Perfect Peace

Shale Hollow

Psalm 121:5-8

[5] The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
[6] The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

[7] The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
[8] The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (ESV)

Last night I was grumpy.  My co-dependency was rearing it’s ugly head yesterday and I was feeling insecure due to a tough meeting at work, an intense discussion at home about interfaith issues, and other things.  I struggle at times by trying to find my approval in people that I look up to, rather than God.  The Apostle Paul said that “for am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant(1) of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 ESV)  I believe God uses the posture of prayer to put us in a place of receptivity.  There is a rhythm in spending time with God in a place that is free from distraction, and the noise that clutters our minds and hearts.  Jesus reminds us that he has overcome the world (John 16:33), and that he has the power to calm the waves and raging sea that wages war in our souls (Mark 4:39-41), and all we need is faith to believe in his ability to do what he says he will do.

The above quoted Psalm is from today’s reading in the Book of Common Prayer.  This Psalm is part of the Psalm of Ascents which were recited by Jewish pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the high Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.  As they recited this Psalm, they are reminded that the Lord is the one that will keep them from evil, he will protect from the heat of the sun by day, and the brightness of the moon by night.  He will preserve and keep my life.

The picture is from Shale Hollow Preservation Park in Delaware, Ohio.  It is one of the hidden treasures in Central Ohio and is beautiful.  When we went as a family, I could definitely feel God’s presence in nature.  There is a peace and coolness present in Shale Hollow.  When we did a meditation at church and practiced the spiritual discipline of solitude and silence as we waited upon the Lord, I envisioned walking with God in Shale Hollow.

shale Hollow - 2

 

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Freedom – Revolution Saints

Revolution Saints is a new super group from Frontier Records comprising of Doug Aldrich on guitar (Dio, Whitesnake), Jack Blades on bass (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees), and Deen Castronova on drums and vocals.  For those of us like the big sound of arena rock of the 80’s, this band is for you.  The lyrics is upbeat and positive, and spiritual (all music in my opinion is spiritual.  This is song is called “Freedom” from their album “Light in the Dark”.  It personifies the verses “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32), and it is for freedom that you have been set free. Stand firm and do not be yoked by slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Deen explains the inspiration of a song while he was in rehab at Betty Ford clinic in 2015. It reminds me of what we all go through when we give ourselves over to something or someone that doesn’t satisfy and actually enslaves.  John Calvin has been quoted that the human heart is an idol factory.  Tim Keller defines sin as making something that is a good thing into an ultimate thing.  I have always said that sin is trying to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.  When we try to find life apart from God, we will never be satisfied and that is why we need the living water that will always quench our eternal thirst (John 4:13-14; Rev. 21:6).

Below is the lyric video of the band.  I hope you all like them as much as I do.

Building a House on….

bs-house-sand-collapse

[24] “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. [25] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. [26] And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. [27] And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

Today’s reading from the Book of Common Prayer for the gospel is in Matthew 7 which is part of the Sermon on the Mount.  In this passage Jesus uses an illustration of building a house.  The two types are those that build a house on the rock, and those that build a house on the sand.  He says that for those that build their house on the rock are like those that hear his words and does them.  Those that build their house on the sand are those that hear Jesus words but do not do what he says.

It is like parents giving their children wisdom about any given topic such as finances, crossing the street, etc.  Children that listen and obey their parents are like those that build their homes on the rock and are secure.  Those that disobey their parents are like those that build their houses on sand that they are insecure.

It is also like those that struggle with addiction whose lives are unmanageable, have wrecked their lives and others due to their poor choices, and are suffering consequences of their actions.  They keep doing the same thing expecting different results (AA’s definition of insanity.

Going back to the passage, when Jesus uses the word “hear” a better translation would be “pay attention”.  When I pay attention to what Jesus says about any given topic, or from what God’s Word reveals to me (whether spoken or written), I can be like one who builds their house the rock.  Evidence of paying attention to what Jesus says is following through and doing what he says.    Again, a better translation of “does what I say” would be to “carry out what I say”.  The fruit of actively listening to what Jesus says and following through on his words is spiritual, emotional, relational and physical security.  For those that do not do what he says, the result is insecurity and instability.

