Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

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Vote Like a Christian

In a month Americans will gather together for their quadrennial trek to the poling place in a lackluster drove, a tradition that has occurred every four years since 1788. Sadly, American’s interest in this groundbreaking event is sadly not what it should be. In the nation that created the modern concept of voting for a country’s leader we have rarely even topped 45% voter turnout. Afterwards we are more than happy to top 50% in people dissatisfied with the results. Lately one party has consistently sat out participation in the 4-year term when their party doesn’t win, denying acceptance of the official outcome, sour grapes in an event in which they did not participate. I would like to request that this election season we vote like Christians, and, yes, there is something we can glean from the New Testament on this topic.

First, we are not going to get into whether Jesus would be a Democrat or Republican – IMO, neither. Jesus was apolitical, not getting involved in the Roman political system, or even the Jewish political system of the time.

Now, into it. Voting is not a religious duty or obligation, it is the most secular event event in America. Turning it into a WWJD event is a travesty. In Jesus’ time elections did not occur, but he did address the secular world and its intrusion into the lives of Jews – taxes.

Luke 20:22-25 (RSV) Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a coin. Whose likeness and inscription has it?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Voting is Caesar’s law, not God’s. Vote your conscience, but don’t drag God into the debate.

If you lose remember that it is not the end of the world. Conservatives have had to live through Clinton/Obama, and they have survived. Liberals have had to live through Bush/Trump, and they have survived. Whomever wins is the President, and is due all the honor and respect of the office, regardless of how you feel about the person. Going around yelling, “He’s not our President, we do not support him” it about as childish as you can get, like a 3-year-old stomping around upset because he can’t have ice cream because he didn’t eat his veggies. Remember what Paul teaches us about worldly authority.

Romans 13:1-2 (RSV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

And this was in a time when defying authority could, and did, cost the lives of Christians. If your party loses, at least you will not lose your life. So, give the winner the respect, honor, and obedience that God asks of us.

Finally, remember: politicians lie. It’s a fact. Groups that run ads for politicians lie, whether the candidate approves of the message or not (approval doesn’t mean they guarantee there are no lies in it). And regardless of what they promise, they rarely deliver. If they did, what would they run on next time? Politicians have been promising to fix Social Security since they wrecked it in the beginning, no one has lifted a finger to solve the problem (other than cutting benefits), no one will so long as they can use it as a bargaining chip for votes. Our healthcare system is a mess, and it always has been – I’ve been under private, Obamacare, and Medicare, they all suck. If you think any politician will fix it then ask them one question – will they give up their coverage and go under what they are proposing? No one has, no one will. Get over it, live peacefully with the results.

So, vote like a Christian – vote your conscience and live peacefully with the results. Let the secular world deal with it. Don’t look at your brother with hatred for his view that differs from your own, instead try to see what he sees, why his view is different from your own, for from his view he is just as valid as you.

Matthew 6:34 – 7:5 (RSV) Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

Disconnected?

beth-For six days our internet service was down, we were disconnected from our etherfriends it was horrible…for the first couple days. After that you kind of get used to it, missing it only once in a while. It’s like that with church. You missed church Sunday and it was terrible, you felt bad. The following Sunday you missed it again, it was still terrible but not quite so much. After a few Sundays you no longer miss it.

crn1-266x300When the internet came back it was like a long-lost friend came for a visit…it was fantastic! We caught up with old friends (read the accumulated email), reconnected with the lives we followed (blogs), and delighted in things going back to the way they used to be – comfy cozy.

It’s the same with church. If you left for a while then returned you reconnect with old friends, and you feel good being back where your soul knows it belongs. If you’ve lapsed why not go back, maybe you’ll feel delighted that thing are back to they way they they used to be – comfort for the soul.

Why are we here?

jesus-comforting-mary-of-bethanyThis is a question that has stumped scholars for thousands of years. I would like to offer an answer from an unexpected source, (more…)

The Serendipitous side of God

Occasionally you come across a series of events that require such precise timing as to question if they could happen in a random universe. Such an event happened to me last week.

