2007/12/26

A New Christmas Vow

How has the Holiday Season changed us? We go through the grind of purchasing a gift for someone who we may have in an exchange and what is the value?

I have vowed to change the way in which I give gifts. Rather than buying from another person's shopping list, I pledge to learn about the person and then craft a present that encourages them to pursue a dream. The gifts that were presented to Jesus, were items that stated expectations for him. I would like to do the same this next season.

Hopefully, I will not give another magazine subscription or the latest gadget that someone must have to survive. I want the gift to inspire the recipient to climb a mountain that they have thought about but have not yet undertaken. I want to help someone to really come alive.

2007/12/21

Seasonal Thoughts

Any number of holidays, representing a number of religious celebrations, dot the December calendar. Jews regard Hanukkah, Muslims pause for Ramadan, Kwanzaa is set apart by many African Americans, and Christians celebrate Christmas.

The question that I have raise is why is there a general lack of respect for the Holy Days of other religions? If we as Christians desire that our Holy Days be recognized, are we willing to give respect to the special days of other religions?

I am not suggesting that we expect a Christian to participate in the festivities of any of these holidays any more than we should expect a Muslim or a Jew to participate in our celebrations. However, it seems that granting respect for different expressions would earn the opportunity to bridge the crevice which separates us.

2007/12/01

Set a Day Aside for Complaining

For those of us in the United States (November 22) and Canada (October 8), Thanksgiving has come and gone. Gratitude is not easily expressed by many of us and I am not sure why. It may be that inwardly we think that we have earned what we have and thus it is not necessary to thank another person. It may be that we have an arrogance that reasons that we deserve what we have and thus we are not thankful.

The irony is that in traveling through several third world countries, I find that they appreciate and are thankful for what they have. By our western standards, they would be considered impoverished. Instead of focusing on the material accumulations, they consider themselves wealthy because they have family and friends.

It is my suggestion that we in the west learn the secrets to their joy and be thankful for relationships and family. It is in these that we find true meaning to life. Another irony is that in the midst of our surplus of "toys" we are more wont to complain than the remainder of the world. Let's consider dropping "Thanksgiving" as a holiday and set aside one day for complaining and whining. If we are consistent with the expression of our gratitude, we should then only complain this one day a year.

2007/11/16

God is Larger than Imaginable

This is written in response to a question about the debate of Christ' nature.

There are many areas where the church has maintained different positions on a topic and have been able to defend their belief with Scripture. Examples include gifts of the Spirit (especially tongues); eternal security; predestination; inerrancy of Scripture; and understanding of the Trinity. As I said, each of the points can be defended from the written word.
I can state unequivocally that one or two natures of Christ is a point that at this time I have not resolved because God's ways are not human's ways. I believe that I understand the arguments reasonably well from both sides but I do not hold this as a point that will prevent one from entering eternal fellowship or being condemned to judgment.
As an example, I do not accept the concept of the Trinity as such because I see it as limiting one's perception of God. It is clear that the Bible describes three persons of the Godhead but it never calls them by the nomenclature that we humans have affixed to them. When there is a discrepancy such as this, I continue to search because I believe that this means there is more for us to learn on the subject.
From the human experience, God MAY have determined that all we need to know about the Divine Being is that of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven as it exists in eternity, we may learn that there are seven, twelve, or forty persons to God. If we struggle to handle three, how could we comprehend a God that is much larger than what has been revealed?
The more I become rigid in my position, the more I close myself off to God speaking to and through me. As I reminded us, God's ways and the ways of humans are not the same.

2007/11/06

Second Vision Body

It was during an early morning time of prayer and I was pleading with God to permit the presence of Jesus to be abundantly real in the worship service later that morning. As I continued with this prayer, I saw an image of Christ, his height was that of our sanctuary roof, about forty feet tall.
The irony to me was that in this appearance, Christ was located outside of the church with his back toward our church. This was disconcerting to me as the first assumption, was that Christ was turning his back on this portion of his bride. I was aware of some past sins within this congregation and have been working with our Pastor's Cabinet (this group addresses the spiritual concerns of the church) to address each of these.
The longer the vision lasted, I began to sense that this is not what God was communicating. Christ turned and reached his hand to the church which I thought indicated that he was expressing opening himself to this church.
However, I did not have peace with this understanding and continued to ask what was being shown. Over the course of about three weeks, the realization came upon me that Christ had little intention of joining us inside of the church but was reemphasizing his call for us to follow him. He wanted to make sure that we were not focusing on his presence so that we could be satisfied with how holy we are but rather that this holiness was focused on our involvement in our neighborhood. We would not enjoy the rich blessing of Christ's presence solely in our worship but more importantly in our service.