My question to you is what is your house built on?

Not Everything is Beneficial or Permissible….

1cor-6-19

Note controversial post…

In yesterday’s reading in the Book of Common Prayer, the New Testament Passage was 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. One of the key verses in this passage in 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 which state:

[12] “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. [13] “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-13 ESV)

Paul is dealing with some of those within the Corinthian church coming from a Gentile background who originally believed in an early form of Gnosticism called dualism. They believed that after someone dies, the spirit is free to be reunited with the creator through a series of reincarnations. They also believed that the material world was bad or evil, and that the body that housed the Spirit didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how they treated the physical body since the body was bad, evil and going to die anyway.   Therefore, if a person back then ate meat sacrificed to idols, become one with a prostitute, and drank too much, it didn’t matter because their bodily actions did not affect the Spirit. That was the given mentality of the day in the Greco-Roman World.

Paul being a good Jew believed that the body was affected by salvation and a person’s spiritual transformation affected the whole person including their bodies. First, the body belonged to the Lord which he will raise with Christ (1 Cor. 6:14-15). Second, those that have joined themselves with the Lord, have become one with his Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Lastly, the body is where the Holy Spirit resides (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Thus, our physical bodies are affected by what we do with them.

The specific issue with these young believers was that they were having sex with prostitutes or having casual sex. Again they believed that what they did with their bodies, did not harm their spirit since the Spirit was good and separate from their material physical bodies. To Paul this was not the case. He says whenever we become “one with someone whom we are sexual with” we become one flesh. Why would I want to unite myself with someone sexually for casual sexual purposes with the Spirit of the Lord living inside of me?

Regarding sexual unions, there is something profoundly spiritual that happens when two people consummate a relationship. There is a soul-tie that is created that bonds the two people to each other, hence, “two becoming one flesh”. There is a chemical released in the body called oxytocin that is a bonding agent that is released during sexual intercourse.

Significance, this is an important topic as the sexual boundaries are being re-evaluated within the church. Many people struggle with same-sex attraction, are pan-sexual, bisexual, and the like. Even people that believe themselves to be gay, still desire a monogamous relationship. Yet there are a few that believe that God gives them multiple partners to love. This is called polyamory.

polyamory

Even though the bible is silent about polygamy, the bible is descriptive when it comes to those that had multiple wives. Solomon who had over a thousand wives and many concubines, was led astray from the Lord by these relationships (1 Kings 11:4). Jacob married both Leah and Rachel who were sisters, yet favored Rachel over Leah (Gen. 35). Abraham had a child with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, and Sarah became jealous of Hagar and her child Ishmael (Gen. 16-17). David favored Bathsheba over all of his other wives, but due to the family dysfunction with the children with his other wives, strife was always in his household (also a consequence due to adulterous affair with Bathsheba).

There are those that believe polyamory is permissible due to its belief in consent being required by all parties, and that it is a picture of God’s love for himself as Trinity, yet not everything about polyamory is beneficial. I have known many people who have opened up their marriages, and almost all of them had ended in divorce, or a relationship has started out polyamorous, but one of the parties wants the relationship to become monogamous, thus the relationship ends.

 

 

Listening to the Spirit

Psalm 85:8

[8] Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly. (ESV).

or

I will listen to what the Lord will say….(NIV)

Sadie and zelda

In today’s reading in the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, the above verse is all about being in tune to what the Lord is speaking.  Dogs are great examples of how well they hear, and how “in-tune” they are to the commands that I give to them.  The above picture is of Sadie and Zelda both wanting my undivided attention.  Below is a picture of Zelda and Penny doing the same with my future step-daughter, Kayli.  They both are waiting to see and hear what she is doing.

 

Penny and Zelda

True intimacy comes by listening, obeying, and hearing.  Again, the dogs are good examples of how we as humans can have an intimate relationship with God.  One of the benefits of intimacy with God is the Lord’s peace.

