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     I was talking with a dear friend the other day and he related the following story to me. It seems that he was driving down a long country road on a very hot afternoon. The journey through the rural countryside would yield a home about every mile or so. He became expectant of seeing an, as yet to be seen, human. It seemed as if everyone had left the area when he noticed on the approaching hillside a fairly large frame house with the ever-present clothesline in the backyard.

Standing at the clothesline was a person doing what one usually does at a clothesline, hanging out the clothes that had been recently washed. She appeared to be about half through with her task. Many thoughts of his now lost childhood began to flood his mind.

A lazy summer afternoon, the high pasture grass begging for the next hay cutting, the air hot and moist as if your head were in an oven and the overwhelming fatigue that settles in just from struggling through such a day were all thoughts and feelings that began to invade his brain. Likewise, the ultimate pleasure of the day, finding a swimming hole to break the heat, became the dominant idea of survival for the moment.

He momentarily forgot the needs of the day; why he was traveling on this back road and the great hurry he had been experiencing to get the day accomplished. The tyranny of the urgent had just been jettisoned out the window as he slowed down, turned of the air-conditioner, opened his window and enjoyed the wind flying through his hair with the increased moisture forming on his body.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spied a small figure on the side of the road, near the driveway to a house. It was very dark in appearance, he could not make out exactly what it was, but it was moving. Caution brought him to slow his vehicle and watch the object, closely.

The figure seemed to be falling or jumping, he couldn’t be sure. As he drew near, he could hear screaming, but it didn’t seem to be hurtful, but rather extreme glee! What an odd, dark brown to black, figure that, now, he could tell for sure, was repeatedly jumping onto the earth while happily yelling!

He finally realized that he was witnessing a true release into the Kingdom of Heaven. Here was a young boy, about the age of 7, covered from head to toe in dark brown mud with only the whites of his eyes and teeth visible. The boy had achieved the ultimate ascent to joy and relaxation as he had found a “holy” mud-puddle!! He was wallowing and jumping in that mud-puddle in ways that would make most pigs quite proud!

“Oh!”, my friend with tears now in his eyes, cried. “How I remember those days, when my sole purpose in life was to find the next mud-puddle!”

We quietly, yet wide-eyed, looked at each other, both seminarians with many years of ‘learning’ and much life-experience under our belts, as we finally had our eyes opened with the impression his story had brought to us. The truth was that we had forgotten about mud-puddles. We had forgotten about the simple pleasures of life that brought so many fond memories of friends and family.

This was the memory of real koinonia, the fellowship of the family in the real church of Jesus Christ.

For moment, we both cried. Why must we make it so complicated and difficult? Why do we seek to live our lives based on differences, rather than everyone joying in being wonderfully, wet and muddy-brown as we find true unity in our mud-puddle?

I remember a line from the movie, “The Incredibles”, “If everyone is special, then no one is special.” Does the converse hold? If no one is special, then does everyone become special?

Perhaps, this is what our Christ was trying to say to us when He noted in the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe, if I would focus on making my neighbor successful….well, I might just become successful.

What a thought from a mud-puddle. I think I am going see if I can find a mud-puddle in the 100 acre wood. I hope you can find you mud-puddle. Talk with you later.

TFP

I versus We?

I had a recent question asked by a fellow believer in Jesus Christ regarding the proper way to end a prayer to God. Being of the fairly conservative persuasion, I got a little formulaic, when I expressed to him that I was pretty sure we needed to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Meaning, that our prayers should literally end, “in the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.”
He informed me that it was not the name but rather the personal pronoun, I, that was the problem. It seems he was asking whether we should be ending our prayers with, we, rather than I.
I must say, that I have never thought about this before. I have prayed a lot in public over many years and this question has never entered my mind, although, it seemed like a very legitimate question.
Reflecting on prayer and the several examples given to us in scripture, with two of them being deliberate versions from our Christ, I suspect there is even a uniqueness to the way we are to end our prayers.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus Christ gives us the model prayer denoting that we should pray after that fashion. The the ending of this model prayer seems to be an overwhelming notice of God’s supreme position in all of this, “for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (KJV) If you are a student of textual analysis of the Bible, you will know that this ending is a later added ending and that the majority of the more ancient text sources of Matthew end this prayer with, “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” (HCSB)
In John 17, the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ is recorded ending with, “I made your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.”
Certainly, there is a difference between me praying and Jesus Christ praying to God. I am told in scripture that Jesus Christ, now, sits at the right hand of God interceding for my prayers, Romans 8:34. Scripture informs me in Romans 8:26 that, “I don’t know what to pray, but that the Holy Spirit will teach me…” I also know that prayer is one part of worship. I am told in scripture in the book of John 4:24, that I am to worship in spirit and in truth.
This spirit refers both to my soul (mind, will, and emotions) as well has the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is the Holy Spirit that teaches my soul what it is I am to pray, if I am praying in the name of Jesus Christ.
Through all of this, I have come to realize that my friend is correct to raise the question, for too often I pray with my own words, in my own power, and with my own time. Who am I to assume that God has to yield to my timing or words?
Once again, the simple question of a friend has led me to ask, “Why?” and God, in His benevolence has shown the truth from His Word. It seems only correct that I should end my prayers with the, We, rather than the, I, because it is both myself and the Holy Spirit that are praying and Jesus Christ is interceding to God.
Thank you, God, in the name of Jesus Christ, WE pray. Amen

