Monday, June 4, 2018

Blog Update

Due to time contraints, I am no longer actively writing on this blog.

You can catch up with my writing on my website and facebook pages.

You can follow my artistic endeavors on my art website and art facebook pages.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hell, Yes

Last post I spoke about what Jesus had to say about judgment.  You can't talk about judgment without addressing the concept of hell.  I was raised on the belief that hell is where you go if you reject Christ. If you do, then you will burn forever in hell.

Some biblical scholars I know believe that hell is less about a physical place where you burn than it is a state of existence you go through when you reject Christ and his teachings. In other words, you reap what you sew and if you cut Christ out of your life and live only for yourself, you have nothing better to look forward to than the current existence you live, which can be very hell-like. There will be nothing better waiting for you and you've already lived through the judgment.

If you look back at my last post you will see multiple quotations I found regarding what Jesus has to say about judgment. It is hard for me to hold to the belief that there will be no judgment when all is said in done. He certainly has much to say on the issue.

But will the judgment for those who reject Christ be a place of eternal concious torment?  I am not so sure about that. Rather than rehash the most prominent views of hell which are  Traditionalism (everyone lives forever and the unsaved will suffer forever in hell), Universalism (everyone lives forever and will be refine and restored to God, and Conditionalism (the unsaved are raised but are not immortal and are punished and destroyed, wanted to share this webiste  which give three main views of it.

As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts. This will be my last blog post on this blog as I no longer have time to maintain it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rethinking Judgment and Hell

I apologize for the delay in posting. Let's just say life got in the way. I have been meaning to post about my thoughts on hell.  I'll start by stating what I was taught (again with the Southern Baptist view) regarding hell.

Everyone will stand before God for judgment. If a person rejects Christ and his teachings he is bound for hell, a place of eternal torment in flames.

I have always struggled to rectify how a loving God could administer so strict a punishment as to make someone eternally suffer for rejecting him. Why not just kill him and be done with it? Why make the person suffer forever? Arguments I heard growing up were that God is the ultimate just judge and that his ways are not our ways. People are given multiple chances during their life to follow Christ. If they still reject him after all of those opportunities then they get what they deserve.

I set out to rethink my Christian beliefs regarding what I was taught and as I do so I continue to hold these beliefs up for scrutiny based on what Jesus said and taught. Let's look at a few passages.

Matt. 8:10-12.  A centurian asks Jesus to just say the word to heal his dying servant. He has such great faith he believes Jesus can perform the healing without being present. Jesus remarks that "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." He goes on to say that many will come from east and west  and will take their places a the feast of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. "But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

I believe this reference targets the religious Jewish leaders who believe they have a ticket of passage into God's kingdom but their heart and actions prove otherwise. Is this place of outer darkness a physical place of punishment? I cannot say. Often Jesus overstates to indicate the separation of those who reject the heart of his true teachings from fellowship with God.

Matt. 8:28-29.  Jesus heals a demon possessed man by casting out the demons into a herd of pigs and when the man spots Jesus the spirits in the man cause him to say "have you come to toture us before the appointed time."

This passages seems to state more about what the Jews believed about judgment and torment than what Jesus had to say about it. However, this man recognized Jesus for who he is, the true Son of God who can pass judgement on us.

Matt. 11:20-24.  To the cities of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum who saw his miracles and did not repent, he said, "it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

Again, this refers to those who witness Christ's works and hear his teachings but reject him despite that. Jesus states there will be judgment.

Matt 12:30-36  vs 30 "He who is not with me is against me..."
vs 31 "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven"
vs 33 "A tree is recognized by its fruit"
vs 36 "Men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken."

He compares our lives to that of a fruit bearing tree. The fruit we bear testifies to our heart condition and we will be judged accordingly.

Matt 13:24-30  Jesus tells the parable of the weeds and then explains the meanings in 36-43.
The weeds, those who are not the good fruit, are thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We may draw our concept of eternal burning in hell from this and other passages but I have to ask, is this really to be taken literally or figuratively? Remember that often what Jesus said wasn't intended to be taken literally.

Other passages about judgment include Matt 22:1-14 the parable of the wedding banquet.

Luke 3:9 Trees that do not produce good fruit are thrown into the fire

Luke 3:17 Chaff will be thrown into unquenchable fire

Those are just some passages to consider. There are plenty of others. In my next post I will look at three major concepts of hell.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Holy Communion: We Got it All Wrong

There's a scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail where Indana has to choose the right chalice, supposedly used by Jesus during the last supper. The table is littered with them.

The true vessel turns out not to be the most ornate and valuable one, but rather a very ordinary looking cup made from pottery. The symbolism can't be overlooked. Often Jesus' teachings and ways are counter to mainstream expectations and thinking.

When I go back and study the Bible these days I question how the established church interpreted passages and wonder how we got things so twisted. Take the sacrament of communion, for example.

In the Southern Baptist church, this is a once a month tradition where ushers serve concord grape juice in tiny transparent disposable cups and an oyster cracker or some other cracker portion along with it.

