As we stand at the foot of the cross, let us listen carefully to what Jesus is saying. His first words are “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Who is Jesus referring to when he says “them”? Is he referring to the religious/political leaders who rule through intimidation and fear? Or is he referring to most of his disciples who abandoned him or to the cruelty of the soldiers that enhance their deadly duties? Continue reading Forgiveness
Many good people commit evil by permitting it to exist. Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Psalm 37 1-2
Because of our human limitations, God can only be partially known. And only that which God wishes to reveal to us.Christians and Jews believe God lacks physicality and is an eternal spirit or force and creator of all that exists both visible and invisible. God has no beginning and no end. God is beyond the physical universe yet somehow is present to us. God is all knowing and from whom we cannot hide. God rules the universe yet places limitations on Godself so that we may have the freedom to accept or reject God’s sovereignty and to work out our own salvation. God can and does change God’s mind. Nothing is programmed and nothing is pre-determined by God. God grants us self-determination and input into the way our universe is managed be it according to God’s moral order or grasping possessiveness, power grabs, and narcissistic hedonism. Continue reading Theodicy— Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Egoist and those who hold themselves in high esteem want the world to acknowledge their worthiness. Therefore, any flaws in their character or mistakes made by them are denied and blamed on another person, group, or tribe. This behavior existed in Jesus’ time and exists in our time. Continue reading Dodging Responsibility
A seedling from a Japanese red maple was carried by the wind and landed among a group of azaleas. The soil was rich and it took root. It grew for many years in this spot. The gardener thought she needed to transplant this beautiful little tree away from the foundation of the house into a special spot where a similar tree once grew. Continue reading Insufficient Safeguards
When we read to young children an illustrated children’s book or Bible story, they are not so concerned about what we read as they are by the pictures they see. They see things in the illustrations that we would never observe. They will put their fingers on the pictures. If the book has a little fuzzy and/or anything tactile they will touch it. Vicariously, children will jump into the illustrations in order to explore that world on the page before them. Give them all the time in the world to wonder, wander, and use their imaginations in this way. Continue reading Reading Books about God
Children see things we cannot see. When they are young, they are closer to the ground and have not trained their minds as most adults have to shut out observations and appreciation of parts of the universe. Children, if they have not been anesthetized by television, iPad, iPhone, and other media, spend much of their time in wonder. They see their world as one big place for exploring, to roam through without any pressure of time, to jump from one interesting observation and thing to another. Their growing muscles keep their bodies on the move. They are in perpetual motion. Their minds are creating universes that exist partly in this world and partly in another world. Continue reading Our Beautiful World
One day while getting ready to take a shower, my doorbell rang. Not dressed to go to the door, I opened my bathroom window to find out who was there. A man probably in his sixties appeared. He said he was lost and wanted to know how to get to a certain highway which wasn’t in the vicinity. I gave him instructions from my house on how to reach a nearby highway. From there I figured he could use his map or GPS on how to reach the highway he sought. He told me he had neither. So he got into his car and drove away. I doubt he ever reached his destination. Why?
Maybe he really wasn’t lost and wanted to get access into my home. Maybe he had dementia. I can’t imagine a person wanting to reach a certain unfamiliar destination without first checking a road map or using a GPS on how to get there. I wonder how many people live their lives without the wherewithal on how to travel the road of life. Instead they may listen to anyone who will keep them stuck in their comfort zone that encourages a closed mind and lack of purpose in life. Is it laziness and/or lack of initiative that causes people to get lost?
That leaning tree is not my tree. It’s on my neighbor’s land just a few feet over my property line. At least 20 feet of this once magnificent tree’s trunk is hollowed out by decay. It is dying. Its branches are all gone except for a single healthy branch that rises to the height of contiguous trees. In the spring, I expect to see new leaves on it.
But I am concerned what will happen next. Sooner or later a storm will bring this tree crashing down and damage my healthy trees on its way to the ground.
Can we draw an analogy of this tree to our human affairs and our soul? I think so. Outward appearances may suggest that we flourish. But no one sees or knows our soul, which may be either healthy, semi-healthy, or rotten to the core like my neighbor’s tree. Only God and some intuitive people know the true condition of our souls. Riches and glitz cannot save us from the inevitable destructive storm that will end our lives and those that will be impacted as this once magnificent tree crushes them in its downward fall.
