I love quotes. I love authors who can take a seemingly difficult concept, and by crafting just the right combination of words, wipe the fog off the lens of your mind's eye. All quotes start as revelations, and I guess the good ones bear repeating and – boom – a quote is born. The really great ones last forever because that is what truth does. Truth always was and will always be. Take this quote by Saint Augustine (over 1600 years old):
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
I would imagine you have to be a saint to even try to describe how the Creator of the Universe might love us, His creations. I mean there are so many of us. But wouldn't you say he nailed it?
I love broccoli. For as long as I can remember I liked broccoli. I imagine it is because I grew up with broccoli as one of the many vegetable members of my family. Our family ate (and still does) pasta with anything. But, broccoli is special. It’s in the top five great pasta pairings IMO. I also know that not everyone out there loves broccoli – some people don’t eat it, won’t even taste it! I can’t even imagine! And then there are those that didn’t think they were going to like it, maybe even afraid to try it because it looked weird, but after that first taste and then discovering what a wonderful accompaniment it serves, they grew to like it and actually enjoy it regularly – even on purpose! I think most people fit into this category. We need to get over some kind of fear, ignorance or prejudice to make that first move, to give something a chance. But, once we do we often learn that our fears where misplaced, and that fear may have kept us from fulfilling our lives in some way. I can’t think of my life without broccoli.
So, what is keeping people from trying Christ? (You knew that’s where we were going, right?) I mean, if Christianity is being sold as a religion of love, peace of mind, equality and eternal bliss, what is there to be afraid of? Why aren’t there millions flocking to sign up every day? As followers of Christ (and unlike broccoli) we were given something that should sell itself – right? How have we managed to screw that up? Even worse, a lot of non-believers consciously avoid any mention of Christ; shun it like a stomach virus or a punch in the jaw. (While we Christians have learned that anyone that would meet Jesus personally would do just the opposite.) What is motivating them to respond in this way? Some of you might know what I’m talking about. There are some people that you may know all of your life, whom with you have gone through every possible high and low point, people that would trust you with their children, but one mention of Christ or Christianity immediately has them looking at you like a total stranger. And, not only a stranger, but a stranger that is looking to rob them of everything that they call ‘holy’.
What is it about sticking our toe into the waters of a relationship with God that has some of us very defensive? Could it be the unknown, the uncertainty? Some unwilling to even give the change a try, so sure that what we have is as good as we can get, or so afraid that we might lose the little we do have. In a chapter of Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly, I read something that begins to explain the phenomena in the context of why most Christians don’t study the Bible as we should:
“…But in a deeply subconscious way, the explanation for why we don’t read the Bible is deeply profound: We know the word of God has the power to transform our lives, and the uncomfortable, unspoken and often-avoided truth is that we don’t want our lives transformed. Be honest. Do you want God to completely overhaul your life and totally transform you?”
And even though I count myself as one of the millions of Christians who have claimed Christ as my savior, this fear still persists. But now the fear is not so much getting in the water as much as it is in putting my head under and opening my eyes. Transformation scares the crap out of me. I’m guilty of what most Christians are: selective commitment: ‘I’ll do this but I’m not willing to do that. I’ll give this but I’m not willing to let go of that.’ Mr. Kelly sums it up perfectly:
“…We pray for tweaking—and then we wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers. The reason is simple: God is not in the business of tweaking. He’s in the business of transformation.”
But thankfully God knows the fear we have. He’s given us wonderful examples to teach us the good that transformation brings: our birth being one – transformed from cell to embryo, to fetus to baby. Ahhhhh, to be born again; born again, and this time to our creator’s true purpose. This is what our fear is keeping us from.Lent: Why bother…
What? Blasphemy! He’s lost his mind! Satan has gotten to him! Why bother with Lent? How dare he!
OK people, simmer down. Give a brother a moment to explain. If all Lent has become for you is not eating ice cream for forty days then I do say, why bother? Lent is so much more and unless you buy into the whole enchilada (unless you gave them up for lent) you shouldn’t bother.