In the Lutheran and Episcopal churches you participate in communion weekly most likely by coming down to the altar and particpating in a common cup of wine or option juice in some cases and a thin, round wafer.

The Catholic Church is similar to the Lutherans and Episcopalians, only the Catholics believe in transubstantiation where the wine and bread or wafer is actually converted into the actual body of Christ after consumption.  In many cases you must be a church member in order to participate. The irony is we have put into place more eleborate traditions and rules which actually prevent people from participating in the new covenent, Jesus' teachings.

Jut a note of interest. Early Christians celebrated communion and the tradition was misinterpeted as canabalism by the Romans and Greeks so that it became one of the reasons for persecution of the early church.

Luke 22:19-20  says "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' "

Looking on the various passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke pertaining to coimmunion, I now realize several things.

First, when Jesus broke bread and shared the cup with his disciples in that upper room during the celebration of passover, he was trying to prepare them for his impending death.

Second, the symbolism of the blood that was spilled tied into the Passover rememberance of the blood on the doorposts that stopped the death angel from killing the first born during Jewish captivity in Egypt. The angel passed over and the Jews were saved and were later lead to freedom.

It also tied into the Old Covenant, that required blood sacrifices for atonement and forgiveness. Passover, during which this gathering in the upper room took place was a sacred celebration of a time of deliverance for the Jews. Jesus wanted the disciples to understand there was a New Covenant about to change everything. No longer would these blood sacrifices be necessary. He was about to become the ultimate sacrifice which would wipe out the need for any others. He was the Messiah.

Finally, I  think his urging to celebrate through the bread and cup wasn't a direct command to serve the wine and bread in rememberance of him, but rather an charge to remember the life he sacrificed and a challenge to follow his new teachings which released all from the bondage of the law and old ways.

It's interesting to note that the Gospel of Mark is considered by many theologians to be the earliest written account of Jesus' life and it does not include the passages which the Matthew and Luke accounts which state "Do this in rememberance of me."(see Mark 14:17-26).

We took everything so literally. I can almost hear the game show buzzer going off indicating we got the answer to this riddle terribly wrong.

Jesus wanted us to always remember what he was about to do, give up his life and spill his blood in order to revise the old ways and make way for a New Covenant that would release us from bondange of ritual and rules. We should remember this whenever we gather together in community (which we should never give up doing.) It is more important to gather together for a meal in rememberance and fellowship as followers of Christ keeping his memory and service to us alive in our hearts and actions, than it is to have communion from fancy trays and cups. Let us never forget.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Prayer for the Coming New Year

Many of us look on the New Year with fear, fretting over what might be.

The Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr is fairly well known and has been used as handouts on cards to soldiers during wartime and is in the Twelve-Step recovery program. I am sharing this completed, unadbridged version in today's post because I find it so fitting for the coming new year.  Let these words bring you peace as you as you face the start of a New Year and turn the control back over to God.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In a World of Mass Shootings, Part II

It's amazing what can happen in a little more than a week's time. In my last post I wrote about the rise of mass shootings and what I think are the underlying causes of them. If you haven't read that you might want to read that article here.

I promised in my next post I would discuss what, if anything, we can do about them.

However, first, I want to talk about some things that have happened since my last post that tie into the subject. The most obvious one is that the shooting in San Bernadino, California has now been attributed to terrorism, not just some angry person, although we don't know if the Muslim couple involved acted independly or under the direction of a terrorist group. It is extremely troubling that they shot the very people who had thrown them a baby shower just months earlier. Despite that, we should not label every Muslim a threat. Just as there are some touting religious beliefs in Christianity that are extreme, there are some, not all, Muslims who adhere to extreme beliefs.

Several other things have happened in my own life that reflects the growing fear in America of terrorist acts. The first is that I was summoned for jury duty and while waiting for the jury to be selected, I sat among 57 other U. S. citizens. We are not allowed to have any electronic devices inside the courthouse including cell phones. They had been restricted after a bomb scare three years earlier at the same courthouse proved to be the real deal with a bomb devised to be triggered by an electronic device such as a cell phone. While waiting for the judge to make an appearance, I struck up a conversation with a young school teacher next to me. I learned that she has two young children.  She and her husband are so skiddish about going out in public due to terrorists threats that they have drastically changed their habits and stay home much more than they did.

The second thing that happened this week was that my husband, Jeff was selling a used diving vest he had acquired. He advertised it on Craigslist and made an appointment with a guy who planned to come and purchase the vest at our home. This man arrived wearing a holster and gun in plain view, which was pretty unsettling. Jeff and I both discussed it later and Jeff especially found it troubling.

With so much violence, people are scared and those who do own guns are touting them more publicly. Some officials are urging people that own guns to carry them with them. To me, this is a recipe for disaster. How can the gun carriers accurately determine who to shoot and when?

Back to the topics I included in my last blog post. I'll address them one at a time.

1). Isolation due to technology. We need to be aware of the dangers of this. Actions we can take can include deliberately trying to get to know our neighbors, holding physical social gatherings, being on social media less, weaning children and grandchildren off of social media dependence and working more on getting them involved in face to face encounters with people.