In life as in nature, most trees never change their location. Some are transplanted. But most trees and people live under conditions beyond their control. Let me list a few helpless and often hopeless conditions people endure such as:
Corruption in governments, businesses, the economy, religious institutions
Predators and their chain of blaming and misleading accusations
Human trafficking and
Maybe someday my neighbor will cut down this rotten tree. Similarly, powers may rise up to protect the innocent. Maybe the dawn of a new day has arrived now that some predators are being identified and punished. Yet the world overflows with vulnerable and helpless people living in dangerous situations.
Under these circumstances, the best course of action is to let God live in our heart. Understand that God is not Santa Claus at our beck and call and that some of us must suffer to survive. We need to confront and strive to overcome our daily challenges with wisdom, courage, and energy. We are called to do God’s work and not to think only of self. At life’s end, we will rest either in God’s presence or apart from God.
Thank you for calling me to tell me about your ninth birthday party.
It seems you and your friends had a good time. When you told me that you placed only fourth out of ten in your contest, you seemed to suggest that you thought of yourself as less than a winner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It is how you live life that counts. A winner makes the best of any situation. That means that all winners put forth their best effort regardless of their placement in any competition.
The real test of a person’s greatness is when he loves and cares for the non-winners. You will find in life that sometimes you will place first, fourth, eighth, and even in last place. That is O.K. as long as you put in your best effort and are a good person. Some winners think only of themselves and fail to help the needy. To me, they are selfish losers, not winners. Yet many winners are good people who do not seek self-glory or first place in everything. They are just putting forth their best effort.
Do you remember a few years ago when you were in Boston at Christmas time? You put all the money from your piggy bank into the Salvation Army’s bucket? To my way of thinking you were a winner then. You showed us a better way. You helped the needy out of the goodness of your heart.
God loves those people who do God’s will and who come to the aid of the poor and helpless. That is what Jesus taught us through his self-giving love. Winners have a grateful heart, a clear conscience, and a heart full of love. Their actions speak louder than words.
Parents and educators who are concerned with the Christian education of our young people need to know the beneficial effects of education over indoctrination.
Indoctrination is the communication of non-evidence supported beliefs that the receiver is expected to accept without any questioning or argumentation. For instance, it is snowing today. I tell the person I am trying to indoctrinate that it is not snowing, that what they see is an illusion. He or she cannot question my authority and partisan point of view. In effect, I am brainwashing and gaslighting that person.
I see on the internet pictures of ISIS preparing boys for battle as young as four or five against their perceived enemy. These boys even wear military-style clothing and learn to handle and use guns. They are being given cocktails of drugs, superstition, false religion, and violence to make them killers.
Contrary to indoctrination, John Elias in his Psychology and Religious Education writes:
Education is teaching; it is not indoctrination or preaching. It is not propagandizing or manipulating. Education respects the freedom of the student. It presents as certain truth that which is believed to be the truth. It shows the options available and presents differences of opinion if they exist are significant. Education is concerned with the entire person: mind, body, spirit, and character. It is concerned with both thought and emotions. It is not limited to schooling, but is a lifelong process. (p.6)
What then is religious education? It is everything that education is—and also more. Religious education attempts to educate a person to a religious view of life. It should present various religious views and even present non-religious views of life. It should respect the freedom of others to accept or reject our religious point of view. Even though we may have very strong Christian convictions, beliefs, and commitments, we should not force anyone to believe as we do.
Every attempt should be made to have our children and adults question our beliefs, to voice their disbelief, and be aware of and grapple with the inconsistencies that appear in the Bible and in everyday life. Our job as a parent and/or teacher is to anticipate the stumbling blocks on their road to faith. There are no textbook answers to their doubts and questions. All we can do is help guide them to figure things out for themselves. Do not be afraid to voice your own beliefs on certain matters, how you struggled to arrive at an understanding, and how time and experience may cause you to adjust your present understanding in the future. Only through personal understanding of our religious beliefs and personal struggle with our doubts can we come to enjoy the conviction necessary to make a thoughtful commitment to God.
Perhaps Jesus taught in parables so that listeners had to struggle with the meaning and purpose of his parables to gain insight to what he was about. Take for instance Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Who would you say is indoctrinated and who is educated? What makes you think so?
Religious education should be rooted in knowledge, but knowledge alone is insufficient. Additionally, we need to accept God’s grace and use it wisely. Since we are endowed with the ability to think, you and your children should use this gift as you navigate your spiritual journey in life.
The church school and church are only two sources for the Christian education of our children. Families, too, must bear responsibility for the Christian education of their children, especially in the home.