Lent is all about change and preparation. Change in the deepest parts of our soul; change that you can see; change that you (and others can) feel. And most importantly change that you want. Preparation for the celebration of the greatest gift anyone could ever want. Preparing ourselves for the commemoration of the day in which God said to all of His children, ‘I love you more than you can ever imagine, so much so that I am willing to lay down my life so that you may live!’
So if we are going to participate in this Lenten season (and we should) then let’s do it the way it should be done – all the way and fully committed. Let it surround you and get inside of you like the Christmas spirit that seems to show up every year right after Thanksgiving. I’m trying and began this Lent by seeking to learn a little more about the season hoping it would help. Mostly because, as with most traditions, there is likelihood that over time we forget how these traditions may have started and why. We even may forget what the purpose may have been for the initiation of the tradition. Of course there is a ton of information on the web that can give you all of the history and meaning of Lent, one in particular is provided here in a form of a link (http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/history-of-lent.html) and does a great job in doing so.
As I said, my main concern regarding Lent is our tendency to reduce this opportunity to grow in our faith to simple one-liners. With Lent it is normally, ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ Over the past 20 centuries we have taken this solemn period of change and preparation and condensed it down to avoiding sweets, or some other daily indulgence. Even worse, without any understanding of what our true intentions are. I am as guilty as anyone. Why are we giving up ice cream for 40 days, and how does that fit into our Christian faith? It’s not like the founders of Christianity woke up one day and determined that giving up ice cream for 40 days was going to make us better Christians. Well, not exactly.
Jesus was a Jew. A lot of our Christian faith and tradition is rooted in Judaism. There is a long and continuing history of man losing focus on God and God’s will, the early stages of which are described in great detail in the Old Testament. God’s chosen people were seemingly stuck in this cycle of sin, slavery due to their sin, begging God for help, salvation through God’s mercy, and then ultimately back to sin. To this very day this endless cycle of sin, sorrow, supplication, salvation, silence, and sin again is driven by our human weakness and our inability to say no to temptation. (I don’t make this stuff up people – it’s right there in the Bible.) Jesus in preparation for the start of his ministry goes into the wilderness to fast and pray, not coincidentally, for 40 days. There he is continually tempted by satan, the most well known account of which is in Matt 4:1-11. The point here being that sin takes our focus from God, and Lent is our time to regain our focus through prayer, fasting and alms-giving. These activities are the antithesis to root causes of all sin – pride, lust, and greed. (Check out this link for more on this – http://truthandcharity.net/the-origins-of-prayer-fasting-and-almsgiving/). So especially during Lent we should be using this holy formula as part of our preparation regimen:
- We pray to acknowledge God and our own weakness – this knocks our pride down to size
- We fast to deny our lustful desires – just to prove that we can
- We give alms to focus on the needs of others – and take our focus from our own petty wish list
So again, why is then does it seem that our attention during Lent apparently on this fasting part, and all of the (IMO) silly rules as to how we conduct our dietary intake? My guess is that over the past 2000 years the church leaders determined that the common folk would understand the fasting part best because it could be codified into rules and rules were good. You Catholics out there get this, right? Sort of like: no meat on Fridays, Holy Days of Obligation, and sitting, standing and kneeling during mass. I attend a particular (catholic) church because of its mission and work being done there, not because it is good at following the rules. We all have to be careful not to lose sight of that: Give up the ice cream, but ignore the homeless. Avoid meat on Friday, but pray only when we want something. Dear Lord please help us to keep our focus on what you really want for your children – to become true offspring of yours in every way that relationship brings!
One last thought. From what I understand, in the Hebrew language, numbers have both numerical and literal meanings; seven is a divine number, for instance. Forty is used to describe a period of time that is long enough to enable a change, or a testing period. Moses was on the Mount Sinai for 40 days prior to receiving the Ten Commandments, the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years, God made it rain for 40 days and nights during the Great Flood, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, all in advance of some monumental change. Quite apparently, God wants us to change! I pray that these next 40 days of praying, fasting and giving do so for you and me.Yeah, I’ talking to you.