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I like to hike…a lot. I like to hike like Michael Jordan likes to play basketball. I do a hike of at least 6 miles every week, I’d do more but then I’d come home to find my clothes in the driveway. Last week I was on a 9 mile hike in one of my favorite areas – Ohiopyle, Pa. Ohiopyle has just about every summer outdoor activitiy there is – rafting, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, and probably a few things I can’t remember, but hiking is my main activitiy (okay, some rafting as well). On this particular hike a bunch of things came together in such a way as to enable me to help two other hikers, a timing that has to make you question if it could be anything other than a guided occurrence. Let me lay it out (this is only from my side of things, I have little idea what occurred on their end):

  • I left my house at 9:10, I wanted to leave at 8:30 but woke up late so my timing was off.
  • I wanted to update the music on my Jeep’s radio, so when I left I plugged in the USB drive and began the process of uploading over 1,800 songs (yes, this is part of it).
  • When I got off the turnpike in Donegal I decided not to follow my navigation system, so I turned left instead of right.
  • By turning left I came across a work zone and had to wait for my turn to drive through it.
  • My upload of the songs was taking longer than I thought, so I slowed down so that it would have more time to complete the upload (and I wouldn’t have to wait in the trailhead parking lot).
  • When I got to the lot the upload was still running (argh!) so I had to sit for 18 minutes for the upload to finish.
  • After the upload finished I loaded my daypack and my waterbottle, grabbed my hiking staff and headed off. I was trying out two new trail apps and had them running simultaneously on my cellphone. Because of this my hiking went slower than it normally would as I would periodically stop to check out both apps to see if they were faithfully tracking me.
  • I also stopped along the way to take pictures to see if they posted to the apps properly. Along with these were the normal stops for drinks and breaks to rest and enjoy the views.
  • At one point one of the apps was far off from where I should be, so I stopped for 5-8 minutes to check it out, see what was going on, and compare it to the other app. Since my phone battery was starting to run low (GPS apps use a lot of power) and the one app was already wrong, I turned that app off to save battery, then continued on.
  • At one point I had to make a decision on whether to follow a different trail further up the hill, or my original trail as it turned back down to Ohiopyle. I decided to go up the hill to Sugarloaf Knob.
  • When I reached the parking lot at Sugarloaf Knob I stopped for a quick lunch.
  • After lunch I decided to take the shortcut in front of the knob instead of the trail that goes around the knob, meeting up with the shortcut trail on the other side of the knob. I took the shortcut.
  • At the other side of the shortcut I started the trek down the hill into Ohiopyle (patience, we’re almost there).
  • Going down the hill you cross a service road, on the other side of the road the park had done some clearing of trees. It’s a normal process, but it made it hard to identify my trail from fake trails made by bikers. It took a few minutes to find the real trail and continue on my way.
  • After a half mile I came across a junction with another trail. I stopped to take a drink, at that point I heard the other hikers coming down the side trail. When they saw me they called out for some help, they were lost. They had talked with someone else when they first realized they were lost and he sent them down the trail that intersected with mine, with the instructions to turn left at the junction and follow the trail down to their car. He was wrong. Had they followed the advice they would have ended up on the trail I had just used to come down the hill, and would have been back up at Sugarloaf, or on one of the side trails that came off of that trail.
  • I told them to follow me and I would take them to the trail that would take them back to their car. They walked with me for about 2 miles when I sent them off on their trail, and I continued on mine to where I was parked.

Consider everything that had to come together, along walking speeds, to assure that the three of us would meet at just the right time and place. Even a minute later and I would have been out of their sight. A few minutes earlier and they would have turned left, they might have met up with me, or they might have ended up at the clearing and who knows where they would have gone from there, with all the fake trails (I say fake trails because they do not appear on any maps, with no idea where they lead).

Could all of this happen by sheer coincidence, or were we guided so that we would meet?

The End is in Sight

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Well, after three operations and one injection, the end is near (hopefully by the end of the year).

As I said in my prior post, I’ve had three operations to resolve a kidney stone problem, and I am in the recovery process now. Had my last post-op visit with the surgeon yesterday (went to a movie afterwards to celebrate). My PSA count (pre-op) was high, and they found what is called a 3+3=6 prostate cancer in 5% of the cells, I’m told this is good and (at my age) not much to worry about. I have to have a post-op PSA done to establish a baseline then, in 6 months, repeat it to see if it is stable or rising (problem). I’ve known men at my age who have had this diagnosis and have passed before it became a problem, so I am not concerned.

