Tag Archives: God

Thieves, Scoundrels and Billionaires

 

baronsOur current economy is due, to a large part, to those who had the knowledge, the ability and the guile to work the system.

The executives of companies “too big to fail” who skimmed the profits, got a government bailout and paid themselves bonuses out of the bailout.

The mortgage company executives who made questionable loans and bundled them so that the risk was no longer identifiable.

The derivative traders who made the investment instruments so complicated that no one knew what they were worth.

We’ve always had those types.

But somehow the Medicis and their contemporaries gave us the art of the Renaissance.

The robber barons gave us coast to coast railroads and telegraphs.

I don’t credit the rich and powerful for these benefits. Instead, I think this is God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Even the greediest, most despicable person’s actions will ultimately reflect God’s will.

It’s a comforting thought.

Home Again, Home Again

SONY DSC

It’s the middle of the night, and we just got back from the airport. At half past midnight, our daughter’s flight arrived after her soccer camp.

With all my kids I’m amazed at how I enjoy seeing them learn and do new things while simultaneously knowing that they’re so close to growing up and being on their own.

As we read in Ecclesiastes: The words of David’s son, Qoheleth, king in Jerusalem: Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun? One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.

Each generation wants the next to be a little better. Better educated. Better positioned for a successful career. To do well.

However, the most important thing we really want for our kids is for them to do good. To know that God has a plan for them that is better than anything they could ever imagine for themselves. To know how to trust Him.

I don’t have the talent to convince them by logic or clever arguments, so my wife and I have to try to teach by example. Examples like showing up together (complete with her brother) at the airport in the middle of the night with a small (Walmart) bouquet and her favorite Tropical Smoothie.

I figure that if we show them what love is, it cannot lead anywhere but to God.

You Can’t Hide from God

Michelangelo Cistine Chapel

Michelangelo
Cistine Chapel

Genesis 3

“(8) They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

(9) Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

(10) He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

The Bible is a marvelous teaching tool written to make us think.

When I read this passage, I don’t see it as God not knowing where Adam was, but instead as His way of saying, “You can’t hide from Me.”

We can deny His existence. We can pretend He can’t see what we’re doing. We can fool ourselves, but we can’t fool Him.

In other words, God is always near us.

When we’re tired, or lonely, or discouraged, God is near. He’s always close enough to hear the smallest, quietest prayer.

Personal Manna

Just a quick note tonight – it’s been a busy week and I’m tired.

Long ago I knew I’d never be wealthy; I’d never have a yacht, nor a mansion.  In the past I’ve driven a 1972 Ford Pinto that was held together with Bondo and today I drive a 2007 Ford Focus which is five years newer than my wife’s minivan.

However, I have no complaints.  God has always seen to it that I have what I need and then some.

My kids are in a good school system.  My roof is new and my air conditioner works.  When something breaks I can get it fixed.  If I want something a little special for me or someone in the family, I can get it.

I feel like the Israelites.  I have manna and quail to satisfy me.  I can’t store it up, but each day what I need is given to me as a blessing.

I look at His generosity as a reason to take a moment throughout the day to say, “Hi, God,” or, “Thanks!” and “I love You!”  I believe He deserves to have me acknowledge His blessings throughout my day.

Just like He blesses me throughout every day.

It’s Legal

Supreme-Court

There has been a lot of angst about recent court decisions and legislative actions. Mainly these address things that some people do not approve of being legalized.

Same sex marriage.

Marijuana.

Abortion.

Whatever.

There’s a huge difference between legal and right.

It’s legal to create phony offshore corporations in order to avoid paying taxes. It’s legal to sell clothing made in prison-like sweatshops in Bangladesh. It’s legal to sell iPods made in Chinese factories in which the workers must work 18 hour days and live in company dormitories so they can be awakened at any hour of the day or night when Apple wants to try something new.

