Monthly Archives: March 2014

Doing Unto Others

I am glad you are aware that our relation to God (who is, of course, invisible, and easily enough “handled” by us mortals in whatever way we choose) involves most of all our relation to our fellow human beings.  “This is pure religion, to visit the orphans and widows.”   “What does God require of you, but to do justice, etc.”  Isaiah thunders that God is not impressed with all our church going, prayers, and so forth, but by the way we treat family, friends, even foes.  It took me, and the church in general, long enough to recognize this.  Doing it is still something else.

So, I used to have the notion that there was nothing wrong with my being angry with others, including fellow Christians, as long as I didn’t make a congressional case out of it, either by punching him in  the nose, telling him to his face, or telling others.  I thought I was at least doing myself some good by thinking what I felt.

But psychology confirms what the Bible says plainly, that I only do myself harm by all that bitterness, anger, etc.  And what is more, I really “reach” him with all that negativism, in much the same way you can put a hex on a person; we are psychologically , spiritually connected and influence each other, unseen and invisible, through such vibes.  If we can put a hedge around a person by means of our prayers, we can put a curse on him by our negative thoughts.

“OK, that’s just what I want,” you say.  Except, every other person is in the very same battle that you are, versus Satan, uncongenial human beings, the cursed or fallen world (such as gnats or gnawing physical troubles, etc.) and even the “knee-jerks” of our old nature, presumably dead, but still “kicking.” He or she (your “enemy”) needs all the help they can get.  In our common conflict with the devil, why make it any harder than it already is for him or her?

Which is what the Bible means by “doing unto others as you would like them to do to you;” or even “turning the other cheek,” which is not a physical thing, but not retaliating in kind for an obvious disservice.  By leaving “hands off,” even in our thinking, we can let God work on such a person.  Often they are themselves aware of the fault we dislike in them, and would get farther in their battle against it if we were not stiffening their bad position by our attack on it (like not criticizing a guy’s girl, so that he is a little freer to see her faults, rather than reacting against you by defending her).

 

 

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Church, Christian Schools, and Christian living

It’s funny how “dry” I can be sometimes for new ideas, and then again I have thoughts pile up in clamor for expression.  One of those ideas, which, I think, should be shared with “tomorrow’s generation” is the fact that I used to console myself about the wicked world that my generation is leaving to yours with scads of problems that we created and leave for your generation to solve or suffer – such as the fiscal disaster called social “security” (of which nothing is more certainly in-secure).  My comfort used to be in the fact that each succeeding generation of the King’s men and women is better than the previous; that’s a proven fact and should be obvious to any thinking person.  (The unbelievers too improve constantly in physique and mentally, while becoming worse in their mis-use and abuse of the same.)

But actually, the assurance for the future does not, of course, lie in the inherent superiority of God’s people, who grow from grace to grace and strength to strength, no matter how God-given the superiority may be, but, as always, in the indwelling presence of Christ, who has always been the answer to victory and success in every generation, from the literal “year one” which began to be marked by His coming to earth.  To worry about the future regarding the church, God’s cause, and one’s own kin is the same as saying that Christ’s capabilities to cope are limited; that Satan and the “world” will pose problems too big for Him to handle, which is an absurdity.  As always, any generation can say in their “times,” I can do anything, everything, through Christ; God is working in me, us, to will (think, resolve) and to do, just the way he plans and wants it.

The assurance and guarantee of continuation and even improvement of the church (Christ’s people, his body, his bride, etc.) does not, of course, apply to the church as an organization, either a denomination or specific congregation.  History again proves that they all rise and fall, much like given nations, being made up of fallible human beings, many of them false members, etc.   And so, while a person should be grateful for the given denomination into which he or she is born or enters by conversion, the danger is that we identify such an organization with the invisible, united, fellowship of all (and only) God’s children throughout the world, young and old. To say that one’s own “church” is the best one, even at one time or in a given situation, is as untrue and chauvinistic as bragging about one’s own country or race, or sex.  At most, one can say that at a given time it is the best one for oneself, otherwise one should get out and join another, which is better – for oneself; and sometimes one must stay in, not out of inertia, or the opportunity to bitch about  it, which too many get satisfaction out of doing, but in order to try and make it better.   For the rest, one does not “owe” a given church anything, any more than a child “owes” its parents anything.  On that latter score the Bible says that we all, in our time, must honor our parents NOT because of all that they did for us, such as giving us life, etc. -which is for the birds, literally – but simply for the sake of good order; “this is right,” says Ephesians.  (Comparable to bad government, which is better than no government.)

