Tag Archives: Christianity

We Need Only Look

Has anyone ever told you “You need only look?” All around us life itself is screaming out that it is. Life is alive, there is more than the mundane and it is there for us to see it. I am constantly amazed by the work of astronomers and particle physicists. On one hand they are reaching out and seeing life billions of light years away and on the other they strip away the layers that build life like that of an onion, getting ever smaller and finding more wonder.

Astronomers say that the universe is 13 billion lights years across. I would like to go to the very edge and stick my hand through and beyond the boundary to find out what is beyond. Particle physicists say they have found the “God particle” that is the basis for everything. I wonder what they will find when they build a bigger super collider and split that particle, something even smaller I should wonder.

But what about you and me, what can we see if we look around us? One of my favorite books is “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (add an apostrophe above the e). It is a whimsical tale for children of all ages (even age 64). He was a French pilot both before WWII and during it, where he died. Another book he wrote is titled “Wind, Sand and Stars” in which he talks about his time as a pilot over the deserts of Africa, the Andes Mountains and the Pyrenees in Europe. This was all during the time flying was in its infancy and was very lonely and dangerous.

The last two and a half pages tell of his traveling by rail on a long journey. At one o’clock in the morning he had the urge to tour the rail cars throughout its length. When he came upon the third class coaches he found them full of Polish workmen being sent home from France back to Poland. The book was first copyrighted in 1939 so this was on the eve of WWII and was a time of great turmoil throughout the land. De Saint-Exupery noted that they all looked like they had lost half of their humanity. He sat down and observed a couple asleep and noticed a child wedged between them. The thought that struck him upon looking closely at this child was that they had the face of a musician, that this child was a Mozart, a life full of beautiful promise. Yet, De Saint-Exupery concluded, this little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine. He would grow up to love shoddy music and that this Mozart would be condemned.

We need only look and we too shall see this life around us, the lives stamped out by what is accepted as okay, never reaching the highest levels each of us can achieve. At the same time we can go out and see a sunset, the stars at night or any one of hundreds of different things that show forth the wonder of life and all that are good. We need the vision of each end of the spectrum to keep us in balance and that keep us striving to improve our world and all that call it home.

Less than a half page later De Saint-Exupery ends his book with a statement that really struck home with me in several ways. His statement, “Only the Spirit, if it breathes life upon the clay, can create Man.” I love that statement. Yes, we are clay, from the dust we can and from the dust we shall return. It is only when the Spirit breathes upon us that life is truly created. We need only look and we need only bring the life of the Spirit with us to find life.

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Flawed Christian, Pt. 2

This is part 2 of “Flawed Christian” and I would like to expound on what I meant in part 1. I said I was flawed and that is just what I meant. I am not perfect (I already said that) and I do not meet the standard Jesus set to be perfect as the Father in Heaven is. How am I not? Consider how you and I are created, we are tripartite beings, body, mind and spirit. Maybe you want to say body, soul and spirit, to me that is minor. We are three part beings.
First we are body, flesh, organic, we bleed and we sweat, we physically feel pain and pleasure. That is body. It is physical and it is what some people think is all we are. Further we all decay and eventually die. No getting around that except for one possible exception. A concept in Christianity is stated born once die twice. Born twice, die once meaning that once we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we only die physically but we will live forever with God. I am not going to debate that concept here as it is not part of this story.
The only possible exception is Lazarus. Jesus raised him from the dead. It is written there that Lazarus was good and dead and ripe for several days when Jesus raised him. So, if Lazarus died then he died the death we all face and Jesus brought him back from the dead to live again. So did Lazarus die a second time? Now that is an interesting question to me. Could it be that in Israel right now is a little old 2,000 year old man who has a very bad attitude because Jesus brought him back from the dead and now he has to wait on Jesus coming back again. I know I would not be a happy camper. That is just some food for thought for the theological types.
I am 63 years old and not getting any younger. My body is physically decaying and beginning to break down. Is that a sin? No, that is the normal process of life. If the super Christian crowd prays for me to be healed what would it look like? Would it be the body of a young, healthy male or would it be the current state I am in being more comfortable and better able to perform normal routine activities? My point for this post is that I am flawed. I can no longer do many of the things I once could. Flawed is normal and I don’t have to try and be something I am not. Last summer I tried something I can no longer do. I was at the big city pool doing my water exercises and was watching kids jumping off the diving board with another lady who was doing the same thing as I was. She says that looks like fun, I think I will try it and she did. Nice dive lady. So I thought I would also and got up there on the board. Tested the board out for spring and distance of the steps with no problem. Planned on doing a simple jackknife and started to go up on one leg when the leg I went up on said “no you don’t.” I collapsed under me and I went off the board at a 45 degree angle on my shoulder in a complete belly flop that I sure was amazing to watch. No more going off the board for me.
We are mind, we have a brain (yes that is part of the body) that contains our learning ability. By this age mine should be chock full of knowledge and to an extent it is. 63 years of history and study and all kinds of stuff in there. Do you know the name of Dudley Do-right’s horse? I have that piece of wonderful knowledge stored away. But here comes a major factor in being a flawed Christian. The mind is where choices come in and quite often I choose that which is not pleasing to God and which He calls sin. I am flawed by my being weak in will and the choices I make. In Romans, chapter 7, Paul says that he does the things he does not want to do and does not do the things he should do. The great apostle Paul is saying he too is flawed. Puts us in good company I suppose.
How does Paul answer this dilemma? The answer is actually easy; the accepting of it is the hard part. In Romans, chapter 7, Paul goes on and says: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then in Romans, chapter 8, Paul ices the cake saying: “God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.”
This is Christmas folks, the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, God made man. God came down from heaven and became flesh and blood, just like you and me, an baby infant, helpless and totally dependent on his mother to bring him into the world. Further, God came down in the lowliest of places to the most humble of people, poor and in a distant land from home, alone.
Yet they were not alone by a long shot. Who did God send to bear witness of this miracle? Shepherds that is who. Guys working the graveyard shift minding their own business, nice quiet evening out looking at the stars and making small talk about the local camel races. And lo, an angel appeared to them and the glory of God shone all around them! Hey, I am awake, okay. Fear not, for I bring tidings of great joy. Go down and look for the son of King David (really dropping names here) born this day. Oh, and by the way you will find him in the stable, in a manger, a feed trough if you will. What, the son of the great king David in a stable, in a manger, for shame, for shame. But that is how God comes to you and to me, humbly, poor, not lifting Himself up. He comes as a babe, helpless, willing to just “be” himself, no being anything special. That is our King, willing to serve.
Therein lies the key, are we willing to just be a servant, nothing special? That is all Jesus asks of us. Will you and I give Him our flawed selves this Christmas and allow Him to use us as He sees fit. I know I am not worthy, that I am flawed and am a sinner of the highest order (there is actually only one order of sinner and that is chief) yet God still chooses to occasionally work through me.
I hope and pray our new priest (Rev, Dr.) is a shepherd who is will to be approached by angels who come proclaiming good news and I hope he knows where the best grass is for his sheep because I am needy. This Christmas, his first with us, I hope and pray he leads us to lift our voices and hands to worship the coming of the King, son of God and son of Man. All I can say is Baaahhhh! Merry Christmas.