God gave us a free will to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. He didn’t restrict our ability to decide; He told us what He wants and then lets us decide on our own. We don’t always decide wisely (remember the apple thing in the Garden of Eden?)

I suspect that He won’t be impressed with our legal loopholes or our skillful splitting of hairs. He’s going to expect us to have done what was right.

It may be legal to ignore the poor, but we do so at our peril. It may be legal to seek revenge for our enemies, but Jesus instructed us to pray for them instead.

Jesus challenged us to be perfect, just as the Father is perfect.

We (starting with me) area long way from perfect, but we can try to do what is right.

Coupling

gibson11

What is it that makes two people a “Couple”?

Usually a casual date may be referred to as a couple, such as “the couple at the next table” but a Couple acknowledges something more significant. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that when two people present themselves to other as a Couple that is the deciding factor. It’s similar to the old concept of common-law marriage; if you tell the world you’re a married couple, you are.

Some people enter into serial Coupleships. A person may have a dating relationship, be engaged, or married on a sequential basis. Relationships may be with different partners. Sadly, a person may be married to one individual, but be Coupled to someone else.

The ideal, in my mind, are two people who are committed to each other and to their relationship at a higher level than they present to others. The best example might be the married Couple who are truly bound together, well aware of each other’s imperfections who still share the good, the bad and the ugly. Their private commitment is to love and support one another without question and without limit.

How are some Couples able to achieve this? I think they cheat and have a Couple of three. They tend to have a relationship in which God is the center through which their love and commitment to one another flows. They love God first, and happily take a close second place. In this way, God is neither a distraction nor a competitor, but an integral part of their relationship. Since God’s love is perfect, iIf their love for one another is linked to and modeled on God’s love, it I no longer merely a worldly love, but one that aspires to otherworldy.

In Sickness and in Health

SONY DSC

I haven’t written much this week because we’ve had a few medical issues around here. Three were planned, but there was at least one middle-of-the-night exciting surprise. The kids needed to get one last viral ailment before school let out and the dog showed that although he’s very lovable, he’s equally stupid. So five trips to various hospitals, including a veterinarian one, one to the doc-in-a-box, several to various doctors’ offices later, it’s now the weekend.

When I was younger, like most guys (I can’t speak for the female of the species) I saw love in terms of a commitment to “climb the highest mountains and swim the deepest seas.” Now that I’m older and have acquired s modicum of wisdom, I see things differently.

I made my marriage vows to my wife before God. However those vows grew to include not only the two of us but the whole family. “In sickness (and in health”) seems to be more aimed at the kids than each other. Likewise, “for richer or for poorer” – well let’s just say that much of our material wealth has been invested in our children.

“All my worldly goods with thee I share” – when I can’t find a tool, or that ten dollar bill that I had in my wallet, or the nail clippers, or whatever (and the list is impressive) it’s far more likely that one of the kids has borrowed/absconded/taken title to it than my wife.

But what a wonderful life. God, in his wisdom, has given me countless opportunities to share that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. He’s blessed me with a closeness such that if sharing is not completely effortless it is at least totally natural.

Fathers’ Day is tomorrow. Let’s first thank Our Heavenly Father on this day. (Isn’t it quite appropriate that both Mothers’ and Fathers’ days are on Sundays?)

Then, as a father, I want to thank Him for blessing me with my family.

Led Into Temptation – Again

cnn

I confess, I was weak. I saw the story on CNN about “Famous Atheists and Their Beliefs” and after ignoring it for several days I peeked.

Look, I also confess that we believers make fools of ourselves and one another. Christians despised Jews for centuries, conveniently forgetting that the early Church met in the synagogues. That before Paul got knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus Christian membership was limited to Jews. That the Apostles were all Jews, and, oh by the way, Jesus was a Jew, of the House of David and He was the Messiah promised to the Jews.

After the schism, Protestants aired their grievances (and very legitimate grievances they were) about the Catholics. As time went on, the various flavors of Protestant began to differentiate from one another and rejected each other for reasons real and imagined.