2). Lax gun regulations. Yes, we have the right to bear arms but when that right interfers with our basic freedoms such as gathering in public places without fear of being gunned down, it's time to curb some of the rights. The loudest protests about gun control comes from gun owners themselves. They don't want to lose what they already have. Japan has an extremely low rate of violence and they have some of the strictest gun controls. Here's is an excellent article about those regulations. Maybe we don't have to go to this extreme, but I feel we should definitley implement many of these. Here's the link..

3.  Angry people who blame others. There will always be angry people, however, we can press for anti-bullying programs and programs that focus on teaching children and adults how to cope with anger.

4. Mentally ill people. The label mental illness covers a lot of turf. It can apply to anyone with depression to someone with Schizophrenia. Japan requires that every gun applicant pass a mental health test. If they are found to be a threat, they are not issued a gun.

5.  Violence in movies, books, and video games. Parents should screen what their children watch and what they allow them to buy. What is produced is based on supply and demand. If we stop buying and paying to watch things with extreme violence, then those who produce them will change what they produce to contain less violence. We can also write the manufactuers and producers of these and let them know that we disapprove.

6.  A wealthy culture consumed with capitalism. Live more simply. Own less. Teach your children to do the same.

7.  An entitlement attitude.  This attitude ties into issue #6. If we work to live more simply and teach that to our children, then we will have less of this problem. Also taking responsiblities for our own actions and teaching our children to own up to their own short comings and bad choices is another important move.

Politicians cater to public opinion. They are influenced by groups that pay big bucks for lobbying for their causes. Gun ownership is one of those causes. If enough of us wrote to our congressmen and other public officials, it will put enough pressue on them to start listening to those of us who feel stricter gun control laws should be in place.

I still hold to the truths that Jesus taught.  His message is one of peace. Paul wrote, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18.  (NLT)

Jesus told us to fear not. We should not yield out basic rights to go out in public and live our lives. Although there is a possibility that something might happen, we have to trust that nothing will happen that God won't allow. When we start playing God ourselves in order to retaliate against violent acts, it reveals a lack of faith and fans the flame of fear. Fear not, and trust that even our small acts to makes a difference will be the small drop in the pool that will slowly spread out and make the change we need to see.

Friday, December 4, 2015

In a World of Mass Shootings, Part I

My family and I lived in Colorado just a half hour from Columbine High School when the mass shootings took place on April 20, 1999. Twelve students and one teacher died that day.

The event rattled our world and our friends' worlds as we tried to wrap our minds around the senseless killings. Suddenly, keeping our children safe took on a whole new meaning. Later, as I stood at the site surveying the outpouring of the public's sympathy in the form of plush animals, heartwrenching notes and flowers, the grief I felt over such violence and the loss of young lives was unbearable.
It was an unimaginable act of violence, the likes of which had not been surpassed at the time. Sadly to say, since that event mass shootings have become a way of life in America. We have moved from the rarety of one or two a year, to one or two a month and now to weekly shootings. What has happened to bring us to this?

I think that no one thing is to blame but multiple factors are at the heart of the issue contributing to this severe illness that is effecting America. I know this will infuriate some people, but if I cannot express my heartfelt beliefs here on my own blog, where can I express them? In this post I will address what I think are the contributing factors. In my next post I will talk about what, if anything, we can do about it.

1) Isolation due to technology. We are at this point in time more connected to each other than we have ever been through phones, computers, and multiple technological devices, and yet we are less connected in a personal way through relationships.

2) Lax gun regulations. It is too easy for people to obtain guns. Just this past week I learned that you do not need proof of ownership in order to sell a gun in North Carolina. I also learned that because of laxer laws in the Carolinas, it is a source of supply for those in larger cities who sell guns illegally and use them for crimes.

3) Angry people who blame others for perceived wrongs done to them or others.  This includes people who are religious zealots, whether they claim to be Christian, Muslim, Atheist or any other perusuaion. It also includes people who have been bullied or ostracized.

4) Mentally ill people.  They may or may not also be religious zealots. Not every initiator of mass violence is mentally ill but some are unbalanced.

5) Violence in movies, books, and video games.  The more violent the content of what is produced the more desensitized the consumers become to the killings and the more likely they are to accept violence as a way of leveling perceived wrongs.

6) A wealthy culture consumed with capitalism. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If you don't believe me, take a trip elsewhere and see how others live. We thrive on owning and building wealth. We mistake wants for needs and want immediate gratification. We give too much to our children. We own too much ourselves. 

7) An entitlement attitude.  We feel we are entitled to have things our way and if we don't get what we want, we blame others. We are a lawsuit crazy country. If we get hurt by a product we use, we don't look to our own ineptness, we look to the person who produced it to blame. Liability and lawsuits have sky rocketed. Americans can no long accept responsiblity for their own actions, instead we want to pin the blame on others and take them to court, not just to right the wrong, but to make a profit on it.

In my next post I will address what I think might be done to help remedy the stituation. I cannot think of any better words to close with thant these words of Christ.

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27