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… signs … Jesus … performed … have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Jn 20: 30,31

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Believing or not believing.  Belief in God or belief in nothing.  Theism or nihilism.  We face this proposition more directly today than we have probably in our history.

I have a very dear childhood friend.  He was my closest friend growing up.  We were like brothers – did so many things together.  Shared the same classes and teachers throughout school.  I was like a family member in his home.  His mother treated me like one of her children.  She and my mother were best of friends.

My friend is now in a nursing home.  He is frail.  Spends a good deal of time in bed.  As a child he was bright, friendly, a reader – social, trusted, quite capable.  In his late adolescence he seemed to be at odds with institutions and authority – but more to the point he began to lose interest in the world around him.  He seemed to make a wilful decision to reject this or that – his skepticism began to grow.  His actions seemed to say: life is worthless – this view and his skepticism grew as he aged.

He drank consistently throughout his life beginning when he was a teenager.  His initial adult working life seemed consistent with his abilities.  He had a modest political life and was elected to his local School Board.  His two children were successful.  He seemed at odds with his wife and she with him most of their married life.  She too was a negative person.

His negativity continued to grow – his work history declined as his cynicism strengthened.  He suffered from seizures.  Eventually his downward work trajectory ended when he worked himself out of a janitor’s job, being fired from a government position despite his union membership.  A very hard act to accomplish.  He burned bridges at work and with family members.  He scoffed at religion and those who tried to help him.

If I have to point to one thing that explains my friend’s decline it is this: he became a cynic – lived as a nihilist.  He lived as if to say very loudly – life has no meaning.  Nothing  met his approval – all was more or less rejected.  He lived as if to deny his own existence and existence itself.  

I see his attitude in our culture and politics today.  Those who reject national borders sound like him.  The lapses with the Vatican as to sex abuse, denying law, morality and the Canons of the Church reflect his disposition. The upheaval in sexual mores, in families, in lawless urban enclaves seem to say: “belief in good” no longer holds.   The corruption at the federal bureaucratic level says much the same thing – truth and honesty are not honored in practice.  Drug addictions, suicides, random violence and corporate men preying on women employees – but more indications of decline and decay, amoral behavior – signs of depravity and reasons for serious concern.

All this to say but one simple thing: I do not hear much said about nihilism and the denial of values, morals, conduct – rather, too often, I see others advocating decline and decay – angry people attacking structures and codes of conduct that hold us together and provide a basis for community, peace and prosperity … life itself.

Theism or Nihilism.  Believe in something or believe in nothing.  God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

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Baseball Legend’s Birthday: Ted Williams Was Born This Day in 1918

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?  “You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Lk 23:3

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We live in times that are quite challenging.  Much hostility and harsh words.  Ideas and institutions that we depend on for civility, community, fellowship, peace and prosperity are openly attacked – at times violently so.

Some among us question what they might do.  Some think of these assaults as very, very threatening.  Their thoughts turn to self-defense – they are on edge and wonder if the violence requires their armament.

Asked recently what I think about the present situation, my response – “It is time to have the courage of Christ.”

The above quote ought to be your guide in these times of ours.  Remember Luke 23:3!

The courage of Christ is to rise above the conflict, to speak Truth to others – to those who attack us and our critical institutions – especially our religion, the family, civility, truth, law, the fundamental freedoms our Constitution houses, the tenets of our faith.

Stand up, and speak up.  Give fear no place in you.

‘Tis always best to stand and speak the Truth as we know it.  Let the consequences be the consequences.  God reigns and we have nothing to fear.

Shalom.

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife.  He … said, “What did Moses command you?”  They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”  Jesus said … “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, God made male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall no longer be two, but one flesh.”

Mk 10: 2-8

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Divorces have become common.  In the terms of the above words from Jesus – they are evidence of “hardness of heart.”

How casually we divorce!  If one wanted to see a concrete sign of our faithlessness one need only think of the divorces we have seen, the motivations of the moving party and the injuries they so easily inflict on children and the spouse who is being divorced.

Hardness of heart.  What a dreadful identification for a person to hold.

I know a man whose wife filed for divorce without any assertion of cause represented by the man’s behavior.  Her reason for divorce: their child was off to college and she felt “their work was done.”  Of course, it might be noted that her two closest girlfriends maintained adulterous relationships with wealthy men who they eventually married.  Behind the scene, of course, was this – the woman wanted to find a man with money.  She, in due time, married a wealthy man – no thought about the effects on her child or her former spouse.  I suppose that qualifies for a hardened heart.