Gardening

My daughter and I have recently had the experience of planting new little vegetable plants in our new garden located in central Louisiana. It is not a large garden by any imagination, in fact; it is small; about 6 ft by 40 ft. I do realize there are readers that do not have the space for any garden and plant in pots, only. This prompts one of the deepest, most provocative, metaphysical thoughts I think I have ever had, “Why do we plant?”
To Christians, it would seem rather counterproductive, I mean, after all, didn’t God say that we would struggle with the thorns and vines as we tilled the soil by the sweat of our brow? I think I could find something else to do in life with information like that, yet….I plant.
My father planted. My father’s father planted. My mother’s father planted, in fact, I had the opportunity to plant with him (many stories here!!). I am quite sure that most of my ancestors planted.
Is it because we have been warned of the struggle that we seek the challenge?
I remember when God brought me my life-mate. One of our favorite times spent together was the planning of our first garden. We started out in apartments and, yes, we planted in pots. With our first house, we moved to the trusty “square-foot” garden. I must say that seeing watermelons grow vertically in panty hose holders was quite a site! This definitely provided motivation to think out of the box and I am quite sure my children have altered perceptions of reality because of this method of gardening. I even think the raccoons had no clue to look up for the watermelons.
Psalm 139 confirms that God knows our character so much better than we do. Perhaps it is the struggle with planting that identifies some of the innermost strengths of our character as humans created by the eternal God. Certainly, to plant, one must overcome the inertia of the “couch potato”; the dirt must be brought under submission of the “gardener” through chemical manipulation and terra-forming; seeds must be nurtured to shed their seed coats in the correct environment, send down roots, and eventually grow the fruit that will be consumed. The whole process is fraught with potential disaster every step of the way.
Some of us may never actually put the seed in the dirt, but we watch the plants grow around us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, in some way, we have a need to be part of the struggle.
We not only consume our plants, but many of us tend to grow plants to see their beauty and enjoy their fragrance. It seems, at times, that observation is our motivation rather than eventual consumption. It is almost as if some are missing the point to life by simply observing and not participating in the life cycle of the plant.
The Christian church, as a whole, has become observational and turned away from participatory behavior in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some in the church do not want to get the dirt of the garden on their hands. Jesus Christ does tell us that the burden of His cross is light. Could this be because all who enjoin the struggle in Christ’s cross are focused on one thing, following Jesus Christ and are no longer seeking individual recognition and achievement to satisfy their personal pride?
God notes in His scripture that He has placed within the heart of mankind His law. We know what is right and wrong, yet we seek not to engage the world, but rather to observe. We are not interested in planting, so it seems. The world has become an angrier place. Perhaps, this is the result of not doing what we know is the right thing to do. I know when I take this position it makes me quite angry with myself.
I encourage you, to engage life, fully. Learn to plant and enjoy what God has made. The struggle is good for it brings growth, strength and dependency upon the only one who has the truth, God. Planting allows us to participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom. May you be ever mindful of the “Great Commission” of Jesus Christ from Matthew 28:19-20 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
May you find the true blessing of Gardening,
FPB

