Thursday, June 18, 2015

Holiness Hygiene, or "Lord, Pass Me Some Soap"

“Hand cleaning is your professional responsibility” the hospital sign announced, prompting Epidemiologist Donald Goldman to caution hospital patients not to worry about speaking up, or of “offending” health-care providers. Shorthanded and harried hospital personnel sometimes get so busy they neglect to wash their hands. Goldman further suggested that if the computer industry could institute clean rooms, “health care should do no less.” Dean of Nursing Students at Georgetown University, Elaine Larson, concurred.

Frequent hand washing contributes to clean health-care facilities and to healthy bodies. There is also that spiritual hygiene that cleanses the human heart and builds healthy human relationships and wholesome communities in which to live. We awoke this very morning to discover that a twenty-one year-old Confederate ideologue shot and killed nine black Christians during a Bible Study in one of America’s oldest black churches.

America’s lack of moral and spiritual hygiene is reflected in the fact that President Obama has been circumstantially forced to speak to the nation following more than a dozen mass shootings since he took office. The gospel of Christ speaks to this moral dilemma of humanity--and it is far more than just an unresolved community issue--by telling us how to experience ethical metamorphosis, something that no agency of government can do and no other social agency or Advocacy Group is able to resolve.

Paul, the first century Christian Apostle to the non-Jewish world, experienced just such a moral transformation. He was en route to Damascus to further harass, terrorize, and imprison the Followers of the Way, as Christians were then known. He was, however, confronted  by a surprisingly supra-natural confrontation by Jesus as the Risen Christ, while travelling to Damascus--extraordinarily unexpected.

Saul experienced a moral reformation—a metamorphosis so complete that although he went into his cocoon as Saul, the arrogant Jewish Pharisee and murderous terrorist; he came out of his cocoon as Paul the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles, author of a classic definition of love, and beautiful as a Monarch Butterfly  (cf. I Cor. 13).  

Saul’s transition to Christian Apostleship as Paul prompted him to initiate a whole new approach to issues of personal faith—"the just shall live by faith." As a result, everywhere he went he challenged everybody that would listen to strive for life’s highest and best, by the grace of God. He urged audiences to discover God for themselves and learn how life with Jesus transforms one’s personhood, perspectives, customs and habits, and even one’s very life.

Paul’s metamorphosis enabled him to mentor people in responding to life in ways that reflect Christ’s claims upon their lives and ours. He argued that “rightness” (meaning righteousness) becomes a reality in our lives as we become obedient “from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you [we] became slaves of righteousness”  (Romans 6:17-19, NASV).

As the Maestro of this eternal symphony that we call life, Jesus Christ offers to tune the strings of our life-instrument, empower us to walk lovingly with Him, and direct us in walking wisely with others  in and out of the church (cf. Col. 4:5). He alone transforms the cacophony of pain and broken relationships that we have composed as our expressions of life; he alone can re-configure our efforts into the beautiful harmony of meaningful interdependent relationships and raise our lives above the slavery of self-indulgence and sin.

The Church of Jesus Christ, by its very presence, proclaims the possibilities of conversion (personal metamorphosis). It alone offers possibilities of a united community made up of one humanity that is no longer Jew and Gentile, slave or free, (“having put to death the enmity”, Eph. 2:16 NASV). 
And when the church is lives by the Manual that brought it into existence (Bible), it reconfigures social living and models human community as God intended it to be lived. This is the major theme of the NT Book of Ephesians as Paul described it.     

We can deny the existence of God, but HE will not be denied or ignored. When we ignore HIM, we do it to the moral destruction of all  that is meaningful and worthwhile in life. In other words, we break ourselves on his rules

And right now, our global community is doing a good job of destroying itself with wars, genocide, ethnic cleansing, poverty, and you can finish my sentence.

From Warner’s World, this is

praying, “Father, forgive us for our violent ways. . .”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

And God Spoke

A story told by a certain Pietist rabbi reports he called his congregation together in the middle of a working day for an important announcement. He sent the children out to announce to everyone in the community that they should come immediately to the synagogue. The children did as instructed. They called every housewife from her housework, every clerk from his counter, and every workingman from his labors, as well as every businessman from his office.

Everyone came, crowding into the sanctuary to hear the rabbi’s important announcement. When everyone had gathered in, the rabbi arose with great dignity and declared, “I have an important, a very, very important announcement to make. Listen carefully that you may all hear it. There is a God in the world.” That being said, he adjourned the meeting.

Our modern world  does not fully understand the rabbi’s announcement, nor has it figured out how to control God. Consequently, it shoves him aside, and obscures him with relativism. Meanwhile, modern man continues to seek morality within man’s own nature.

A glance at this “naturalistic explanation of human ethics sounds very persuasive” (Kahn/The Ten Commandments for Today/12). A second glance sounds less persuasive when we recall that Darwin proved our zoological relationship with the animal world. This suggests that human morality derives from the animal world, BUT: what kind of animal is man? Are we competitive predators or are we cooperative herd-members?

It has also been observed that Freudian psychology. as understood by some and misunderstood by others, would “seem to rob man of his moral freedom” and thereby make anything like absolute truth  “totally meaningless. Victor Frankl gave us this word from Freud: “Try and subject a number of very strongly differentiated human beings to the same amount of starvation. With the increase of the imperative need for food, all individual differences will be blotted out, and in their place we shall see the uniform expression of the one unsatisfied instinct” Frankl later revised Freud’s conclusion after he found himself in the concentration camp and “we saw how, faced with the identical situation, one man became a swine while the other attained almost saintly status” (Kahn/9).

