Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Matter of the Heart

This morning I heard a sermon that turned out to be a good explanation of how I feel about three important issues that cause great divisiveness in our nation: marriage, homosexuality, and abortion. Actually, the pastor was talking about divorce, but he touched on the “sanctity of marriage” and same-sex marriage. I generalized his words to include abortion. I happened to be a visitor at his church this morning.

Here’s what he said:

  • The Bible tells us to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." That means we should obey our government’s laws.
  • We have separation of church and state.
  • The government cannot “sanctify” marriage. “Sanctify” means to set apart to be holy; only God through the church can do that. No law can do it.
  • Slightly more church-goers than non-church-goers get divorces. There is an obvious problem here.
  • The problem is the human heart. As Jeremiah wrote: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
  • What we have to do is study scripture and pray and try to change one heart at a time. Only changing hearts will heal our land. Being legalistic and warlike won’t do it.

I have to agree with him.

Large numbers of Christians are almost waging war over these issues. My feelings about those things—and giving voice to those feelings—has brought pressure on me to conform during this Presidential campaign. I’ve had some trouble explaining adequately to my Christian folk who see differently. It's true that I’ve been a bit wishy-washy and unable to get a handle on things; however, I’ve been uncomfortable with the McCain-Palin (especially Palin) aggressive bashing of people who don’t agree. Also, I am uncomfortable with the Obama-Biden views of abortion.

Now I can put it into words, thanks to this morning’s pastor.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

John the Baptist

I’ve heard people say when they read the Bible, they often see something new in a passage they have already read a number of times. That happens to me, too. And sometimes it happens in a group—in this case, in the Disciple Bible Study I go to every week. We are studying John the Baptist, who was sent by God as a witness to the coming of Christ.

Last week, we read this passage, found in Luke 7:18-23:

John's followers told John everything that was being said about Jesus. So he sent two of them to ask the Lord, "Are you the one we should be looking for? Or must we wait for someone else?"

When these messengers came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to ask, `Are you the one we should be looking for? Or are we supposed to wait for someone else?' "

At that time Jesus was healing many people who were sick or in pain or were troubled by evil spirits, and he was giving sight to a lot of blind people. Jesus said to the messengers sent by John, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard. Blind people are now able to see, and the lame can walk. People who have leprosy are being healed, and the deaf can now hear. The dead are raised to life, and the poor are hearing the good news. God will bless everyone who doesn't reject me because of what I do."

Notes in my NIV Life Application Study Bible say John was confused because he had been getting reports about the activities of Jesus that were “unexpected and incomplete.” I had always interpreted it this way. John was worried or was somehow having doubts.

But last Thursday night, our group discussion led to a new understanding. John sent some of his followers to ask questions of Jesus—to find out if he was the long-expected one. Why did he send two of his people? If he was truly worried, why wouldn’t he have gone himself to talk to Jesus?

John, we believe, never had doubts; he had known all his life. He knew that if he sent his followers into the presence of Jesus, they, too, would have this personal knowledge. And they would follow the path John had shown them, to dedicate themselves to Jesus—not to John.

John was the messenger, sent to show the way. And that’s what he was doing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bill Maher and Religulous

Through his new movie Religulous, Bill Maher claims to be doing God a favor, according to a story at this linked site. He says he is taking the pressure off God, who is always too busy.
According to a TV commercial I saw, Maher really “sets religion on its ear” with this movie.

Here are the ten rules he and director Larry Charles went by in making the movie. (They let us know that they stopped short of calling them Ten Commandments.)

1. Seek a guerrilla filmmaker.

2. Be honest about your past.

3. Seek memorable characters.

4. Steer clear of the 'exotic.'

5. Encourage controversy.

6. Don't skip politicians.

7. Be frugal.

8. Mock equally.

9. Use popular tunes.

10. Rely on the facts.

I probably won’t see this movie. Here’s my opinion: You can set religion and people “on their ear” all you want to, and even do a thorough job of it. But. You cannot play “gotcha” with God. Many people, Maher included, I suppose, think God is somehow so much a figment of people’s imagination—or so intertwined with people—that they can actually understand what might set God on his ear.

He is far beyond our understanding and above our plane of existence; he is the creator of the universe. He created light. And time. How could any tiny person begin to think he could pull a fast one on God? Amazing.

Well, I suppose it will draw attention to God, and maybe that will be good. If he wants to, God can make some very positive results come from the movie.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Astronaut's Diary from Columbia

Here is something only God could do:

When the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during its re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, seven crew members were killed. Only bits and pieces of the shuttle were recovered, mostly in east Texas, near Palestine. The shuttle was only minutes from landing in Houston when it came apart.

One of the seven victims was Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. In a field near Palestine, thirty-seven pages of his diary were found, crumpled and wet, two months after the explosion. It has taken four years to restore and decipher most of the diary.

Two pages of it will be displayed in the Israeli Museum, beginning tomorrow. The rest of it contains much personal information, and it will be kept private, according to the wishes of Ramon’s widow. The part to be displayed has a Jewish prayer, “a blessing over wine that Jews recite on the Sabbath . . . . Ramon copied the prayer into his diary so he could recite it on the space shuttle and have the blessing broadcast to Earth.”

Consider the miracle that thirty-seven pieces of paper survived being exposed to the extremes of heat and cold during re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere. And then, it’s another miracle it lasted two months out in a field without being hopelessly scattered by wind, eaten by insects, or dissolved by rain.

Read the story at this linked Yahoo news site: Astronaut’s Diary Goes on Display in Jerusalem.

The picture is from Wikipedia.