One of the big faults of doctrine is the reliance on man-authored creeds and catechisms.  For example, the Heidelberg Catechism asks repeatedly, “What does it profit you?” and the entire third or last section essentially says, “Now that you realize you are a sinner who cannot save yourself, and have learned to trust in Christ alone for salvation, what must you do to show your thankfulness, prove that you are a Christian,” etc.

Both the italicized words above are wrong. You and I don’t do a thing for our salvation; Christian living, service, gratitude, is part of our very salvation.  Being saved is not just forgiveness (justification), but being made new, “divine” people (sanctification). God does it, in us and through us.  What is more, in Catholic or Boy Scout fashion, our “sanctification” or gratitude, service, is not in doing – “a good deed a day,” etc., but in being;  one’s attitude, personality, thinking.  We “glorify” God not in doing something nice for Him, such as a gift to the poor; we “express” God’s glory (love, kindness, etc.) in us and through us by who we are – by being “nice” people!  Which is something that goes on while we are sleeping, playing, etc.

Many of our Christian schools are based on the Heidelberg philosophy, and consequently have that weakness of identifying Christianity and conversion with nice living, Christian conduct, such as saying one’s prayers, not stealing, doing your lessons well, etc.  This is why so many grads of Christian schools, upon reaching the age of “decision,” do not make confession of faith or become baptized, because to them “becoming” a Christian meant living up to a bunch of rules.  It is, of course, only by becoming a new person, a son of God, that one “naturally” and automatically lives according to the “rules,” which (as we think of them) are only statements of good and wise living, be it driving sensibly, not getting drunk, or helping old ladies across the street.  Proof of the fact that a Christian is a new person, Jesus’ brother, and has started on eternal life or living already here upon the earth is the fact that he starts to live the “perfect life” now, without external rules and penalties, just as we will do in heaven.

Sometimes a young person has the notion that older people have “all the answers” regarding religion and morals, social relations, etc.  Nuts on that noise!  The problems only get bigger as one gets older, a/c more subtle.  Sometimes the rising generation thinks that the older one, in which their parents are members, are united in a conspiracy against even their own sons and daughters, by acting as though their relations to the same people with whom the kids have problems, or just simply criticisms, are hunky-dory.  The easiest course would be simply to say, “Yeah, that person sure pains me too,” etc.  BUT, as a Christian, we try to overcome (not deny) such feelings, and expressing them inappropriately only aggregates the problem, puts oneself in bondage, by which the Bible is referring to, such as tension, anger, ulcers.  And also the other person, who may be ever so wrong and who needs changing, but is confirmed in his wrongness by negative attitudes on the part of other people.  You know enough about psychology to be aware that we don’t have to call another person immoral to make them become that; unspoken attitude alone can break down any spirit.

Well that is really getting into the “deep stuff.”  Most people have never heard of such ideas, and if they have, don’t try to live accordingly.  Which is where our faith is supposed to make a difference, and, by God, it certainly can and does.  So forgive where there is failure to practice what is preached.  It’s great to have a lot of nice and true theories and to voice what is learned intellectually, but to reduce them from the head to the heart…..oh oh!

Marriage and Work

I have no illusions about any or all of these communications being anything new but, I got to thinking, a lot of our conversations as human beings consists really of restating what we well know.  Like “replaying” a ball game amongst ourselves.  As an aside, this would make an interesting subject.  I suppose we maximize a pleasurable experience by retelling it ourselves or hearing it retold.

Anyway, this you know, I’m sure, which is a thought that comes to me some mornings when I sense a reluctance to with which we go off to work, as every normal human being does sometimes, despite having Christ in him.  I think that very feeling is what prompts or helps propel a lot of young people into marriage, don’t you think, even though they themselves know that they will be continuing at the same job or one very much like it?

What they are unconsciously comparing to their feelings regarding work and family, with its familiarity, which comes from same root, is the fun and novelty, the pleasurableness of a date, which is a far cry from work, of course. So, we imagine that any activity with that particular person with whom we associate only positive and pleasurable thoughts for the most part, will be unrelievedly pleasurable, even if it means such drab things as mopping a floor, carrying out the garbage, or going to work.

Like fun!! Bad weather is bad weather, no matter with whom! If a car won’t start, or outgo exceeds income, that is even worse, somehow, to handle with a person with whom you usually have good and nice things than with someone that you have learned to sweat things out with.  Which is why so many impulsive newlyweds go tearing back to mother or off to another “flame”, with whom, of course, they had only nice times precisely because of not having married them.

