“Felt” religion

From Donald Sensing at Sense of Events.

The article is about a Christian apologetics book, but the following observation stood out:

The severe weakness of present-day North American Christianity is that its adherents are increasingly less interested in whether the Christian proclamation is True and more concerned with how church makes them feel.

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Cheers and jeers

It has been a busy week, but it is, I guess, time to put some thoughts on paper.

Two important United States Supreme Court decisions were announced this week, King v. Burwell, the “Obamacare” case, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the gay marriage case. The internet, Twitter, and Facebook have been filled with cheers, jeers and rants from both sides (along with some calm and reasoned voices, where you can find them).

I believe that the Constitution is the law of the land. I also believe that it is written in reasonably understandable English, and that it means what it says. In addition, when it is silent on a subject, no additional reasoning can be inferred from its text. If the country wishes to add or subtract from the original text, there are prescribed ways of changing it. Indeed, we have amended it 27 times. I also believe that laws written by Congress (or state legislatures) should mean what they say. The King decision is quite frightening. Whether you are a fan or a foe of the Affordable Care Act should not matter. If the law does not read as Congress intended when they passed it (perhaps reading it before passing it would be helpful), then Congress can go back and fix it. In this decision, SCOTUS has decreed that a majority of an un-elected committee of lawyers can determine what Congress intended. This is a major blow against rule of law.

With cries of jubilation and accusations of bigotry and hatred on the one side, and weeping and gnashing of teeth and condemnation of the sins of others from the other side, Obergefell has aroused the passions of many. This decision, like Roe v. Wade, was based on feelings and opinions, not law. Marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution at all; if the people wish to regulate marriage, then laws should be passed to do so. Having five justices rule by decree, whether the majority of the citizens agree or not, is antithetical to democratic government.

The underlying problem with the same sex marriage debate is that we are not all talking about the same thing. There are two definitions, or aspects, of marriage in play. First we have the religious aspect . Marriage, as a religious institution, was established by God (“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”– Ephesians 5:31). Pretty straightforward, and as long as marriage remains a religious rite, then religion should make the rules (or in the case of Christians, follow the rules given by God as spelled out in the Bible).

Then there is the legal aspect of marriage. Government has intervened, and we are required to have a license to be “legally” married. Our tax rate is partly determined by our marital status. Health care decisions, employment benefits, and succession are determined by marital status. I can completely understand wanting those benefits legally. A civil partnership between two people (or more—believe me, that is coming) that establishes these benefits seems completely fair. If you want to have such a civil arrangement with your gay partner and call it marriage, go for it.

What Obergefell should not do, however, is force churches, or their members, to recognize or participate in such arrangements. The majority opinion was pretty vague about protecting religious rights. The First Amendment protects our right to the free exercise of religion. For me, and many Christians, that means we strive to live our daily lives according to our religious beliefs, and requiring us to not only tolerate non-Biblical activities, but agree and participate in them, is infringing on that right.

One more thing…it distresses me to see disagreement labeled as hatred or bigotry. The angry voices coming from both sides are not helpful. As Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”—John 13:34

I know that there are some people, dear to me, who will disagree with some of my thoughts, and that is okay– I will still love you unconditionally. Let us treat each other with kindness and respect.

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He is not here…

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

“Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.

Matthew 28:1-8 (New American Standard Bible)

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Faith not works–Mayor Bloomberg may be in for a surprise

The article in the New York Times is about former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg spending $50 million on an organization to oppose the National Rifle Association. Well, he is free to spend his money any way he wants. It was the quote at the end of the article that caught my attention:

(H)e has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg is not familiar with this scripture, being Jewish:

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. New International Version (NIV)

As Christians, we have a lot of work to do.

We admitted we were powerless…

On April 12, 2009, a wet and gloomy Easter Sunday, I was sick with an illness of body, mind and spirit. I had lost my way, but that day I began the long journey back. It has not been an easy path, strewn with self-doubt and self-pity; getting rid of all that “self” stuff, like selfishness and self-centeredness, has been the key to progress. And “we claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection”. In the words of John Newton, composer of Amazing Grace, “I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be; but, by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.”

There is another John Newton quote that I like–“We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.”

In other words, “one day at a time”. Though it has been 1,826 days since that rainy April morning, I cannot rest; each day I must seek to maintain (and improve) my conscious contact with God. Today is a day more important to me than my day of birth, but it is just one more day to be grateful for what God has given me.

Here is my rock n’ roll for April 12, from Joe Walsh’s album Analog Man:

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Pillar of fire

This video is all over the internet, but most are calling it a “fire tornado”. Instead, it reminds me of Exodus 13:21, as the children of Israel are traveling through the wilderness…

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.–NIV

“As the air is heated above the fire, it rises, and the upward motion can be very strong. This leaves a lower pressure spot at the fire, and the air from outside the fire rushes in to fill the gap. The air is very turbulent, and as the inward-moving air from one side hits air coming in from the other, swirls can form. These get amplified by the constant gale of air, and rotation on a larger scale can get started and sustained. The whirlwind gets pumped by the hot air rising, and the next thing you know you’ve got a full-blown tornado of fire.

If you want to get technical, “thermal vortex” may be a better term. Pretty awesome, whatever you call it.

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Which are the most (and least) “Bible-minded” cities in the US?

Chattanooga, TN is first. Shreveport is ranked fifth.

That’s according to the American Bible Society, which ranked the cities after conducting interviews by phone and online over a period of seven years.

The group says it asked a random sample of more than 46,000 people nationwide if they had read the Bible in the past seven days. If they had, and if they “agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible,” they were deemed “Bible Minded,” according to the study’s authors.

The complete list can be seen at The American Bible Society website.

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Eric Erickson on faith

At RedState:

As I told a group one time, we’re all sinners, but the difference between you and me is that my sins end up in the New York Times.

At some point since then I realized I went from no shame, to overcompensation, to being very self-centered, to recognizing a basic truth: we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. This moment of immaturity was my wake up call that God has put me somewhere to be something and I was too damn stupid to realize it. What I did, did not exist in a vacuum, but affected others deeply and made me also less effective. But there is more to it than that I see so clearly now.

It is not just that we are all sinners. It’s that there really are people of this world and there really are people traveling through this world home to eternity. The people of the world will bring up every bad act the Christian has committed not so much to discredit the Christian with others, but to discredit the Christian with himself so he shuts up and gives up.

I am a sinner of great and repeated sin. I am a flawed human being. I once was lost and now I’m found. I once was blind, but now I see. I will keep stumbling. I will keep sinning. And it will all be on display for the world to point and laugh and mock and gloat. But it’ll also do someone somewhere, and me, some good to read and hear and know we are not alone and must not be afraid to share Jesus.