My Journey

Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that there existed a world of truth that I wanted to encounter, and so I set off.


Walking


It’s time for a little update, not much, but I am no longer new to blogging. I have been at it a few years. Not that I have gained any particular stature. I simply can’t claim to be new at it. I still write as part of my profession, but blogging is more interesting. Blogging is my way of sharpening ideas and fleshing them out. I know I don’t always “get it right”, but it’s the journey that counts.

I have been on a journey for truth since I emerged from the haze and confusion of adolescence, much of it self-induced. Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that a world of truth lay in front of me to encounter, and so I set off. I didn’t realize, then, how much faith is required to seek truth. Continue reading “My Journey”

Martyrs, Satan, Nuclear Bombs and Holding on for a New Normal

We need a new normal and new perspectives.

As I think about the events of this week (and of the past four plus years) and read through social media comments, I am thinking about things that have been percolating in my mind and heart for some time. I will try to lay them out in this blog article by borrowing some quotations from my social media feed with some hope I can tie them together and make some sense of it.

I write this thinking about neighbors and people I have spent time with, shared a drink or meal with, laughed with, worked with and done some aspect of life with who don’t think or vote exactly as I do. Some of them voted for Trump; some would never vote for Trump.

I may find it hard to synthesize all of these points as I let my social media feed direct my steps, but here goes.

Continue reading “Martyrs, Satan, Nuclear Bombs and Holding on for a New Normal”

A Plea for Healing and Tending to the Garden in the Middle

The political and social atmosphere in America is playing into the hands of the radical fringe.

The events unfolding, the things going on in the world right now, are troubling from many angles. Racial injustice, polarization, the centrifugal force of political fringes, rhetoric over substance, political violence, conspiracy theories, fake news, the increasing control of popular speech by private monopolies of information, the abandonment of all semblance of non-bias by most media, the ability to choose our own tailored news, the hatred people are developing for others who don’t think like them, the unwillingness to show respect, listen and engage in real dialogue – these are things that are deeply troubling in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

The political, cultural, sociological, and philosophical winds are swirling chaotically and mixing at all levels into a tornadic gale that is bordering on dangerous. These forces are not coming from outside us but from within. Even if our present chaos is influenced by outside sources, they are merely putting pressure on elements already within us. “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”

For four years, people have been blaming Donald Trump for every evil under the sun. (Pardon the hyperbole.) People have been lumping all Trump supporters into one group and condemning them (or so the rhetoric often goes). People have had good reason to be critical. (No hyperbole or rhetoric there.) But let’s take a step back (it may need to be a giant step) and attempt a look at the bigger picture.

Trump gained support over more than a dozen career Republican politicians in 2016 and was elected president over a person, in Hillary Clinton, who, perhaps more than anyone else, represented the entrenched political machine in America. Bernie Sanders mounted a credible offense with broad support against that machine but could not prevail.

I believe people gravitated to Trump and Sanders for the same reasons: they are tired of politics as usual. They feel that our political system has broken down. It has become big business designed to perpetuate power and control, rather than serve the people. Congress would rather do nothing and let presidents wield executive orders on issues that need their attention and a compromise solution (like immigration, for instance) because they don’t want to jeopardize offending their bases.

They are seemingly more motivated by a desire to remain in office, maintain control and serve themselves than the people who elect them. There is no give and take (in the good and appropriate sense) anymore. At least, not on anything that hits the hot buttons of political platforms.

We only have two choices. Those two choices are becoming increasingly unpalatable for people on both sides of the aisle, but practical wisdom suggests that voting third party candidates means taking a knee as the real game plays on without you.

Polarization is a serious issue that can’t be ignored. It is exasperated by social media that is designed for quick, shallow and knee-jerk reactions that cater to our worst instincts. Almost 100% of political campaigning involves demonizing opponents and “the other party”. We have become a nation that accepts rhetoric over substance.

The extreme polarization has given rise to the voices of the radical fringes who threaten to pull us apart. In a “normal” world, those voices would seem like largely inconsequential and impotent shrills in the distance. Today, they sound like megaphones on the Capitol lawn, infiltrating into the very House of the People.

The Democratic party has always been more diverse (in my lifetime) and has always had its diverse, radical fringes. The conservative fringes have largely operated outside the fold until recently.

I dare say the conservative fringes are more dangerous, ultimately, than the liberal ones, perhaps because they are more unified by common principles. They also bear arms like political badges.

The fringes are pulling good people from the center because the center has largely been abandoned today. It’s a no-man’s land where no grass grows, and nothing happens. People in the center are labeled “other” by the people on either side and ignored by both.

We need a “radical” change. By radical, I don’t mean extreme or fanatical. I mean a different approach to politics and dialogue with each other. We need common sense and a commitment to a bigger picture than political partisanship. We need someone who can bridge the gaps that divide us. We need a voice that brings people together on the common ground that unites us, rather than forcing all conversations to the battle lines.

Continue reading “A Plea for Healing and Tending to the Garden in the Middle”

How Should Christians Act in Times Like These?

If we aren’t responding to current events in ways that display love and the fruits of the Spirit, we are “doing it wrong”

Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The events that are unfolding in the United States are troubling from many angles. Many Christians pinned their immediate and long term hopes on Donald Trump. With Biden as President, the fight against the killing of the unborn has been dealt a significant blow.

But there are many other problems. The racial divide, polarization, political fringe groups, rhetoric ratcheting up to the inciting of violence, a willingness to resort to violence, conspiracy theories, fake news, increasing control of popular speech by private monopolies of information, an abandonment of all semblance of non-bias by most media, our ability to choose our own tailored news, hatred for people who don’t think like us, an unwillingness to show respect, listen and engage in real dialogue – these are things that are deeply troubling in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world. He didn’t tell us to take up arms and fight it. He said we should follow him, spread the Gospel and make disciples.