One of the many joys of having children is that when they are allowed to ask questions of their parents, quite often, those questions bring significant learning experiences for all involved. My oldest son has found an article in Relevant magazine titled, “Is Christianity Anti-Intellectual” by Andrew Byers, which is an expansion of some material that Byers has written in a book, entitled, Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint. These are very provocative ideas with catchy titles. (actually, this title provokes a desire in this author to explore the question of whether or not a Saint may be cynical – I digress, perhaps another time)
The premise is that the modern church seems to have a disdain for those individuals who would seek to study the great theological ideas of man and somehow this is worsened when our academics disconnect us from the first and second great commandments of our Lord. One responder
highlights this idea when they note that highly educated congregations tend to desire highly educated pastoral leadership in the form of the doctoral degree, where the evangelically swayed congregations seem to shun the educated pastoral leadership for those who would simply rely upon the simplicity of scripture and leadership of the Holy Spirit for their guidance in the pulpit.
One should be reminded that in 1 Corinthians 2:14 we are told, “But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually.” This passage not only lets one know the direction the information regarding God will come from, but also provides a minor test to help one see where biblical cynicism is rooted in the life of the individual.
Moving to our title, what really is an “intellectual Christian”? Intellectual (n.) is defined in Merriam Webster’s dictionary to be “given to study, reflection, and speculation”. Christian (n.) by biblical definition as described in Romans 10:9-10: “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.”
One may recall that the first commandment is to love God and the second is to love man. Certainly, an order is given to establish priority. One will find in Romans 1:22a, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,…” Clearly, God provides a caution for those who would place their intellect before His worship. Well then, how does one love God and pursue an intellectual approach? The first aspect to this is to acknowledge that in ALL things loving God must come first. In 2 Peter 1:5 one finds, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge,…”
One must begin with faith. No surprise, here. Faith is established on the fact that God is, and for no other reason. It all begins with God, the ultimate independent function. Truth exists because God exists. Truth then becomes a dependent function. Intellect, being that which studies, reflects, and speculates can only properly focus its work upon the things of God. God, once again, shows that intellect is a dependent function established upon the premise of His truth. Otherwise, intellect establishes its own truth apart from God. This is a rather dangerous place to be when contending with the creator of everything.
There cannot be two truths regarding the same concept of God. This would suggest that two dependent variables may be located by the same independent variable, which, mathematically becomes and vertical line and is undefined.
Have no doubt that our approach agrees with Byers in premise that there can be “intellectual Christians”, however, we diverge in thought as application demonstrates that if we presume to be Christian then, by definition, we are contained within the domain of God, thus evangelical exclusion does not make sense. Otherwise, we become gods unto ourselves, and, well….good luck with that. fpb

Hello world!

Welcome to TSP!!

The word from Pooh, today, is, “Oh Dear!!!” The world is turning upside down.

      This opening blog is written on a day when Americans face devastation, destruction, and the “great unknown” in almost every geographic area of the United States…by the way, are you an American? What does it really mean to be an American? This is an important question at a time such as this. 

       It seems that there is only one group of people who can claim to be true Americans. The rest of us are just immigrants from different places and cultures around the world. I remember living in different places in the United States where the locals would not accept you until your family had been there for at least one generation and understood how to “act, think, and talk” like everyone else.  Maybe that is what it means to be an American.

       So many people in the United States want to focus on their cultural identity rather than seeking to identify with this great cause called “America”.  Perhaps, they have forgotten that it is the very freedom that is granted through the writings of our forefathers, based on the precepts of Christianity; eg, bounded by the absolute authority of God, that has established a wonderful country where they may seek improvement in their lives; provided they are willing to work at it.

       By seeking to enhance our cultural differences, we force our dogmatic religious differences to the forefront of our daily interactions with each other, for we all practice some form of religion based within whatever or whoever we place our faith. We all have faith in something or someone.

        I wonder what life in these United States would be like if, instead of constantly highlighting our differences, we made a determined effort to celebrate those things that we have in common; like the desire for a better life in a country that has in-place the guiding principles that can make that happen.

       We face multiple geographic crises, today. The Christian God has noted that devastation will come to the land of the people who turn from Him. We have the opportunity to set aside our differences and seek to pull our strengths together to, once again, stand, shoulder to shoulder, as a formidable nation of immigrants.

       Let us seek to reconcile ourselves before the Holy God rather than depending on those things that will one day fail that we may once again have focus and purpose to our existence.  

Blessings,

Pb

You are encouraged to contribute to the thoughts of this blog via the comment section. Please, refrain from irrational, vitriolic hyperbole. Instead, seek the path of communication that will yield reconciliation under the banner of truth. As our guide, Winnie the Pooh, has said, “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”  (http://thinkexist.com/quotes/winnie_the_pooh/)