James 1:19-20

[19] Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; [20] for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (ESV)

 

Second Time Around

Pirate weekend

Proverbs 31:10 – An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

A couple of weeks ago, I proposed to my girlfriend, Jayne Davis, to be my wife, so I am formally engaged to be married on April 22, 2018.  She is a wonderful, fun, caring and compassionate person.  She loves make believe and dress-up, roll play gaming (which I haven’t gotten into yet), sci-fi and fantasy genres when it comes to media (television, movies, and music).  Like myself, she is a spiritual person that is always in tune with what God is doing in her life and other lives through her practice of meditation, listening to the Gita, and seeking Jesus as someone who points us to God.  She is passionate about social justice and that everyone should be treated as equals and not be discriminated against.  She loves the outdoors and finds peace in the middle of the woods, loves to camp, and go for hikes.  She loves animals and we have a zoo (three dogs, two turtles, and a cat).  She is a great mom to her daughter, and good future step-mom to my daughter.   I could go on and on and gush over what is going on with her.

Jayne and her mom

She is also a good fit.  She complements me in many ways.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 – And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We work well together as a team.  We have each others back, we communicate well, we budget our finances well, and we enhance each others life.

Jayne

In the bible it says, above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 ESV).  When it comes to relationships, especially romantic relationships, this verse is right on the money.  Love does cover a multitude of sin, it says that “I accept you despite your flaws, your brokenness, and your frailty as a human”.  It says that I am willing to put aside my needs for yours, and to serve and sacrifice for you.

Both my fiancée, and I have experienced tragedy in romantic relationships.  Her previous marriage ended in cancer (which took her husband and father of her daughter), mine ended badly due to sin and brokenness.  Yet at the same time, God gives second and third chances.  All things are possible with God which may seem impossible with humankind (Mark 10:27).

So, to make a long story short, I am excited what my journey with my fiancée and her daughter will look like and what adventures we will find in the future.

Indian Caverns

 

 

 

 

State of American Evangelicalism and Still Christian by David Gushee

 

David GusheeMy friend from work says that “Christians shoot their wounded”.  I believe she may have a point.  The best example of this is David Gushee’s new book, a memoir, entitled, Still Christian, Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism.  David Gushee, in my opinion is kind of a modern day prophet who follows Jesus as his Lord and King and points people to Jesus despite the culture that they are a part of, the church that they belong to and it’s subsequent subculture, and exposes the conflict within the church of how American Politics has hijacked our true calling as followers of Jesus.  David Gushee is one of the greatest Christian Ethicists (kind of like a prophet) in American Christian Academia in the past twenty years.  He has published books on Ethics, Kingdom Ethics (which was one of my text books at Trinity), and has been an outspoken opponent on torture in war, an advocate for a climate change, and a friend to the LGBQT community.  Here is the point of his memoir.

So this is a book that will try to offer a fair rendering of the flawed people and institutions to be found across red-blue/conservative-liberal barricades of American Christianity.  I think it will not be hard to show virtues of each strand of Christian I have encountered.  But I will also be clear how simultaneously that virtues become vices.  It seems impossible to have any significant virtue-such as a strong conviction-without simultaneously suffering its correlated vice, which is intolerance.

The gospel becomes maligned, mistreated, and overshadowed by American Politics which becomes religious politics.  This became apparent in Gushee’s first teaching assignment at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky when the new president Albert Mohler, Jr. (who still is president of the Seminary), declared that all women who taught at Southern had to resign or would be fired due to his belief and literal reading of scripture that women were not allowed to teach and preach in the church.  Gushee’s mentor Molly Marshall was forced out of her teaching role at Southern (Kindle Location 940).  Gushee writes about his experience with this new policy at Southern:

At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president (Al Mohler, Jr.) declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors will no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern…This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members.  I vividly remember one of my young female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall.  Almost all faculty and staff members who did not agree with this direction or this kind of leadership looked for a way to leave..None of my mentors believed women were biblically banned from being pastors.  I was loyal to them, I was also loyal to my female teachers and colleagues at Southern, most notably Molly Marshall.