His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus didn’t come to empower the Zealots, but to turn them into self-sacrificing servants of God and His kingdom – spreading the Gospel and making disciples.

Islam spreads by the sword. The Gospel spreads by people who wash others’ feet, turn the other cheek and love God, their neighbors and their enemies. The Christian wields not a political flag, but a cross that he carries on his own back.

If we are going to fight for anything with biblical support, it would be “to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”. (Luke 4:18-19) This was how Jesus described his own purpose on the day when he stood up in the temple and announced his ministry.

Should we not follow him?

Continue reading “How Should Christians Act in Times Like These?”

How Should the Church Act Regarding Authority?

If we have to ignore Scripture and the character God desires to work in us, we are moving in the wrong direction!

I come back to this with a heavy sigh. I started it yesterday as the news unfolded of people breaching the Capitol building as the Trump rally changed gears. I know there were people there peacefully gathering, but a good many of them crossed the line.

As I watched the events unfold, I struggled to find some solid ground to stand on as I see people who call themselves Christians continue to support Trump regardless of what he says and does. At best, he sent mixed messages that were ambiguous enough to encourage what happened. At worst he incited insurrection, and stood by watching it happen, saying nothing until it was too late. Even then, it was a poor excuse for what he should have said.

The thing that troubles me most as I think about these things is the way Christians who support Trump and this “resistance” at at all costs ignore Scripture that is inconvenient. Paul defined the way followers of Jesus Christ should act regarding authority:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Romans 13:1-2

Peter, the rock on whom Jesus said he would build his church, said the same thing:

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him….”

1 Peter 2:13-14

If you think insurrection is justified because Democrats are “bad” today, consider that Peter and Paul said these things at a time when their world was ruled by Nero.

Nero was a bad leader, even by pagan, Roman standards. He considered himself God. He persecuted Christians and had them publicly killed, lighting them on fire at night to light the City. Peter and Paul were both martyred under the rule of Nero.

You can’t equate the Democrats with Nero. To understand Peter and Paul’s words and apply them to today, we need to acknowledge and consider the historical context. We can’t justify resisting authority because Democrats are bad.

People might justify their resistance on other grounds. People might cite Peter’s example in the Book of Acts. Peter and John were arrested for preaching. (Acts 4:2-3) They were commanded not to preach about Jesus, but Peter and John refused to comply, saying,

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 

Acts 4:19

They were arrested again for refusing to remain quiet. (Acts 5:20) Again, they were commanded not to speak, but they responded, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:19) This time they were flogged and let go.

So which is it? Submit to authorities? Or boldly rebel?

Those are not the right questions. They don’t take Scripture seriously. We have to be careful to handle Scripture better than that.

Continue reading “How Should the Church Act Regarding Authority?”

Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar: What Dreams Are Made Of?

A lion from Ishtar Gate of Babylon built by King Nebuchadnezzar II in about 575 BC.. The piece is located in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey.

We all have them. I suspect that most dreams are just subconscious streams of thoughts and emotions played out in disconnected images in the twilight between full sleep and consciousness. They might be interesting to a psychologist, but we can hardly count on them for meaningful information or guidance.

Some people believe that all dreams have some meaning, and some people believe that dreams have external meaning and significance (not just internal, psychological meaning and significance). Though I question that, I don’t discount that God can speak to us through the medium of dreams.

For as much attention people give them, dreams are not a prominent feature of biblical focus. The dreams that come to my mind are the dreams of Pharaoh and the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. One of those dreams stands out to me, not so much because of the dream, itself, or its interpretation, but the response to it.

We need a little backstory first, though. Nebuchadnezzar could be ruthless, as kings often were. When he had a dream that troubled him in the second year of his reign (see Daniel 2), he called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what his dream was. They were eager to interpret it, but the king had something else in mind.

The King said that he had determined before summoning them that they must tell him what the dream was and interpret it or he would them “cut into pieces” and their homes “turned into piles of rubble”! I’m sure they were a bit less eager, but they pressed him, “Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

They didn’t understand him (or they didn’t want to understand him), so he clarified his demand again: “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you.” The King wanted them to tell him what his dream was. He figured if they could tell him what his dream was they could interpret it for him also.

They protested, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” Still, the King had them all executed. He would have executed Daniel also, but Daniel prayed to God and was shown the King’s dream during the night so that he was able to describe the dream and interpret it.

But this isn’t the dream I want to focus on. The interpretation of the dream in Daniel 2 was benign and foretold the distant future after the King’s life. King Nebuchadnezzar had another dream that is described in Daniel 4, and the interpretation of this dream was anything but benign.

To make a long dream short, the King dreamed of a mighty tree and a messenger from heaven who called out: “Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.” The messenger continued: “Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.”

Last, but not least, the messenger said that this is “the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”

Daniel was “terrified” when the king called on him to interpret this dream, and the reason becomes apparent quickly enough. The King didn’t hesitate to execute the men who couldn’t tell him what his dream was. What would he do when the interpretation isn’t to his liking?

Daniel explained it despite the terror he felt. He said the dream was a decree from God against the King. Daniel told him he would be driven away from his people to live with the wild animals until he renounced his sins, repented of his wickedness, did what is right and acknowledged God.

imagine that Daniel trembled a bit as he spoke those last words! Who tells the King to repent and change his ways?… and lives to tell of it!

But the King doesn’t have Daniel executed. He unreasonably put to death the men who couldn’t tell him what his dream was, but he didn’t punish Daniel for the extremely unfavorable interpretation of the second dream.

That puzzled me a bit previously, but I had a dream the other night, and I think I understand it now. Let me explain how.

Continue reading “Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar: What Dreams Are Made Of?”