Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Handwriting In The Sand

I often wonder about the scenario where Jesus is presented with a woman caught in the very act of adultery.  It is obvious from the setting that the Pharisees were using this as a test to trip Jesus up.  Their “culturally” based rules said she was to be killed for what she did.  Jesus had other ideas.
He took some time with this one, and I’ve always wondered why.  He kneeled down and began writing in the sand.  I’m sure everyone there was wondering, “What the heck are you doing?”  I doubt that Jesus needed time to think about his answer, so I’m left believing that he wanted the crowd to simmer and to think of the reality of what they might be about to do.

Then he says, “He of you who is without sin can cast the first stone.”  (I’ve heard some scholars suggest that it actually reads ‘he of you who is without this sin’)  Regardless of the exact translation, it puts all the bystanders in an embarrassing position…they need to publically declare themselves perfect in order to kill this woman.  Declaring themselves perfect would be blasphemy and would put their own lives at risk and at the very least be embarrassingly arrogant…especially to all those who knew each other’s sins, shortcomings, and dirty little secrets (after all, it is a small town!)

And through all this, Jesus just sits doodling in the sand with his finger.  What was he writing?  I’ve burned with the desire to know the answer to that question for years.  I can see the members of the crowd watching Him.  Some were craning their necks to read what he was writing.  The anticipation must have been enormous.  And then they saw what he wrote and it had to be unnerving to them because they all walked away.

I’ve decided that He was writing each one of the crowd members names in the sand…
Now we are left with just Jesus and the woman. “Where are your accusers?”

Jesus could have condemned her.  He was the only one there without sin, and yet he said “I don’t accuse you either, go and sin no more.”  Now most people would say that Jesus was sinless and had the right to stone her to death and simply chose not to.  I have a slightly different take on it.  I think Jesus knew sin intimately well from the times we are told he was tempted by Satan.  I think he resisted Satan every time, but in his mind he had the same temptations as any man did.  That was part of the reason he was sent as our salvation.  God said that He would come and experience all of mankind’s trials and temptations and even death itself in order to take on our sins and provide the forgiveness needed for all of us.  I sometimes wonder if becoming human was a revelation for God about how difficult the human condition is and how susceptible we are to selfishness and Satan’s temptations.  Jesus felt all we can feel, and through that we have his eternal offer of forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let's Get Physical !!

There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of the wave of youth oriented extreme sports, we are in decline physically in our country.  Our biggest offender, obviously, is the rise of the automobile in the world as a whole and our country more than any other.  When I was a kid, we had a car and it lived in the garage.  Now, if you pass almost any house in America, there are two cars in the garage (if you can fit them in around all the other possessions, tools, toys and knick knacks.)  In the driveway itself is another car or two, and off to the side there is likely an RV.  Along the street are the kids’ cars.  So the average household goes from one vehicle to four or more.

Do you get the picture?  NO ONE WALKS ANYWHERE!  You have to schedule your walk along with whatever other physical activity you might desire.  Unfortunately, fewer people desire physical activity at all.  I know one person who requires that we drive around the mall to find the closest spot to one store, and then drives the car to nearest spot to the next store two doors down so that we don't have to walk.)  And when was the last time you saw a kid walk a mile to and from school every day?

We are too busy eating sugar that inflames and progressively narrows blood vessels and adds pounds to the body.  Type 2 diabetes used to be an old person’s disease…now we see it in 12-year-olds.  And of course, as soon as you gain extra pounds it becomes exhausting to haul that body around yourself, so you don't do it.

We have an epidemic of depression in America.  Why is that?  I’ll advance a theory of my own…we aren’t physical.  Doctors are delighted to give you happy pills and send you on your way and ultimately, that has its downsides, too.  Most of you who know me are aware that I am an exercise junkie, so yeah, I am biased.  But still, I firmly believe God made us to be very active, and unfortunately we are approaching the day when we will ultimately “meld” with our techno devices and our muscles will atrophy into non-existence.  Frankly, I’m not interested in that kind of life.*

*We’ve even decided that you can’t be physical in any way with punishing your child either (I’m not advocating abusive beatings at all!)  Unfortunately, young children don’t learn well in a lasting manner the immediate consequence of bad behavior by having a time out (which is usually poorly enforced because we are too busy on our Iphone) or not getting their sugar cookie…sorry, but it’s true.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It Must Be God's Will

Ever hear someone put on their sad face and tell you, “it’s God’s will” for something that happens? It’s used from a range of matters from illness and death, to political elections and the outcome of war. And it’s one of the silliest things I can think of hearing, too.  The first time I finished writing this essay, my computer crashed the file.  Was it God’s will that I not write and publish this?  Or was it God’s will that the auto recovery function was able to save it for me?  Pretty silly stuff, don’t you think?