Which is not to say that a person, then, should not marry and just maintain a relationship like that for diversion or fun, like some guys have had mistresses. That, of course, palls, because such relationships finds its fun by being a means to an end in itself, like eating candy when you are not hungry.  On the other hand, consummating a relationship like dating in a normal, measured fashion, resulting in a situation that, on the surface, seems only a duplicate of what he was in – going to work, etc. – does become pleasurable, at least gratifying and satisfying, as you “work” through life’s challenges and problems together, earning money for the fun things, etc.  to say nothing of making other people happy through your “unhappiness” such as repairing cars, providing materials with which to repair or remodel, even build a house.  This, you will find, is the source of the fullest fun.  Forgetting one’s own pleasure in favor of others’, you discover on your own.  Or, says C.S. Lewis, it catches you by surprise.

Giving (Part II)

Another facet of this whole giving bit is that ideally and theoretically it should go to individuals, and not organizations or institutions.  These latter are only the transmitting agencies to see that individuals receive the money.  In the Old Testament that was pretty simple.  Did you ever stop to think that in the OT, especially in the wilderness, they had no money?  What good would that have done anybody, without stores and banks?  Lots of “rich” people are poorer than you and I; you can’t wear or eat money, so what good is a million in the bank?

But now, in order to help some “poor African,” the gift has to go through a hundred hands in order to reach him.  Now many of those “hands” work for nix, but still plenty is siphoned off for postage, ads, telephone, etc. even if nobody is paid to phone, send the mail, think up the ads, etc.  Almost all of this is “church work” – let’s face it.  Necessary, perhaps, just like building a Crystal Cathedral in order to have a place to meet, but still a means and not the end.  What God is always and primarily interested in is that needy individuals are helped by us who can, not just spiritually, but physically.  Hence all the places in the Bible which say, “Stop bringing those tithes and sacrifices to church; give them to the poor and unsaved. In as much as you do it to them, you do it to me.”  So you are accountable to no one as to amount,you give, the recipient, motive, etc.  Whatever your “new nature” prompts you to do, do it.  Jesus said long ago, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be.”

Just a quick word about the other “nine-tenths” or maybe even a smaller fraction that a person “keeps” or uses for himself.  You will find there too is something that follows naturally, not arbitrarily, on account of the “laws” that the world operates, bred into creation’s or Nature’s being.  People who observe Sunday by not working (just a good guideline of God) discover they make just as much money or produce just as much work as the “seven-dayers.” Look at “Chick-Fil-A,” as an example.  By the same token, money remaining after tithing goes just as far, and farther,  seems to earn more (sometimes by being spared big expenditures, wealth that is more outgo than income) than keeping 100%.  Why does it seem that the people who often keep the most are living paycheck to paycheck?  Jesus said all that, in his down to earth, “non-religeous” teaching, when he talked about losing and keeping, money-bags with holes, assets that rust or get ripped off (by the government or con men), etc.  But more of that later.

Giving (Part I)

Just in case you find it somewhat painful to give or tithe part of your hard earned money, which it can seem others don’t have to work so hard to get, I thought I’d make tithing or giving the subject of this note.  Or maybe a couple since it is such a big subject.

As always, whatever God commands, requires or recommends is only for our own happiness. Not because He is thinking up things to show his authority or, horrible thought, to make life less pleasant for us.  The Bible’s recommendation to tithe is only a way to happiness, and, again as usual, in the New Testament we are NOT required to, as were the Old Testament people.  Not to show we are thankful we have jobs and are able to hold them; not in order to show that we are able to “handle” money and so God will give us more.  Not, God forbid, in order to get more so that TV hucksters speak of giving as an “investment” rather than a gift.  Not, as properly understood, in order to feel good, so that you give only if it’s appreciated, acknowledged, etc. Pleasure will follow whether the giving is recognized or thanked, and a person gets pleasure in the giving, but even that is not why we do it.

Basically, like any other Christian virtue or “good deed,” we do it because it’s part of our new nature; it’s like fish swimming or birds flying.  God gives (and nothing but; He really doesn’t get anything “back”) because that is His nature.  He can’t help it.  And when we become Christians, we have Christ’s nature.  So naturally, we get pleasure out of doing it just as God gets pleasure out of being God. Earthly parents get pleasure out of doing things for their kids, and kids show that they are mature by having that same satisfaction, source of pleasure, even before becoming parents and have kids of their own, by giving increasingly and “receiving” less.  At birth and thereafter for a long time, we all do nothing but “get”; “gimme” is our first word, and some people prove they’re infantile life-long by saying, “Gimme, gimme,” in not just money but fame, mates, clothes, etc.

So, these slogans dreamed up by money raisers like, “Give ’til it hurts,” or “Give ’til it doesn’t hurt,” are beside the point.  If it’s a matter of only doing “what comes naturally,” the answer, as always, is to have that nature, God’s nature, which makes giving become “second nature.”