My (latest) rheumatologist decided not to bother with the arthritis in my wrist, but to send me to an orthopedic surgeon for an opinion. His opinion? Don’t go back to her. The problem is not arthritis, but an inflamed tendon in my wrist (from the first wrist bone down the thumb side of the arm). He injected cortisone into the inflamed tendon (yes, that hurt 9 on a 1-10 scale (I’ve already had a 10)) and says it should resolve within a month (mid-Sept).

I have one health problem left to resolve, but it’s not a major issue, I’ve held it off a number of years now, but figure since I’ve hit my financial cap for the year why not have it fixed?

So, if all goes well I may be able to return to blogging (real stuff) by the end of Sept.

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All of this has impressed upon me that God does, indeed, have a sense of humor. After having been in pain for better than 1-1/2 years I prayed that God would return me to my “normal” condition. Little did I know just what that would entail. Two operations to remove kidney stones that I thought was just a back pain. One operation to open up a prostate gland that refused to shrink after the two kidney stone operations. A very painful shot to eliminate a minor in my arm. I can’t wait to see what he has in stock for my final issue – tear ducts that aren’t draining properly after a bout of Bell’s Palsy. Yes, He is doing what I asked…but He could have given me a warning of just what that would entail!

Be careful of what you pray for…you may get it!

 

With God’s Love,

Mike, The Modern Theologian

Weathering the Storms

2209464-bigthumbnailLife is full of storms that we all have to weather, some are easier than others. Paul had a literal storm to weather, but in any case storms can bring into question the strength of our faith, and were we seek and find comfort.

Over the past two years I have had what seems like a never ending sea of storms, one after the other. Things started off with the onset of arthritis in my right hand (and the realization that I am allergic to every arthritis medication), that was soon followed by a bout of plantar fasciitis. The hardest thing any parent has to deal with happened last year when my son passed away at the young age of 34. Next came a sprained tendon in me left arm, which I am still dealing with (the arthritis and sprain have kept me from posting much as typing is not easy). In January of this year I started having severe back pains, which turned out to be massive kidney stones. The kidney stone required two operations to completely remove, with the end result of inflaming my prostate to the point that it now requires an operation to get it back to functioning properly (awaiting word on when that will occur).

Medications I have been on to deal with the pain have had me dealing with the side effect of depression. The most severe cases have passed, though I still have times where I have trouble convincing myself to get up to do anything. Doesn’t help that I have some restrictions on my activities (haven’t been able to hike for better than 9 months now).

I am not looking for sympathy, I write this to simply point out how the storms of life can hit us.

The hardest thing has been not being able to attend church services, it has been 4 months now since I have attended liturgy. Our faith is what we turn to when the going gets tough, we seek the words of consolation from Scripture, from others attending, and from the words of our priest/pastor/rabbi. It’s difficult when those resources are not available to us, so we turn to other sources of comfort and consolation. I have found, and rely upon, that replacement here on the blogs I follow. Most specifically they include:

Don Merritt’s The Life Post

Church Set Free, featuring Paulfg and Br. Francis-Claire

But, most especially, the short Christian motivations from Dr. K. L. Register. Through the months many of her posts feel like they have been directed specifically to me as they have fitted my mood and needs like the proverbial glove.

To be sure, my storms are no worse than many, perhaps you, have had, and far less than those others have experienced. I spent 30+ years working with disabled youth in one way or another, and it is amazing how children handle problems that bring adults to the very edge. Wheelchairs, mental acuity. obstacles our society places before them (and refuses to remove), yet they continue on with nary a bad word for anyone. Their love of us “normals”, their close (and unwavering) relationship with God (in whatever form they relate to Him in), has been an inspiration to me through the years. Next time you find yourself with nothing to do check out a local Miracle Field or Special Olympics event and just watch in awe as they deal with their problems, then ask yourself if you would have similar strength and still have a smile and hug to share with those around them…even strangers.

My faith has seen me though the hard times of the last two years, and I hope will see me through that which is still down the road. I write this now because the different operations I have ahead of me may preclude my return to the blogging world as anything more than a follower of other’s blogs. Again, do not feel sorry for me, nor look at this as an request for sympathy, I write this as an encouragement when storms come into your lives, seek out the Lord through the encouragement of Scripture and the writings of others. Let their words lift you out of the depression that hard times impose upon us, know that God has more planned for you in both this life an the next. Allow him to work through you, and your problems, to act as an encouragement to others.