And then there are the Muslims; sons of Ibraham, whom we call our ancestor  Abraham. They suffer as much infighting as Christians, and suffer lunatics who have successfully hijacked the title if not their beliefs.

The Atheists seem to have a solidarity with all not believing in the same thing and supporting each other’s disbelief. The believers, on the other hand, are not nearly as supportive of one another.

Maybe we believers should agree on a few things:

  • We are all seeking God.
  • As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, we humans don’t have the answers.
  • God seems to open doors, paths and ways to reach Him.

Most importantly

  • God loves us.

We won’t see an article about “Famous Believers and What They Believe.” But as believers, we don’t need to.

Why I Like the Bible Better Than the Internet

internet-marketing-strategy-traffic1

On one hand, the Bible is a slow read. On the other hand, it has everything – poetry, stories of adventure, cleverness, succeed, failure, and a fair amount of sex and violence.

But that’s not why I like it.

When I read the news on the internet I get angry, depressed, upset and frustrated.

When I read the Bible, I always find at least something that applies to me – to make me a little better or a little wiser.

It’s not by accident that the word “gospel” means “Good News.”

When Jesus Was a Kid

From time to time, like all parents, I get frustrated with my kids. You know the drill – dirty socks in unlikely places; sudden disappearances when chores need to be done and convenient bouts of selective memory.

It makes me wonder what Mary and Joseph experienced when Jesus was a child. Although always divine, Jesus was nevertheless human, and as such needed to learn, just as every child does, by making mistakes.

I can picture Joseph searching his workshop for a tool that young Jesus had borrowed and not returned.

Mary wiping up Jesus’ spilled milk, bread crumbs or perhaps honey dripped on the table.

Mary probably wondered how one kid could get his clothes so dirty and Joseph was amazed at how quickly He outgrew sandals.

Makes me feel like I’m in good company.

Who Speaks for Me?

theBible_poster_joshua_cc

The Bible
The History Channel
http://www.history.com/shows/the-bible

When we see family or tribal based societies, we have difficulty appreciating them. Many Muslim countries adhere to these relationships just as the Jews did throughout the Bible. The father, as head of the family could speak on behalf of the whole family – and the extended family. All who lived as part of his family were subject to his decisions. Joshua could, therefore, commit his entire household to serve the Lord God.

Imagine how such a commitment might play out today.

“I have committed this family to serve the Lord,” said Joshua as he walked into his suburban home outside a major American city.

“Now, Joshua,” replied his wife. “We’ve talked about you committing me to things without me agreeing to it, first. You can say whatever you want, but don’t expect me to blindly follow.”

“Dad!” replied his eldest son. “All the kids are into worshiping the Baals! I’m not going to be a social outcast, just because of you.”

“Hey, don’t look at me,” replied another child. “I’m your stepson. When I talk to my REAL dad, he’ll be honked off.”

Today the dynamics are different. In a faith centric family, the husband and wife are hopefully already on the same page. Two committed adults are stronger than one and better able to guide the family together. It’s different, in that each of us has more of a voice.

But that means each of us is called upon to commit ourself to God and his way individually as opposed to relying on someone else to commit us.

From the Tiniest to the Greatest

dna

One of the cases before the Supreme Court is to determine whether a company can patent its ability to identify a couple of genes and their potential for predicting cancer. Big money. Big deal.

Let’s ignore the legal aspects, and focus, for just a minute on the philosophical.

A gene is a tiny, tiny part of DNA.

DNA is a tiny, tiny part of a chromosome

A chromosome is a tiny, tiny part of a cell.

A cell is a tiny, tiny part of an organ.

An organ is only part of a system.

A system is only part of the human body.

The human body is only a part of what we call a person.

If this company claims a unique and beneficial capability because of a gene, imagine just how unique and beneficial a Creator who made all this happen. The genes, the DNA, the chromosomes, the cells, the organs the systems, the human. Then He put everything in the right place on the right planet in the right solar system under just the right circumstances.