Do you like Ice Cream?

Since I want this blog to deal with things of deeper meaning and value I probably should go ahead and ask a profoundly deep philosophical question. Do you like ice cream? If so, what is your favorite flavor? Vanilla, chocolate (milk, or dark chocolate), strawberry, peach, spumoni, along with a plethora of other flavors are available to choose from. But which flavor is real ice cream? Well, let me answer the question for you right off the bat. I am from Texas and down here we have Blue Bell ice cream from the little dairy in Brenham whose signature ice cream flavor is homemade vanilla. That people is real ice cream and is what all others aspire to achieve.

In March of this year I attended the NCECA Ceramics conference in Houston. It is a premier national ceramics conference. One of the panel discussions related to cone 6 glazes. Now, without getting technical, firing at cone 10 (cone 10 is fired much hotter than cone 6) has been considered a defacto standard for a lot of work. This panel was composed for 4 highly acclaimed names in the ceramics world including Steven Hill, from Missouri, and John Britt who lives in North Carolina and who has published a well-regarded book on cone 10 glazes. The panel was talking about how it doesn’t matter what temperature a ceramic piece is fired, what is important is the final piece. So John put up a slide showing various ice cream containers and told the story of how a well renowned cooking magazine did a taste test on ice cream to determine the best flavor. Well in the taste test the cheapo house brand that every store chain sells beat out all the expensive, fancy names. Being from Texas, and being unable to resist cheap jokes, during the question and answer portion I raised my hand and very seriously addressed John Britt, “John, have you ever tried Blue Bell ice cream?” The entire auditorium erupted in laughter and John replied that he had not. I submit that John Britt, nor the other panel members from their laughter, had not eaten what I consider to be real ice cream. I am thinking about sending him a couple of half gallons.

“In accordance with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the Food and Drug Administration enforces a set of standards which regulate the labeling of food products. Ice cream is defined as a frozen food made from a mixture of dairy products, containing at least 10% milkfat.” There you have it, there is a federal law that defines what ice cream is but can we trust our federal government? Have they ever tried Blue Bell ice cream? I know my congressmen have along with President’s Johnson (Lyndon, not Andrew) and Bush and Bush. Are we in a philosophical mood yet? Let’s get this show on the road.

Just like I asked if you like ice cream let me ask you if you are a Christian. Oh-Oh! But what flavor of Christian are you? Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry; which flavor is the real Christian? Just like ice cream has a definition let’s look at some of what people say.
1. Shorter Oxford English dictionary: A member of the religion of Christ; an adherent of Christianity. b A member of a particular sect using this name.
2. 1828 Webster’s dictionary: 1. A believer in the religion of Christ. 2. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.
3. A follower of Jesus Christ is a definition I have heard for many years.