Let’s be brutally honest – as a culture we are closer to hardness of heart than to God.  And, yet we wring our hands and wonder: what is wrong with this country?

Yes, we are what is wrong – we blow-up families, crave material things, pledge words that are easily broken.  Yep, we excuse all sorts of dreadful behavior.  Shame on us!

Shalom.

 

 

 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Col 3:15

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The peace of Christ in our hearts.

For those of us who are Christians this is a critical component.  That said, how does a culture with a Judeo-Christian heritage respond to violent “protests?”

Are we okay with rioters burning cars and smashing store windows at an Inaugural protest going unpunished?  Okay with those who attack political opponents with fists and bicycle chains?  Storm a college campus wearing black masks and destroying property?

Peaceful public discourse ought to be expected and when it is breached – appropriate punishment must be administered.  Failing to do this adds to the disintegration of our culture … and diminishes our faith and one of its significant proposition: we are to be at peace with ourselves and others.

Indeed violent protests subtract from the culture, make positive conversation impossible, divide us – and demean Christ and insult Christians.

If you wonder why the society is in the decline that we see daily, think about peace … Is it exhibited in political discourse?  If we were to expect that it is and will be – we will take a giant step toward restoring civil discourse and our collective good.

Breaches of the peace in political protests take community, faith and freedom from us.  Being silent when peace is breached is the worse we can do – it risks the loss of our freedom and our country.

Shalom.

“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

Attachment is the great fabrication of illusions; reality can only be obtained by someone who is detached.  (Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil

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Saw a PBS Frontline documentary about boxing promoter/manager Don King.  It was fascinating.  King made a fortune-plus but those who fought did not.  It was pretty clear to many (TV executives, Congress, law enforcement officials, state boxing commissions, fighters and their trainers, etc.) that King was getting rich at his fighters’ expense.  But no one did anything to correct the abuses.  Sort of reminded me of Washington and how the Clintons and their minions get a perpetual free pass.

That brings me to Simone Weil (one of my wife Sylvia’s favorite writers).

Weil makes a very good and wise point – in a world where compromise and corruption take up common residence “being part” of “elite” structures is best avoided if you wish to live in contentment.

The wise person puts himself or herself in the best position to survive independently.  It is far better to be largely self-sufficient than encased in an organization, an onerous structure.

I worked by myself as a lawyer.  I now live in solitude.

While social (I knew all kinds of people), I was never a joiner.  Never had the desire to climb the ladder.  I enjoyed being a friends to many, yet a level of self-sufficiency was my route and allowed me to be a confidant to others.

Was asked one time by a Judge if I was interested in applying to fill a vacancy on the local Court.  My response: “Thank you, but I’ve never been a fan of Pontius Pilate.”  Pilate was stuck in a system that required his compliance with its ways.  “I see no guilt in this man” but … “Good bye, Jesus.”

I see many who are tethered to a group, a system or such, and so often I see them discouraged at having to comply with the culture that pervades their milieu.  Imagine a life of daily discontent – it is bound to make for long days and serious angst.  Some prisons have invisible walls.

In life you have time and a grant of dignity in your sacred birth.  Wasting time you cannot get back again, or besmirching your dignity and the sacred gift of your birth seems like a poor choice.

One makes haste slowly in life.  The purest sound is often a holy silence.  Detachment is often a better course than attachment.  Be a friend to many – but include yourself in that.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and slipped out to a solitary place … Mk 1:35

Shalom.

Imagine – Imagine how the local F.B.I. must feel in watching the those at the top of the ladder mishandling everything and anything related to the Clintons and their associates and having to see the rank partisanship from those at the top of their pyramid.  Difficult to see and experience.

The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

Jesus said … “Did I not say that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”

Jn 11:39

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Here Jesus speaks to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, after Lazarus has died and been laid to rest in his tomb.

You see those who assembled around Martha and her sister Mary questioned why Jesus (who had opened the eyes of the blind man) did not keep their friend Lazarus from death.

We live in a period where “unbelief” is widespread and where, absent believe, individuals and groups attempt to secure their ends sans faith and God.