The “God’s Will” statement is at war with the very essence of what the relationship between God and mankind has been from the very beginning of creation.  God created humankind and said you can do anything here you want, have at it…but, oh by the way, stay away from that one tree.  Whether you consider it a factual story or a parable to explain our state in life, the fundamental fact is we were given ‘free will’. Free will guarantees that whatever someone else does affects everyone else, and whatever you do affects more than just yourself.  It’s a giant pot of bubbling interactions.

Now you can make a lot of decisions that will tend to insulate yourself or others from decisions that get made, and sometimes that works pretty well. You can go live in the middle of the wilderness, but it’s possible that decisions that a mountain lion or a bear will make may affect you, too. Life becomes a free will crucible for us all.

So what happens if you don’t take the fatalistic view that God is a giant puppet master imposing his will? (Which is absolutely not Biblical as I’ve said.)  How do you explain the parts of the Bible in which God intervenes directly in human affairs, like providing manna and quail in the wilderness or making the sun stop in the sky so a battle could fought longer and be won?  Or most importantly, bringing Jesus back to life after the crucifixion.  To me it is obvious that God retains the right in the creation he made to insert himself and his decisions at will. 

Jesus said “ask and you shall receive.”  We are told to continually pray for God to do things by the very same fatalistic religious leaders who will say “it must be God’s will that your husband got cancer and died.”  Doesn’t that seem bit inconsistent?  I think the more logical view is that God set mankind down in the middle of creation as a test for each of us who we would serve…our self-centered selves or God and our fellow kind.  That test goes on every moment of every day for every person, yet God also expects relationship and communication and responds upon request.  That response may be the answer you seek or it may be “no” or it maybe “not now.”  Many of those actions come through the hands and feet of a united group of believers who are seeking that very action from God.  In their uniting they surprisingly wind up making the changes they seek.  Other times (predictably, much more rarely it seems) things happen through no real effort from us other than the asking for God to intervene.

The other way the phrase is used is equally frustrating..."What is God's Will for me to do."   Should I be a dentist or a bartender?  To me God's Will is pretty simple...live your life in keeping with the principles He has outlined and the rest all falls into place.  Be the Christian He has asked you to be in whatever setting you find yourself and want to pick for yourself with that free will He deliberately gave you.

OK, this time the document saved and posted properly.  Was it the will of God that this happened so I could make the few changes I inevitably make when given the chance…LOL.  The end result of all this thinking is He’s God, he gets to do what He wants.  Most of the time it seems He sticks to the rule of Free Will for mankind…and just maybe that’s because we ask too infrequently!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Axis Of Evil

I’m wondering just how our country could have let things get out of hand as bad as we have.  Russian government officials are threatening us with nuclear annihilation, radical Muslims are once again on the move and succeeding militarily in subjugating and decimating others, and Al Gore still has everyone focused on climate.

I’m particularly perplexed at the President of the United States.  Everyone on the liberal side of the street mocked George Bush for everything from the way he talked to the things he said and did.  One thing in particular that I remember was the liberal antagonism to his statements about certain individuals, organizations and countries in the Middle East being “The Axis of Evil.”  Unfortunately, he was right, and I think current events bear that out.  What I don’t understand is our current president watches American Citizens get beheaded by these terribly evil people and yet seems more concerned about his golf game and sending his top staff to investigate the circumstances around a black thug who robbed a store and was subsequently shot after beating on a police officer.  He sends numerous people to the thug’s memorial service and not one to the memorial for James Foley’s death at the hands of ISIS.

We should be dropping thousands of soldiers and equipment into Iraq and Syria immediately.  Neville Chamberlain made the same mistake of delay and appeasement, and it almost lost Britain to Hitler.  If Hitler had beaten us to the creation of the A-Bomb, and he nearly did, evil would have triumphed completely.  As far as Russia goes, we are too late.  We blew that one when this President failed to step up to a bigger missile defense shield for Europe when Russia objected.

When is America going to stand up and be the leader for freedom and justice once again?