Everyone wants empathy. Many cry, “But you have not been through what I have been through; how could you know how I feel!” There is certainly a great capacity for empathy when someone has suffered the same wrongs, temptations, failures, or even successes. Naturally, everyone understands that. It’s just commonsense. Our society today provides an abundance of examples. Rape, addictions, war, abortion or loosing children are just a few. Continue reading
Jean François (Charles) Gravelet-Blondin (aka “The Great Blondin” 1824–1897) was a French tightrope walker and acrobat. So popular were his exploits on tightrope that the art itself was known as “Blondin.” He was known to be very likeable, charismatic and popular for his entire life. He accomplished many daring tightrope walks. He performed at the Crystal Palace in London on a rope 70 feet above the ground stretched across the central transept turning somersaults and on stilts. In Dublin, Charles stretched a rope 100 feet above the ground at the Royal Portobello Gardens. He crossed the Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham England in 1873.
He came to the United States in 1855. While here, he performed mostly with the Ravel troupe in New York City and became part owner of a circus. On June 30, 1859 he became the first man to walk a rope across the Niagara Falls. He stretched a rope 1100 feet long, 160 feet above the water. He made many trips on this rope, first by himself, and later he took his manager on his back. He went across performing various stunts: blind folded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow and on stilts. On one crossing, he stopped in the middle and, using a portable stove, cooked an omelet while standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope. Other reports indicate he lowered a cooked omelet down to the boat, Maid in the Mist, where someone ate it. Continue reading
The title of this section of our local paper (Religion), can affect practically everyone differently. To some it is a bane. This one word means control, restriction, boredom, or any other negative adjective that describes a way to make life less enjoyable. To others it is a description of everything going wrong in the world (i.e., Islamic fundamentalists are destroying the true Islamic religion). Other groups simply enjoy acidic, asinine rhetoric. They say things such as, “fundamentalists of the Christian religion are just as dangerous as the Islamic religious zealots.”
To another group, religion is a description of a following that guides a life one should have. The Shinto religion has at its root honor, justice and courage, which are the makings of true character in anyone’s book. To some it is a code of conduct based in philosophical logic such as Confucius’ proverbial sayings or Buddha’s life lessons. To another group their religion is a way to achieve eternal residence in Heaven. Their set of beliefs and their assessment of righteousness are based in what they do to earn or merit approval with their chosen deity. The key to, “the pearly gates,” so to speak. To others their belief in a system or religion defines what they are and what they will be. They may be a nice human today and a pretty bird tomorrow. They could be a mean person today and a cockroach tomorrow. Continue reading
God is a God of love but also a God of judgment. Balancing God’s perfect justice with His perfect love is a struggle for man and often we lean on one over the other. In ignorance and arrogance, we count our morals higher than God’s. Man prefers to lean on his relative definition of love, thinking he has morals. Man does not see love in the appropriate sentencing of lawbreakers; but loving judgment is exactly what it is, both for society and the individual. God has to judge sin. He did so against the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Leviticus 7:2; Joshua 6:21). What was the reason for judgment then? Molech.
Molech was a pseudo-god of the Canaanite tribes. What was so horrible about Molech? He was a pseudo-god of fertility. Tribes had orgies to honor Molech. You might think that does not seem so bad. Promiscuity, incest and lasciviousness were not the whole problem. These tribes would perform another more vile ceremony and offer the offspring of this debauchery to the fires of Molech as living burnt sacrifices. They were overtaken by a lust which was fed by a false god that encouraged their corruption (Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5). They murdered the children that resulted from their lust for fornication, just as those who abort their children do today. God knew His people would sin and follow the pleasures of Molech (Jeremiah 32:35). Sex sold then, just as it does today. Continue reading
Religion is a strange thing. Some denounce it as a crutch. Some tout religion as the spiritual release for mankind. Yet others see it as the foundation from which mankind draws morality. Nevertheless, none of these philosophies identify with the bare truth. Religion has never been what God wants from us nor is it how He relates to us.
Much of religion is still focused upon mortal existence, a “how to” book for man:
- How to live a better life
- How to rear a good family
- How to be a good neighbor and earn credibility in your community
- How to succeed
- How to connect with the spiritual world
None of these attitudes or desires will have eternal consequence, nor are they oriented toward personal and eternal spiritual existence. Their focus is still temporal.
Religion began as a desire to know and live with deity. That spiritual focus is rightly directed but has been greatly distorted just as religion itself has been made malignant. Continue reading
[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
Materialism has been a focus of our Lord in His sermon from verses 25 through 34. Clearly, we have a problem with materialism, anxiety and good old paranoia otherwise the Lord would not spend nine verses on the subject. These emotions are focused upon people, places, things and even events – all of which are seldom, if ever, within our control. In the days that our Lord ministered, there was a great strain on people to simply survive. There was no Family Services Center; there were no welfare programs, and any extra money people had was hidden for fear the tax collector would take it, whether legitimately or not. All governments did then was take and take, promise and promise. It was a form of Chicago, or gangster-style shakedown for protection. “You give us money and we won’t rough you up. We’ll even protect you from other governments.” That was the Roman way. Jesus tells His audience, all of which are in bondage, to not worry about that stuff. What Jesus addresses in these verses is the exact opposite of what religious authorities of the day practiced. A short review is in order to provide a better understanding about Christ’s illustrations.
In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus contrasts the Pharisees righteousness with true righteousness. Where the Pharisees want nothing to do with divine intent and everything to do with outward appearance, Jesus says it is the heart that is the root of the matter; your heart defines who you are. Personal relationships, how to deal with people, sensitivities to their needs and a real love for others are at the core of “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not murder.” Inside this construct of sensitivity and love, we are admonished not to even call someone an idiot because we could injure them. Jesus tells us that our relationships one with another are so important that unless your heart is right with others, you cannot properly worship God (Matt 15:3-6)
In chapter six verses 1-18 Jesus then goes on to describe what we look like to God – how our righteousness looks before God. The specific examples given (giving, praying, forgiveness, fasting) deal with personal worship practices between you and God. No one else needs to see your piety. It is not what you do or appear to do, but what drives you to do it. What drives you to appear godly – your own attempt to be noticed as such, or a true change of heart by the Holy Spirit? The Pharisees tended to be existential – showing piety, but possessing no true righteousness (Matt 15:7-8).
In the last section of verses (6:19-34), Jesus addresses our righteousness as it relates to possessions. The Pharisees had a tendency to be greedy (Matt 15:5). They collected precious and valuable items for the purpose of wealth, not for their feigned piety. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus sums up the ministry of the false prophets of His day (the Pharisees and scribes), when He says “they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” The Lord is teaching with authority. When He convicted people for their sins, He did so at the risk of persecution. It is no different from you today. No one likes to hear the truth, especially if it is contrary to their personal life or what they want to believe. It means admitting they can be wrong. If people can be wrong about one thing, they can be wrong about many others. That introduces a very messy and complex possibility.
With Christians, we have already admitted our error and that, in fact, we can and will commit more wrongs, introduce more errors and fail in life with others even more in the future. We relish forgiveness because we know we are imperfect. We also issue forgiveness freely because we know how imperfect we are. What a huge difference between a Christian operating from a convicted soul and the unsaved desirous of nothing but elevating their own ego. Continue reading