other words, a pilot’s character is more important than his/her piloting skills.  If this is true, our aviation schools should focus just as much on developing a pilot’s character as his/her skills in flying an airplane.

Who in today’s world focuses on developing the character of individuals?  Schools want to fill students’ brains with knowledge.  Religious organizations are more interested in teaching the correct doctrine.  No one wants to touch character because that involves deciding between right and wrong behaviors.

C. S. Lewis’ book, The Abolition of Man, asserts there is one set of objective values in our world which he calls the Tao and the purpose of education is to teach us the Tao.  This is also God’s purpose for us.  He does not just want us to know the correct doctrine, he wants us to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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[1]   John King, “Pilots Who Should Scare Us”, Flying, July, 2014, p. 12.

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Symbol of Christianity

Recently, my brother was in a hospital for heart valve replacement surgery.  The hospital was Catholic so it was not surprising that in every room a crucifix was mounted on the wall.  My question is:  Why is the crucifix a symbol of Christianity? The reason is because Christianity emphasizes Christ’s death for our sins.  However, the crucifix is rather negative because it represents suffering and death.  Also, it looks backwards.  In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 the death and burial of Jesus is in the past tense.  Jesus death is in the past and there is nothing more that can or needs to be done about our sins (Hebrews 10:17-18).

A much more appropriate and positive emphasis and symbol for Christianity would be the empty tomb or the resurrected Christ because each represents a new life and victory over death.  In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Jesus’ resurrection is in the perfect tense which is a past event with present consequences.  Jesus’ resurrection, a historical event, has a present consequence which is the new life God wants us to live.

We need a new symbol for our faith that is positive, forward looking, and points toward the new life God has planned for us.

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Losing Faith in Religion

Joseph Cotto in a recent opinion column quotes a couple of polls in which around 20% of the respondents stated that religion is not an important element in their lives and less than half have confidence in organized religion.  He notes that most of our major social institutions—political, financial, and the media—have lost the confidence of the American people. [1]  The American people are disillusioned with all these institutions because they are more interested in power, prestige, and money than in the welfare of the people they serve.

Joseph Cotto is not the first to notice this loss of faith in organized religion.  Years ago Evgeny Barabanov stated:

The world, of course, has abandoned the Church, since the traditional groove reserved for creativity turned out to be too restricted for man. . . Today it is not the Church but the world which is creating a new civilization, and it is solving the problems with which it is faced on the basis of its own understanding of existence.

Barabanov stated the reason Christians have abandoned participating in the transformation of the world is because it is too difficult and we have tried to make our religion simpler and easier by making it only a belief system. [2]  But that is not the plan God has for us.  As we have demonstrated in this blog, God requires that we change our soul so we become like him and that is difficult to do but it is something that is within the capability of each of us.  What we will discover is that when our soul becomes more like God, we will participate in the transformation of our world.

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[1]   Joseph Cotto, “Are we losing faith in religion?”, The Madison Courier, July 17, 2014, p. A3.

[2]   Evgeny Barabanov, “Schism Between the Church and World”, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ed., From Under the Rubble, New York:  Bantam Books, 1975, pp. 180-186.

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Words of Encouragement

While on vacation last week, I read A Question of Honor which is a sad recent history of the nation of Poland.  Prior to World War II, Britain and France had signed a treaty with Poland in which they agreed to come to Poland’s aid if Germany invaded Poland.  World War II started when Germany did invade Poland and the Polish people, contrary to all the jokes about the ineptness of their response, fought with courage and effectiveness—they destroyed a sizable percentage of German tanks and aircraft. [1]  Britain’s response was to bear “witness to Poland’s suffering with all the windy rhetoric they could muster”.  The Polish government’s response to Britain was to make “clear that the words of encouragement, while appreciated, were useless”. [2]  What was needed was military action.

Why do we understand the utter uselessness of words in this case but still cling to the idea that a confession of faith in Jesus is the only way of salvation?  Words can be well intentioned, words can motivate us but without action those same words are meaningless.  Saying we believe in Jesus is a good first step but unless we actually follow Jesus’ teachings, that statement of belief is worthless.

Justin Martyr in his First Apology states:

And let those who are not found living as He taught be understood to be no Christians, even though they profess with the lip the precepts of Christ; for not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word:  “Not everyone who saith to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. [3]

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[1]   Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud, A Question of Honor, New York:  Vintage Books, 2004, Kindle location 1166.

[2]   Olson and Cloud, Kindle location 1122-1132.

[3]   Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin Martyr”, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, ed., Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 168.

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What We Do

John Ruskin, a British art critic, writer and philanthropist said:  “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

What we think changes by the day, hour, or minute.  What we know changes throughout our entire lives.  What we believe is largely a matter of the culture in which we were raised.  What we think, know, or believe are just potentialities.

What we do turns these potentialities into reality.  What we do has consequences for ourselves and others.  What we do cannot be changed.

That is why salvation is not a matter of belief in Jesus and his death for our sins.  To say we believe in God and Jesus is of little consequence; anyone can say that.  To actually do what God and Jesus instruct us to do, to actually pattern our lives after Jesus’ example, would be life changing.

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