Fortunately for David Gushee, David Dockery (now Seminary President at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) offered him a golden parachute to become a Christian Ethicist professor at Union Seminary in Jackson, Tennessee (another Southern Baptist Institution).  Even at Union, Gushee became an outcast as he became outspoken for climate change and torture.  He writes:

Running into trouble with an evangelical Christian college constituency for being too public and too effective in leading conscience-driven moral advocacy campaigns on climate and torture was both deeply revelatory and hugely disappointing.  I can only conclude that predominantly white evangelical Christian higher education is about much more (or, perhaps, something quite other) than the integration of faith and learning and the graduating of students of strong faith and values.  It is about creating an educational environment loyal to U. S. Republican presidents and their policies is not challenged in public.  Christian college faculty sign doctrinal statements filled with all kinds of theological claims to which they promise adherence.  They do not sign political loyalty oaths. (Kindle Location 1351)

Thus, Gushee left Union Seminary and landed at Mercer college in Atlanta which was more moderate Southern Baptist institution.  Gushee at full academic freedom to write what was on his heart at Mercer.  Yet in the past 10 years, the most sensitive subject in the church is about human flourishing, sex, gender, and sexual identity.  This issue has split many congregations and denominations.  Gushee wrote a book extensively how he became supportive and affirming of LGBQT Christians in his book entitled Changing Our Mind which after being published for a few years has come out in it’s third series with answers to his critics.  He writes that supporting and affirming LGBQT Christians was the final nail in the coffin which he left American Evangelicalism:

I crossed the threshold when I argued that main biblical/theological issue was whether God’s created order could be viewed in a manner that did not require Christians to adopt a solely male/female gender sexuality paradigm, in light of the genre of creation stories, the evidence before eyes in human life, and the fact that Christians have been seriously wrong before in the claims they derive from a theology of creation…By the end, I had moved far beyond cautious rethinking of biblical passages into a full-hearted apology for my long complicity in teaching Christians, both gay and straight, a traditionalist Christianity that I now understood as doing actual, documentable harm to gay people and separating them for  their rejectionist families and churches…I had become a full-throated advocate for LGBT Christians and ex-Christians.  (Kindle Location 1758)

He then ends his book that he is still called to be a disciple of Jesus, a family man, pastor, scholar and a teacher.  Just as Jesus stood up to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Gushee is standing up to the American Evangelicalism ideals and institutions.  This book is his personal memoir of how he has left American Evangelicalism and to follow Jesus, his Lord and King.  He finishes the book with this observation about Evangelicalism in America:

The changed religious and social context has something do with this transition that I am contemplating.  The embrace of Donald J. Trump in 2016 by most white evangelicals (4 out of 5 voted for him) was just the latest sign either of the bankruptcy of evangelicals or the meaninglessness of the category. To the extent there is a real thing called American Evangelicalism, it is deeply damaged by now…. To the extent that (white evangelicalism) thing was just a rebranding of Protestant Fundamentalism and never a real thing at all, the rebranding failed. (Kindle Location 1852).

Conclusion

Overall, Still Christian, was a good quick read.  Many of us including myself, are looking at the state of the church in America and seeing where we fit.  Does the current status of Evangelical Churches in America line up with the gospel, or are they overshadowed by American politics which has become “religious politics”?  Can I still be a follower of Jesus, but disagree with my churches position on some of the hot-button issues that have political overtones that have affected the church?  I stand with David in the last few pages of his memoir:

I still believe in Jesus.  Indeed, I believe in him more than ever.  I need him more than ever.  Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus.  And that’s okay.  I still believe in the prophetic religion of Jesus and of those before him and those after him who also shared it-a religion of justice, love, and compassion, a powerful source of good in this broken world.  But, I no longer believe that the church, per se, knows or follows that religion.  I no longer believe that the church, per se, is generally a source of good in the world.  It depends.  Sometimes it is quite the opposite.  When it is the opposite, the only way to be a true Christian is to oppose the church (like Martin Luther).  Yet I will never leave the church.  (Kindle location 1896)

St. Mary - Macedonian Orthodox Church