In a milder form this was the sentiment of those who doubted Jesus was the Messiah … and began to question His identity at Lazarus’ death.  These people favored their desired outcome, and doubted Jesus.  We do precisely this today.  We are of little faith.  We “go it alone” and seek our fractured ends.  Godless we create a mess, elevate ourselves to heights of foolishness and descend to the depths of chaos, uncertainty, hostility, destruction, dishonesty and folly.  Without belief – we destroy the gifts we have been given.  Shame on us.

We had best learn the lesson of Lazarus’ death.  Living in doubt of God – we have done great damage.  Shame on us.

Stay strong in faith.  Turn from those who, not believing, destroy.

Shalom.

Yesterday’s Congressional Hearing – Witness Peter Strzok of the FBI and the howling Members of the Congress in the minority party showed what godlessness looks like – what life without belief sounds like.  Poor Mr. Strzok – smug, self-righteous.  Members of the minority – chaotic, even childish.  Net: dignity absent – humility, maturity and belief in short supply. 

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves, and then he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it into a den of thieves.”

Mt 21: 12-13

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We often overlook the ways Jesus tells us about ourselves as human beings.  Here we see Jesus act in an angry manner.  In the very next passages from the Gospel of Mark he condemns the barren fig tree.  Both of these actions come after his celebrated entry into Jerusalem where the crowds welcomed him waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the road he traveled.

What can be said of these situations as they are juxtaposed?  They seem at odds.  But they do tell us something very instructive about our human existence.

It can be reasonably said that Jesus, having experienced the popular political response from those who reflected their orientation to the importance of earthly, imperial status and power, is moved to cleanse the Temple of those who subvert and discredit the reality and superiority of a spiritual “kingdom” which exceeds man and mortal being.  

Yes, Jesus is showing us that secular orientation to power cannot be our preference or default stetting.  Rather he shows us that the Father has created us for much more – that is: what is eternal and peace-giving (no matter the conflict, age, governing system, or suffering that might appear).

In these sequential events he shows us that man is (and always has been) made to react  forcefully when evil appears and alters the Truth of our existence.  He is, in these acts, showing us who we are.  He shows us the impulse that is an archetypal reality – a characteristic of the human being.  As a corollary one might say that those who avoid conflict at all costs are far from the fullness of their being and faith.  We are made as we are made.

It is so important to look at these episodes sequentially and in-depth – and ask: What is Jesus showing me about being human and being faithful?

Shalom.

More Ignorance in “High” Places – Yesterday, a U.S. Senator (Democrat and lawyer) released a press release “informing” us that some of the the signers of the Declaration of Independence were “immigrants.”  Good gracious.  When we declared our independence we were a colony of England – hence the Signers were English subjects.

A college education and legal training just aren’t what they used to be – nor is the U.S. Senate apparently.

That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make  people sane.

Erich Fromm, in The Sane Society

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It is a little ironic for me to utilize the words of a Left-leaning secular humanist like Fromm but – assuming his words have merit, accuracy and hence a quality of timelessness such that they can be invoked in any era – it seems to me they offer an opportunity for today.

The opportunity?  The opportunity to ask of ourselves in the West and in the United States if some of our prominent ideas and their political advocacy conveys what is ill or what is well.

I think of abortion.  I think of children born to women who are not married.  I think of the collectivist nature of liberal orthodoxy, “borderless” borders, the application of equality that seems to shun individual responsibility and the recognition that people are of vastly different capabilities and drives, a disdain for police officers, a dismissal of religion, the reverence afforded the celebrity – the people in visual media, in the press … and such.  The list could go on.

On many fronts, it is reasonable to ask – Are these common acclamations contributing to sanity or insanity?  Do we look like a healthy or ill society?  Have we put the propositions of the Left to this test?  Fromm himself would ask this.  One wonders why we do not.

Yet for example, that a bundle of people think that there are endless numbers of “genders” neither makes it so, nor makes it sane.

My point is Fromm’s point – a collection of people saying or doing the same thing makes what is said or done neither true nor healthy, per se.  Time to put advocacy and ideology to the test.  Good for us?  Healthy?  Destructive?  Foolish?  Sane?

One wrong idea can make a whole people sick.  Destroy harmony and community, a nation, even.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him and healed them.

Lk 6:19

Yes, it is virtue that is the measure.  Life seeks the advancement of virtue and the health and fulfillment of the whole person.

Shalom.

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