2007/10/30

First of Three Visions

I found myself in a large banquet hall with surreal white walls, beautiful chandeliers, and an exquisite inlaid wood floor. The entire room was empty but the grandeur was overwhelming, out of this world in appeal and detail.
Finally, I began to look at the walls and noticed that there were accolades, trophies, memorabilia, pictures that told the story of someone’s life. After focusing more intently, I realized that these items all related to my life.
Wanting to inspect these testimonials, I took a step but when I want to place my foot down, I realized that the only secure spot on this floor was the place where I was standing. I quickly regained my balance at my initial spot and attempted to assess my predicament.
The entire room was a facade. There were not any white walls, chandeliers, or the inlaid wooden floor. The space was total emptiness and there was nothing except blackness.
Cautiously, I leaned over to see the secure spot on which I was standing. What I saw was frightening. The place on which I rested was the collection of accolades, trophies, memorabilia, and pictures that earlier were on the white walls of the banquet hall. They were stacked haphazardly on top of each, like a cartoon character piling items on top of each other to reach an elevated object.
I immediately realized the precariousness of the pile, which rather than appearing as a memorial to my life, instead represented a trash heap. Just as I realized the instability of what was my life, I fell off of this perch. I was in an uncontrolled free fall, unable to do anything to save myself.
After remaining in this free fall for an undefined period of time, I realized that I was no longer experiencing this fall but rather was now floating gently similar to that of a feather. I realized that the darkness had been replaced by a translucent golden-white aurora. While I do not recall feeling a sense of panic or fear, I did question what was happening.
All of a sudden I became that feather and drifted toward this luminous white object that was larger than anything that I could imagine. My feather landed in the midst of a collection of these white feathers. I still had my own identity as a thinking being but I did not exist outside of my mind.
Each of the feathers around me, equal in appearance and radiance, also were able to express themselves. The main thing that I noticed about these feathers was the sense of eternal joy and peace that occupied their being. After taking in this sensual overload, I gained my senses to inquire as to where I was and what I was doing.
I inquired of some of the beings next to me as to where I was and what was I doing. They chuckled and responded, “You must be new here. You are making up a part of the wedding dress of the Bride of Christ. If you look straight up you will see the radiance of Christ.”

2007/10/22

Wasted Moments=Minutes=Days=Weeks=Year=Life

Time has passed. What has been accomplished during this time? It is easy to look back over the last half hour and realize that I have wasted this time. I have things on my to do list and they remain. If I waste a half an hour a day, and I am not taking about constructive down time or just relaxing to reinvigorate myself, I waste three and a half hours per week. In one year that is over a week that has been wasted.

If I were to use this time constructively what would I have accomplished in this week? Teach me to number my days.

2007/10/15

"Walk With" Rather Than "Talk To"

Christians often proclaim that Jesus is the answer but neglect to get to know people to learn what it is that they need. For me to announce that I have the solution to your dilemma infers that I am familiar with your needs and that I have permission to speak to these.

Without this awareness of what concerns you and lacking permission to speak to this, my input seems like an unwelcome intrusion rather than a witness of God's love. It is easy to walk around with a smugness that proclaims answers to every problem. It is much more difficult to walk with someone who is experiencing these difficulties and empathize with them.

If we take the second approach, we will earn the respect and the permission to speak into another person's life. Without this respect, we probably turn more people off to who God is than we will ever persuade to investigate Jesus.

2007/10/08

Speaking Words of Love to One's Heart

As Christians, we often contend for our beliefs with intense verbiage and deep rooted emotional commitment. Our rationale for this is that Peter has advised us to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have within us. It seems natural for us to wrestle with many issues and philosophies, working to impress people with our arguments.

However, there is a simple answer when it comes to the reason that I have hope. It is because the Creating God of the universe loves me. God accepts me into the Kingdom of Heaven not because of anything I do but rather because out of this love God sent Jesus to take my sins away.

Persuasion or reasoning usually do not move me to make significant changes in beliefs or in conduct. However, in view of my shortcomings and sin, realizing that God forgives my sin through Jesus Christ does impact my thinking and actions. When one approaches me with genuine love, I am willing to let them speak to my heart and my mind. When one approaches me with superiority and arrogance, I may listen with my mind but they are not able to penetrate into my heart.

2007/10/05

TWO WORLDS COLLIDING

We live in any number of worlds. I first lived in the world of my parents. The next major shift in my world was leaving for college. This was significantly different than the world my parents provided. From this world, I entered life on my own and then entered the world of becoming one with my wife (now thirty-four years and continuing).

This world was adjusted by the addition of three sons. Family, my parents and siblings first, and then my wife and children, second; have been the predominant worlds in which I have lived. Because of the busyness of these real worlds that force themselves upon us, we sometimes miss another important world.

There is another world which collides with the one's which press against us. We are spiritual beings and it is easy to ignore this world. It stands in antithesis to the present world. In the present we observe hate and this world is built on love. In the present we observe greed and this world is built on sharing. In the present we observe materialism and this world is built on relationship.

If this world appeals to you, investigate the life of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes we as Christians fail to live as Christ dictated. Our failure does not distract from the Truth that is in Christ. Our failure is met with grace and love if we seek God's forgiveness. It is worth the time to check Jesus out.

2007/10/01

A History Question

There is a popular adage, "If you do not study history, you are bound to repeat it." It seems to me that this has been inferred to mean that you should learn from those who have gone before you to help prevent you from making the same mistakes.