Now THAT’s a big deal!

Saturday – A Day of Rest

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In the Old Testament, God the Father rested from Creation on the seventh day.

I suspect that it was no coincidence that after His death, Jesus His Son also rested on the seventh day.

God always shows us how His plan flows together in such a beautiful manner.

Sundown, Good Friday

PietaMichelangelo Buonarroti1499

Pieta
Michelangelo Buonarroti
1499

Satan had never been particularly fond of sundown on Friday, since it marked the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Perhaps, two millennia ago he was more comfortable because the Sabbath had become a burden, rather than a cause for joy. The Pharisees had defined most activities, including how far you could walk before you were violating the Sabbath. It was a set of complicated rules rather than a day of rest.

This particular Friday had to be especially disconcerting. Satan had seen Jesus ridiculed, beaten, abused, and tortured. No doubt this pleased him while simultaneously frightening him. Even he knew that things were not as they seemed. He had to wonder what was going to happen.

Many believe that when Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” was the point at which Jesus took on all the sins of the world. For the first time in eternity Jesus was not completely connected with the Father and it was terrifying and disorienting.

At that moment, Satan saw countless souls he had seduced, cajoled, lied to, and threatened slip through his very fingers. The justice they deserved was now paid in full, and they were reunited with God.

Jesus told us He had the ability to lay down His life and pick it up again. I think that once He had paid our debt, His job was done and He laid his life down. It was His choice to save us, and His choice to return the Father.

Satan had known from the very beginning that his quest was unachievable, but his ego was such that he continued anyway. I’m sure that even with our redemption, his arrogance demanded that he redouble his efforts. Even today you can see his efforts.

But it doesn’t matter. We have been saved. We have been forgiven. We are loved by our God and by His only begotten Son.

Give thanks. It is right and just.

An Imperfect World

This is an imperfect world.

It has been imperfect for thousands of years.

It was imperfect two millennia ago as Jesus was betrayed, unjustly condemned, tortured and killed.

But we are charged to be “in the world, but not of it.”

In other words we’re just passing through on our way to a better place.

Thanks to the love of a perfect Messiah.

Today’s Prayer

JESUS-NETWORK-MARKETING

We see in the Bible Jesus taking time and finding someplace quiet in order to pray. It’s a safe bet that prayer was part of His daily routine.

What might His prayer been like on this particular day many years ago?

“Well, Father, it starts soon. At sunset tonight it will be Thursday and …, well, let’s not talk about that until We have to. Today is My last normal day.

“I’ve tried to be a devoted son. I have spent my life among your Chosen People. I’ve reached out to Your other children, too, but I tried to do it in a way that didn’t minimize Your love of the Jews.

“It has been both strange and wonderful to spend My time here. Some of these people are really, really special, and it has been a joy to have spent my time with them. John has been a very good friend. I’m planning on asking him to look after My mother. Peter will be a great manager after, well, in the future.

“I plan on sharing the Passover preparation with my closest disciples tomorrow. Your special feast to share with those who have been special to Me. I’m focusing on the good things and trying not to dwell on what follows.

“Please, Father, let me enjoy my last normal day, if that is your will, and give me the strength for what I need to do after that.

“I love you, Father, and I know you love Me. For a few more hours, I am going to celebrate your love and the love of my friends. I’m afraid that when we talk tomorrow, I’ll be completely distracted by the task ahead of me. But for now, just know that Your Son loves you.”

You, Me and the Pharisees

Christ_PhariseesAs we approach Holy Week, we might think about the Pharisees, busily plotting how they would stop Jesus. We shake our heads and ask ourselves, how could they be so evil?

But were they?

These men were pillars of the community – they worshipped at the temple (THE Temple), faithfully studied scriptures and followed the Law to the letter.