God Bless.

America a Darwinian Nation

Wednesday I was at the annual Darwin Day at Duquesne University, the presentation was by the eminent professors Drs. Rosemary and Peter Grant on the continuing evolution of the Darwin Finch. It was an amazing presentation on the rapid evolution of the species due to the continuing environmental changes in the Galapagos Islands. If you are interested in the presentation it will (at some time) be uploaded to their site: Darwin Day 2018.

Anyway, after the presentation my mind started to wander (happens more often than not) on how everything evolves from external pressures and changes. Even Christianity has evolved over the centuries from small home-based churches struggling with keeping a unified church following the same systems of beliefs (delivered by tweleve Apostles (including Paul) and numerous disciples) to the modern day with thousands of denominations having little desire to interact with each other, some with teachings barely reflecting anything we find in the New Testament.

Would that my mind could stay there, but such was not to be the case, I started to think about America (United States of, as we fail to remember that Canada and Mexico are America as well). The US was a great experiment in self government (not Democracy, but self government), a people who cast off the imperialistic government almost 3,500 miles away so as to take control of their own destiny.

The new government was set up in such a way as to allow the country to be ruled, no, governed, by represenatives elected by the states (exact method varied from state to state). Sixty nine electors voted for George Washington, the first and only unanimous vote ever recorded for President. John Adams won 34 votes, making him the Vice President (each elector had two votes, one for each position). At that time only six of the thirteen colonies allowed for a popular vote. The only citizenship requirement is that you be a citizen of the United States (immigrant or natural born) for no less thatn fourteen years.

Our leaders then were smart, they knew that the Consitution had to be a living, breathing document in order to allow this young nation to grow, so they provided a method for future generations to change it to meet their needs, and change it we have (27 times). Fortunately, they were also smart enough to allow that one or two largely populated states (ex: NY and Ca.) couldn’t run roughshod over the rest of the country simply because they had more people. No, they were bright enough to know that in a true Democracy (one person, one vote) the little guy (or small state) would have no voice in this new nation, so they put in safeguards.

America has, over her 241 years, seen massive changes in law, culture, and ideology. We have moved from a country where the ownership of an individual was considered part of the natural order, to a time where we look upon it with disgust. We no longer allow for the treatment of women as property, or as the part of society that stays home “barefoot and pregnant”, but are looked upon as a valued partner in this great experiment. America has long welcomed immigrants to her shores – not. In the early nation Catholics were not accepted in most states. Chinese laborers brought over to build the railways (and other projects) were treated as sub-human. In the great state of diversity (NY) Irish were not allowed to hold jobs in many fields. Eastern Europeans brought to work in the mines and steel mills were treated poorly. Oddly enough, immigrant Mexican workers were welcomed, indeed they were not restricted by the immigration quotas of the 1924 Immigration Act. It was not until the Great Depression that Mexican immigrantion went, well, south. Now we are in a struggle caused, not by migrant workers, but by the drug cartels and 9/11. Prior to these events Mexican workers flowed freely between the two countries as seasons, and job availability, changed. Closing of the borders trapped these workers on one side or the other of the border, leading to the Mexicans on this side being classified as “illegal” immigrants, and those on the other side finding their choices limited to life in poverty and danger, or sneaking across the border hoping for a better life, much as millions of immigrants before them.

America continues to undergo Darwinian Evolution, like the Darwin Finch, changed by both external pressures and internal ones. This evolution comes to us in two forms (as all evolution does) – gentle evolution of an evolving species through inbreeding and natural progression, and through the violent changes brought about when the natural processes are interrupted. For the finch this comes about during those periods of drought and excess; in America this comes as societal segments become impatient (sometimes rightly so) at the slow progression of a developing nation (we sometimes forget that we are but 241 years old, unlike countries hundreds of years our senior).

So, we continue to grow and change again, this Great Experiment we call the United States. As we do so we must do it with the wisdom and foresight that our first leaders put forward – in changing to meet our needs and desires those in the majority must remember that this country was created not just for them, but to shelter and protect the minorty as well. We must understand that the desires of the majority cannot but used to overpower the rights of the minorty, for we are all equal citizens of these United States.

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