Others have insisted that Karl Marx was right to insist “that morality was simply the expression of class interest, that in the service of a good cause there are no bad acts.”

It seems that the laboratory of life tests all moral theories, as Rabbi Kahn suggests in his book I referenced earlier. Either there is a God in our world, or Adolph Hitler, the Fuehrer with the broken cross (swastika) was right when he justified his attempts to flush the Jews from Germany’s blood by declaring that  ”the curse of Mt. Sinai must be gotten out of our blood. It is a poison which has spoiled and soiled the free instincts of man.”                                     

Kahn, a respected Houston rabbi at the time; wrote his book, The Ten Commandments for Today as a challenge to the twentieth century (Doubleday 1964). “The underpinning of humanist ethics,” he concluded,  “is the familiar phrase, the dignity of man. But this is not a natural concept; it does not grow out of biology. Biologically, man has no dignity at all, any more than a vulture or a cockroach. Man‘s dignity, the dignity that makes it ethically wrong to murder him, the dignity that makes it wrong to deprive him of his property, or his family, is not by virtue of his being a child of nature, but by virtue of his being a child of God, And this is why the ten words [commandments] begin and must begin with the greatest of all the words, ‘I am the Lord your God” (italics by this writer).                                                   

Without further investigation of such classic writings as the ten words or commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, or the Bible, I note that our twenty-first century culture is still adulterating (diluting) the truth of God  with relativism. Judaio-Christianity stands firm in the ultimate truth that we live in a moral universe guaranteed by a living God who has worked in history—“who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage … You shall … You shall not…” (Exodus 20:1-3 NKJV).

From Warner’s World,
I share this conclusion from Rabbi Kahn’s book, which I am re-reading:
“There is a priority system in life, and first things must be put first” (25).

When we focus our major attention on secondary causes, we almost always end up with a mess on our hands! Ignoring priorities can only guarantee failure ... walkingwithwarner.blogspot. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

But God...

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors" (John B. Watson).
As the acknowledged father of Behavioral Psychology, Watson argued that we need nothing to explain human behavior but the ordinary laws of physics and chemistry. Had his thesis proved correct, humanity would have healed itself of such destructive phenomenon as war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. Mankind would have created a more peaceful society than currently exists.

As our world currently exists, humanity remains in the grip of religious philosophies and secular ideologies that find themselves unable to cure our selfishness, greed, and hatred. Evil behavior revisits humanity regularly, filling our fragile relationships with terrorism, threat of wars, all as contagious as an epidemic of Ebola.

The Christian Church, on the other hand, repeatedly achieves many things otherwise impossible except for faith in God. The Bible is filled with humanity’s encounters with its own limitations, but Biblical writers seldom stop there. Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia where he traced Israel’s history from the Exodus out of Egypt all the way down to the Roman Courts where Jesus was observed standing before Pilate and facing death.

Luke further reported that when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Jesus, “they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.” Normally that would have concluded the story. Under normal circumstances Jesus would have been left to rot—dead by crucifixion. Luke adds two controversial words, however: “But God ...” (Acts 13:29-30 NKJV).

God made the difference then, by raising Jesus from the dead. God made the difference throughout human history by offering divine solutions as alternatives to human failures. Whatever one may believe about Jesus Christ, he lived a life in which humanity has yet to find moral flaw. We cannot imitate Him. We cannot reproduce His quality of life by our human means ... but God.

It is generally recognized in Christian circles that people can and do experience transformed lives by inviting Jesus to live within their hearts and reconfigure their lives. This is a change that multiplied multitudes have experience,  and continue to experience, through the power of those two controversial words - “But God…”
We all know the Church has many faults, as well as many critics! I also know the Church’s mission of human transformation remains historically uncontested and without viable competition. Giovanni Papini was a typical non-believer when he began researching his monumental Life of Christ. Research revealed a sequence of events and experiences that led Papina away from the Jesus of history, and enabled him to discover the living Christ and experience his own personal transformation. (Elson/And Still He Speaks/ 118).

It was while viewing a sunrise in the Swiss Alps that a teenaged British girl encountered the transforming love of God. She had no idea he actually existed until an unplanned moment found her vacationing family without overnight lodging. As sometimes happens, Jill’s family chose to make the best of their lack of adequate planning; they would sleep in their compact car ... but God.

But God … It just so happened that Jill, cramped and resting poorly, rose early the following morning cramped from lack of rest. She rose early the following morning and meandered aimlessly about the small ridge overlooking that popular tourist area. “And there,” she announces, “I watched the sunrise.”

Later, Jill read the Book of Romans in her bible. Her reading revealed to her that God had revealed Himself to humanity in nature. Admitting she had not read much of the Bible, she readily confessed, “I did ‘read’ that sunrise and a huge sense of God’s glory overwhelmed me.”

Jill’s unexpected “conversion” came when the realization of God’s transforming presence confronted her personal sense of unworthiness. Writing as Jill Briscoe, whom many of us have read and some of us have met, she penned the following lines that described her “Conversion”:

            The day breaks softly, filling me with awe.
                        It seems the other side of heaven’s door.
            That God forgives my sin, to me is plain. . .
                        Today, ‘spite of my sin - the sun doth rise again!’ 1

 Civilization has achieved a high degree of technological achievement. In spite of this, the transformation of the human heart still remains a spiritual metamorphosis beyond reach of humanity’s ability to re-create ... “But God.

I am
and now you know the rest of the story.
            1 Jill Briscoe, By Hook or By Crook. (Waco: Word Publishing Co., 1987) p. 37.