The Kingdom of Heaven is within!

I have a relative that lives on an island in the Caribbean.  He has often said that he lives in paradise.  During the night on Tuesday, his paradise was demolished.  He lost everything but his dog and his life.  We are extremely grateful that his life was spared.

Many stories emerged this week that make it abundantly clear that the earthly places that we equate with paradise can be destroyed.  However, the true paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, will never be destroyed.  If it dwells within you, it is your life and can never be taken from you no matter the circumstances.

It will be like the house built upon the rock.  When wind and storm and rain beat against it, nothing, no storm and no attack from hell, can tear it down.

Waiting for the world to change??!

This morning I heard a song on the radio.  “I’m waiting for the world to change.”  Really?  Is that like waiting for the cows to come home of their own accord?  And what if the world does change?  Where would that leave me?  Unchanged?  Left out?  There is no assurance that the world will change.  The only thing we can do in this world is change ourselves.  Jesus left us the template.  We need to change whatever doesn’t fit into that template.  God will not give us too much to do at once.  As we walk along life’s path, He brings just the right thing along that can be changed today. We can change that one thing today.  Tomorrow there will be another thing, but that can wait for tomorrow.

Two days ago God gave me one thing to change.  I was getting onto a flight to return home from a trip.  As I walked down the aisle, I realised my assigned seat was next to an enormous man.  Yes, I was in the middle seat, sandwiched between the rap man (music playing into his earphones so loudly that I could hear the words) and the fat man (who was actually using up a quarter of the space that I had paid for).  I was irritated and feeling nearly nauseous and definitely claustrophobic.  God was very merciful because it was less than a two hour flight.  However, I didn’t start thinking until well into the flight that instead of being annoyed at him and wondering whether I could be allowed to request a refund of 1/4 of my ticket price, I should be praying for both him and the rapper fellow.  In my heart, I was hating him because he was overweight and yet that was the only thing that I even knew about his life.  That was one thing that I could change that day.  I could stop the anger and irritation and just pray and it didn’t cost me anything. I feel bad that it didn’t occur to me at once, but that’s the way life is.  Something comes our way out of the blue.  We have a reaction and our reaction points us towards what we can change.

Let’s not wait for the world to change.  Let’s change the one thing that God brings into our lives today.

Election 2016

In the Bible story of Jesus’ crucifixion, the crowd is given the choice of Barabas or Jesus.  They all screamed for Barabas.  What about Jesus? They shouted for him to be crucified.  In this year’s presidential election, there is no Jesus in the choices.  There is only Barabas #1 or Barabas #2.

Political culture in the last several decades, even longer perhaps, has been completely hypocritical.  At the very least, we have had several philanderers and probably worse in the White House since the 1940’s.  However, as long as they have kept silent and kept their misdeeds completely out of the public view and earshot, we have turned a blind eye to it.

The entertainment culture in America has been completely hypocritical as well.  Hollywood churns out pornography faster than they do decent movies.  Now, it is available at the touch of anyone’s fingertips, including the fingertips of your children as they navigate the web on their personal computers.  We eat up salacious news about the latest starlets while paparazzi  hound the rich and famous, trying to get the most brazen photographs.

So, now we have a choice between a crook (at best) and a lewd (at best) person for our next president.  Why are we now suddenly shouting, “Foul?!”  Each side proclaims the other’s failings with self-righteous clamorings.  Do we deserve better after having allowed the other to go on unhindered for decades?  How did these two get past the primaries and the national conventions?  Their misdeeds were already known at those times.  Shouldn’t the political process weed out the unworthy?  It’s America’s choice because America has already chosen to allow it.  We have allowed it in our politicians, our entertainers, our priests (up to a certain point) and our elite.  We made excuses for the rich and famous and coined phrases such as “boys will be boys.”

Why are we surprised and outraged when someone who has been served up as entertainment for decades is now in the political limelight doing exactly the same things that we lapped up in the gossip magazines?

Living the love of Jesus?

This morning, the first day of the new year, I was reading a post (reblogged on this site) from Janie Kellogg about how changing our own behavior can help this poor world.  Her post inspired me and I suggest that you read her post before reading this one.

This is what I needed to face this year.  Maybe my story will inspire someone else out there.  Last year, I had a wonderful boss.  She was supportive, kind and helpful in showing us ESL adjuncts how to deal with difficult situations in our multi-cultural, multi-lingual classrooms.  However, she needed to move on to other endeavors.  In August, we got an interim director who quickly proved herself to be the antithesis of our previous boss.  At our first meeting with her, she informed us that we make too much money.  At subsequent meetings and in private talks, she pitted us against each other, creating an atmosphere of anger and suspicion.  She removed anything remotely associated with fun from our job and eventually informed us that starting next fall, she would be “forced” to either close our program or cut our salaries in half.  After some investigation, we discovered that everything she said to us was a lie.  Our program, instead of being broke, had the largest surplus in its history.  The list of both her underhanded actions and her lies went on and on.