However, think about the ways we become enslaved to a system by repeating previous solutions. I have yet to watch the new television series, "Kid Nation" but I would be interested in the dynamics and solutions that they discover. How much will they import from their backgrounds and how much will be ground breaking decisions that see a different viewpoint?

Church culture is built on constantly repeating what has supposedly worked in the past. Maybe the church needs to learn that we are repeating some of the same failures that have plagued previous church generations. The institution is self-perpetuating when in reality it is time to evaluate the way things have been done in the recent past.

Is the church impacting communities or are we building temples to ourselves? Is there a consistent demonstration of love, mercy, kindness, and self-control or is there an abundance of gossip, greed, and power plays? Is worshipping God the reason for gathering together or is it to display our giftedness and creativity? A study of history may provided insight as to how the church has functioned in the past, however; it seems that a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit would provide far more direction than reviewing and repeating what has already been tried.

2007/09/25

Contemplating Life

When investigating what would make life worthwhile, I keep coming back to the concept that it must be about something larger than the business that usually attends to my being. Among the challenges that seem insurmountable to me is what do I do with relationships with other people. The times that I have been rude, dishonest, arrogant, or unpleasant toward others; how do I fix these occasions?

One of the key points for me in Christianity is the focus on 'forgiveness'. One of Christ's strong points of emphasis is the necessity of forgiving others who have wronged me. I have learned that in extending forgiveness towards those who have offended me that I no longer live in a state of seeking revenge. Once I extend a person this type of release and I am not holding a grudge, then I am free to enjoy life abundantly.

Equally true is the idea that if I have wronged someone, I need to go and ask for their forgiveness. I do not say "I'm sorry" but I ask for their involvement in the healing process by asking them to forgive me. In raising the stakes from being sorry, which often means "I am sorry I got caught" or "I can't believe something this trivial is upsetting you," I also pledge to be more considerate of them in the future. Always being willing to extend forgiveness and ask for forgiveness is a joyous way of living life.

2007/09/21

Success Encompasses People

By virtue of the fact that you are reading this you woke up this morning. Waking up for some is a challenging task in and of itself. But once you are awake, what are your plans for the day? What do you want to accomplish today? When you retire this evening, what will put your mind at rest that this day has been successful?

All too often we focus on goals and accomplishments, of what importance are these? Is there a better way to measure a great day? What if in the midst of your agenda and your livelihood, you focused on relationships with people? What if at the end of today, in addition to your regular routine, you are able to look back and state, "I made a new friend today;" "I helped someone who truly need assistance;" or "My relationship with my spouse or family is better today than it was yesterday"?

Realize that success which neglects people and relationships is limited to the honor you receive for the day. It is fleeting rather than substantial.

2007/09/19

Somethings Go Beyond Relative

We are being sold a bill of goods that all is relative and that there is no truth. The bottom line is that this is being applied to the moral code. In the scientific realm there are things that are true and that reactions can be determined based on the circumstances.

If it were not for a faithful calendar, we would not be able to land a rover on Mars, nor forecast the appearance of a comet, nor reach the moons of Saturn years into the future. These events require a standard calendar that is consistent.

We have heard of the small window that exists in returning a flight from the moon. These calculations are based on hard facts or what we might call truth.

If there are truths which exist in the scientific realm are there actions that are always right or wrong in the moral world? Is it ever permissible to murder (premeditated taking of another person's life) or rape or to commit spousal/child abuse? If there are some items that are always wrong, why can we not accept that there may be a moral code that is instilled in the hearts of human beings?

2007/09/17

Look Before You Leap

Frogs have two primary ways of moving from one spot to another. On terra firma, we leap (humans refer to it is hopping) and under water we swim (hence you humans borrow our method and swim with the FROG KICK).

Once one becomes comfortable with their way of getting around, could be leaping, could be walking, we gain confidence in our abilities. In our cockiness, we sometimes neglect to observe all of the dangers which would cause us injury or harm. As a frog, we work to avoid things such as humans, dogs, snakes, etc. Our health and life are dependent upon being alert.

Humans are different as they are at the top of the food chain (I hear frog legs are foul tasting and are not highly recommended). In their cockiness they wander into a number of areas which are detrimental to them. With their advanced minds they seem unable to realize that certain bad decisions will bring them consider discomfort and pain.

Frogs know that bad decisions will lead to deadly results. For humans it may not be instantaneous but it can be equally deadly. Learn that your choices have significant consequences.

2007/09/14

the_thinking_frog: ENTRANCE

The _Thinking_Frog enters the world of blogging with the profound wisdom of life learned from living in the pond. You are hatched, you grow-up, you attempt to keep food on the lily pad and you avoid the many pitfalls that live in the swamp.

In between birth and death, one searches for meaning. The interesting thing is that meaning is not found in the successes (avoiding being lunch or getting the dragon-fly on your first attempt). No, it is not in what I accomplish that tells me I am a success rather it is the relationships formed. Many friends and families make for a success, try it you'll like it.

One distinct advantage is that "Frogs eat what bugs them."