What is the “milkfat” of being a Christian? Remember that milkfat is what makes ice cream ice cream. It is the cross of Christ, Christ Jesus, crucified, dead and buried. The Episcopal Church, my current flavor of Christianity, loves creeds and has lots of them. But contained in the Holy Eucharist service is found three little lines that I lift my voice when I say them. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Those three lines sum up the gospel for me.

But I think that defining being a Christian needs more. It is the cross of Christ, of His death, His dying for each man, woman and child of humanity. We are a people condemned to death in the Garden of Eden, forever bound and chained. Yet God in His mercy sent His Son to die in our place, to redeem us and set us free from the death that is in each of our lives.

For us to appropriate this salvation we have to accept Christ death for our own and that means we have to take up the cross and walk with it. A. W. Tozer says this about the cross: “The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.” That is harsh, very harsh. We are called to sacrifice and give our lives to our Lord, to live no more for ourselves. But, but, but….

Look at what the apostle Paul says. 1 Corinthians 1:18-19: For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17-19: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-3: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Being a Christian is at once the epitome of simplicity, utterly and purely. God does the work, God has done the work. The work is finished; it was finished by Christ Jesus on the cross. The price was paid for you, for me, the bonds were broken for all eternity and it was all laid bare and exposed. Take, eat, live; Christ presents you with life, true, whole and pure. Say yes, Lord, yes, come into my life as Lord and Savior. I believe and receive. There, was that so hard, so difficult.

But now comes the hard part; how to walk this new life. If you have been going through life blind, deaf and dumb how does one walk, talk and hear all that life is? If I have accepted the Lord I am required, nay, I am compelled to take up my cross as I go forth and I am compelled to share this new life that I have received to share with everyone I meet and come in contact with the good news that you too can have life, you can be saved from certain death.

Now about flavors. Do you as a Christian call yourself Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, non-denominational, or any of the too many to number flavors of Christianity? Do you venerate the Pope as being the head of the church, or is it that you have to be baptized by immersion or filled with the Holy Ghost and speak with tongues or any of the multitudes of church requirements? What is it that your church, your flavor of Christianity requires for you to wear the badge and mark of calling yourself a Christian?

I put forth that I don’t care what church you worship in or what beliefs your church holds and espouses. I really don’t as long as you worship and lift up the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for you and for me; the Lord who will return and claim us all as His bride. I accepted Jesus into my life in an Assembly of God church and was married in an Episcopal church. At our wedding an Anglican priest presided, a Catholic minister sang, a Baptist friend sang and the best man was non-denominational. I have no idea who all attended because I was the groom and was caught up with getting married. We gathered and rejoiced in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the great wedding feast.

I pray that each time you enjoy a bowl of ice cream that you will consider that you are part of something much greater. Know that as you partake of your bowl that you are partaking with millions the world over. Rejoice with them for ice cream and do not worry about the flavor they choose. Rejoice in the “milkfat” of the cross of Jesus Christ and Him died for you. I pray that you go to the church of your flavor and that you remember all the ice cream in the world that has the same “milkfat” of being Christian and that you worship in spirit and in truth. The truth of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Blessings.

Flash of Inspiration

 

 

I love it when a flash of inspiration comes.  Furthermore, reading the Word is full of inspiration.  This morning I was reading Psalm 27 in an effort to have a morning devotion. Then I read it and it hit me smack dab in the middle of the forehead.  POW!  Get ready, here it comes.

Ps 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to meditate in His temple. NASB

What you say?  I know I will dwell all the days of my life in the house of the Lord when I get to heaven.  True, but David is saying so much more.  David was praying in the here and now, that it would be in the here and now.  That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.  Today is a day in our lives. David’s prayer, our prayer, the possible, the actual, is to dwell in the house of the Lord, now, today, present tense.

Do you see it now?  The house of the Lord is not just in the hereafter, it is in the here and now.  A search for “house of the Lord” turns up 237 Old Testament references in the NASB version.  We can know the presence of the Lord, we can fellowship with the Lord in the here and now.  There are friends I can call up right now and go to visit them in their house.  The house of Arthur, the house of Robert, the house of Clint, and on and on.  Hey Arthur, how are you doing, hey Robert, hey Clint.  Now, take it a step further, hey God, what’s happening?  How are you and the family?  Conversely, they always ask about me;  Bernie, how are you doing, how are you dealing with all the “stuff” going on in your life?  I know you are going through a lot, talk to me.

God is the same way.  Come in, have a seat, would you like something to drink?  How about some living water, I have plenty of that?  Here, it is cool and refreshing, good for your coming in from a long journey.  Here is some fresh baked bread, fresh out of the oven and its low calorie but very filling, tasty and healthy.  Come and dine, it’s good to see you and catch up.

Read the Word and let the author speak to you, where you are, who you are.  Let Him speak to your needs, to your heart.  He longs for you to call and ask to come visit Him.  After all He has fresh bread in the oven just for you.  Come, taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I am going to spend today in the house of the Lord.  That means where I am, what I am doing, I will do it and I will be in the presence of the Lord.  Please join me wherever you are.  His house is big enough for all of us.