So, where does changing our own behavior come into this story?  Well, I found myself not being able to look her in the eyes.  You know how the scenario goes.  She looks at you with those steely blue eyes and you quickly avert your eyes.  Why?  I discovered that I could not look at her because I hated her for everything she had done.  She had managed, in a few short months, to take away any pleasure I had in my job.  Why was she able to do that?  How did I give her that power over me?  It was a deeply emotional and spiritually tumultuous situation.  It threw my life into a constant upheaval.

I would like to be able to say that I totally overcame the situation and have no hard feelings towards her, but I’m not sure that is entirely true. I understand the problem and I pray for her and wonder what it was that caused her to become such a hard and mean person.  However, can I look at her without any trace of hatred in my eyes?  It makes me wonder: how did Jesus do it?  How did he look at Pilate, the one who could condemn him to death, and say “You could have no power over me unless it were given to you by my Father in heaven.”  How did he have such complete love that he could see, even in the probability of an excrutiating death, the love of his Father in heaven?  How can I get that same kind of love in a simple situation at work?

There is no easy answer for us.  I believe the answer lies in overcoming hatreds in ourselves, in continuing to pursue the love we see in our savior.  The hatreds may not go away in one day, but they can be eliminated bit by bit, layer by layer.  In the coming year, I’m sure that I (and we all) can do it, through step by apparent babystep, prayer and the love of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.  We can overcome our challenges and let the life of God become an inspiration to others as well.  So, peace and prosperity to all this year, and may a wonderful overcoming spirit be ours through our loving Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Open season on Christians

It’s open season on Christians these days.  In Kenya, men with guns separated Muslims and Christians by asking a simple question.  “Are you a Christian?”  An affirmative answer and they were shot.  Here in the West, we think that we don’t kill Christians.  Everyone is free to believe as they wish.  Freedom of worship.  They’re killing Christians in the MIddle East and Africa, but here in the West we don’t do that, do we.  Or do we?

What about in the spirit?   They’re asking the same question here.  Are you a Christian?  Yes, is the reply of some.  Who’s doing the asking?  The media.  If your answer is in the affirmative, they don’t shoot you.  They just tweet and pretty soon you’re a bigot, a homophobe and a hate monger.  They will destroy you.

If they’re not trying to destroy you and your reputation, they are trying to wear the Christians down.  Water down the message.  Make it more palatable for the masses.  Just “be nice” and maybe people will believe.

It’s time for Christians to get strong.  Be sure of who you believe in and what it is you believe.  Get filled with the Word and the Spirit.  Be kind and live what you believe.  Don’t give in to hate.  Don’t listen to the labels that they put on you.  Stay true.

Love is contagious

Yesterday, on the way to work, the finale of Les Miserable came on the radio.  This song always puts me in a mood of contemplation and profound reverie.  It touches us all on a deep level of the simple love that we have for our Father.  That love resides somewhere in all of us, though it may be covered up and rusty in quite a few.  We all desire in our hearts for a world where we can live in peace, where all men will put away the sword.  We long for such a place for our children and for their children as well.

Our present world bears no resemblance to that apparently far off desire.  Today’s world is more a world of the barricade than a world beyond the barricade.  We struggle with news reports of far off wars, local crimes and sad stories of corrupted officials that make us lose hope that such a world of peace could ever exist.

It does exist.  We can achieve it.  I, as an individual, cannot force anyone else to want or create such a world.  I can only look inside of myself and eliminate the hate inside of me.  I may proclaim, “but I am not a hateful person.  I’m a nice person!”  Wait a minute!  What about that annoying person in the next cubicle?  Do I hate him?  What about the person that always rubs me the wrong way?  How about the guy that cut me off on the highway this morning?  Do I hate him?  Or did I pray for him as he was speeding off?

There is a solution to hatred.  Instead of avoiding that person, hoping that he or she will go away, think about his/her life for a while.  What would be something that he/she would really like?  Not a big flashy gift, but something small and simple, that shows you’re thinking of him or her.  Maybe a cup of coffee or just a kind gesture.  Something that would touch his/her heart.  He might end up hating you for doing that, but you will have taken one further step toward eliminating the hate from your heart.

People don’t respond well these days to words and doctrines, but love, they can’t resist that.  The song ends with the words, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”   Love grows.  Love is contagious.

Reacting to the Paris attacks and continuing suicide bombers

In our world today there are so many murders and assaults claiming to be the will of God.  Hogwash.  We are all God’s children.  True religion boils down to some very simple basics.

  • Love God first.
  • Love your fellow man.  He/she is your brother/sister.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Keep the commandments.  Most religions have some form of them and most of them are quite similar in that they say, “Do not kill.”  “Do not steal.”  “Do not lie.”  Etc.

If we could implement these simple ideas in our lives and teach our children to do so, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live and raise children.