If they were around today, we’d consider them good Bible reading, churchgoing men.

The law given to Moses prescribed many aspects of everyday life, and these men were law abiding citizens. In terms of that time in history they were the good guys. On the other hand, this Jesus was, in their eyes, and in the eyes of the Law, quite the sinner.

Imagine how we’d react to someone who had no visible means of support. Someone who wandered around the countryside, crashing on the couch of anyone who’d have him. A guy who hung around with hookers, street people (and diseased street people at that) and other seedy types.

That’s exactly how the Pharisees reacted.

Is it possible that without Faith we’d be just like the Pharisees?

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

tenThe Ten Commandments are a pretty good guide for life, even if you’re not a believer.  The adultery and coveting things are pretty much ignored these days, but it’s hard to argue that either should be encouraged.

When I was a kid, I thought the fourth commandment (yes, I know that there are two numbering schemes) was aimed at us youngsters. “Honor thy father and thy mother” seemed to say “Do your chores! You’re your bedroom clean! Don’t sass your parents!”

As I’ve gotten older, though I realized there was far more to it. When you read the Ten Commandments, first are the commandments referring to God Himself. The very next one is to honor your parents. How could it be more important than “Thou shalt not steal” and Thou shalt not commit murder”? Those are pretty nasty things, especially murder.

But why such an emphasis on honoring our parents when growing up is pretty much defined as the point at which we move away from our parents?

I’ve come to believe that the commandment is not meant for when we’re in grade school, but for later. Just as God created us, looks after us and loves us, so it is with our parents. Those of us who are parents know how, no matter how old are children are, we still worry, we still advise, we still care. We love them at least as much, if not more, than we did when they were little. This is probably true of all of our parents.

When we were children, we had little choice about respecting our parents. However, once we’re grown that changes. We no longer live under their roof and their rules. We often no longer live in the same region, much less the same town. It may take an effort just to stay in touch with them.

Honoring our parents is an active requirement, not avoidance of a negative.

Do something in that spirit.

What the Elder Son Teaches Us

It was another soccer tournament weekend. It’s Monday and back to work, where at least the schedule is more predictable.

At least the games were spaced so I could catch church on Sunday.

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn

The Gospel was the story of the Prodigal Son, which is often dissatisfying because it just doesn’t seem fair.

If the Prodigal Son story played out today, I’m sure there would be at least one lawsuit.

Our deacon gave the homily, and pointed out that the son who stayed home figured may not have merely been loyal and altruistic. The way he looked at it, he was taking care of his upcoming inheritance, so in effect, he was working for himself. Since he was focused on what he expected to get, he didn’t realize and appreciate all the things he had every day.

However, what he said next was what struck me. The deacon suggested that every night when the family gathers for dinner, we should start a litany of all the things we have to be thankful for. He suggested starting small, with such things as life, spouse, children. Each day add a couple of more things. By the end of Lent we may all realize just how blessed we are.

I thought it was a good enough idea that I should share it.

Who Is This Man, Jesus?

JesusPortrait

It’s surprising how little we know about Jesus the person. He was named Yeshua, the Aramaic for Joshua, the loyal scout and military leader who was allowed to pass into the Promised Land when even Moses was denied entry.

His public ministry was only for a few years. Except for His last two days, the scriptures tell us little about Him. We don’t know if he was tall or short. Nowhere do the Scriptures describe Him physically. However, it’s a pretty good bet he looked like we see Him in paintings and sculpture, with white skin and long flowing hair. Men native to the Middle East tend to have darker skin, and St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians is quite critical about men with long hair. An unlikely comment if that was how Jesus looked.

What the scriptures do tell us is His message and his purpose. Look at the beautiful beginning to John’s gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He taught us to love God and to love one another. To extend that love to even the least among us. To be willing to give up life itself out of love.

It was a good message, and just as He subjugated Himself to the Father’s will, He placed the message first. After all, He was, and is the Word.