If you have ever read a book, essay, short story, or historical article about another time or place, you have experienced authors’ ability to transport us to that venue, and if successful, draw you in as if they were speaking directly to you. I find it fascinating that the written word has that ability to transcend time and distance and allow us to enter the mind of the author, and see through the eyes of an observer that may be dead for decades, centuries, and perhaps thousands of years – Plato, Socrates, Josephus, Jefferson, Lincoln Churchill, and the rest of our earthly teachers.
No piece of literature does this as well as the Bible. (Of course.) The very earliest of inspired stories of this collection of books dates back about 5000 years. And still it speaks to us as if written yesterday. If you accept this as the true word of God speaking through and to His followers, then you need to also accept that He is still speaking to you – today – right now. His message of love and its long history of our salvation were meant to be read and heard by not only those first inspired so long ago, but equally for the benefit of you and me today.
My entire attitude towards the Bible changed the moment that I accepted this phenomenon. Now each time I read or hear scripture I do so with the knowledge that the Lord, Creator of the universe, penned the words specifically and directly for my benefit. Try it if you haven’t done so already. Pretend that you are the second person in a two-person dialogue, and that God is speaking directly to you. It will immediately open your eyes to God’s intentions for you, his loving child, and your path will become so much clearer. Now, the potential downside, depending how you take it, is that you also lose the ability to ignore the word when it may not be convenient or comfortable for you. One of the many messages in the New Testament that may not be the easiest to hear and apply in our lives is probably the one that will make the greatest difference in not only your life, but in those around you, and probably some that you don’t even know. It is the last thing that Jesus told his disciples before ascending to heaven:
So Jesus came to them and said, “All authority (power) in heaven and on earth is given to me. So go and make disciples of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach those people to obey everything that I have told you. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of the world.” Matt 28:18-20
We usually begin to opt out of scripture, and to act as spectators, when we hear, ‘Jesus said to his disciples…’. We think, ‘Oh, He’s talking to them. I can tune out.’ No, not really. If you call yourself a Christian, you are a follower of Jesus Christ and therefore one of His disciples. Now go back and read this passage and the rest of the New Testament, and read it as if each and every time Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the time, he is speaking to you, now. Right now, in your bedroom, or living room or where ever you are reading or listening – you and Jesus having a one on one. Replace the term, ‘So Jesus said to them’ with, ‘So Jesus said to (your name here)’. Cool, huh? All the blessings, all the wisdom, all the comfort and peace Jesus brings, He brings directly for (your name here). He also brings the commitment and power and responsibility of discipleship and lays it at the feet of (your name here). Now that maybe more humbling than cool, but still all meant specifically for (your name here).
So think about it a bit before you decide to opt out. There are about 2 billion professed Christians in the world today. If we all performed our role as true Disciples of Christ in this world for even a day, what kind of impact would that have? The result: the good news of the Gospel in each and every ear, a Christ-like world. We have the numbers and the story to make that happen. We also have the promise, ‘You can be sure that I will be with you always.’
Start by taking small steps. This Christian mission statement came to me a while ago and I think it is a good way to start: “As Christians all we can do is to live our lives as Jesus would, and pray someone else notices just enough to do the same.” Do it, because it is you (and me!) who is being spoken to.Three Sides to Every Story
Like you, I have been thinking about all of this horrible terror that has been occurring around the world. My first thought was how can there be such a dramatic difference in my understanding of God and that of the people committing these heinous atrocities. I mean there is only one God, right? How is it possible to see God and His message so differently? I mean, there is only one truth when it comes to the nature of God, our creation, our relationship with God, and His will for His creations – right? Jesus did his best in trying to express all of that in ways we could understand using parables, teachings and his own life as a model, and from that comes what we call our understanding, Christianity. I am sure that Muslims think the same of their teacher, Mohammad. And the Jews do likewise via Moses and the Prophets. More so, within these groups are sub-groups that are liberal, moderate and extreme. All humans; all provided with the same type of mind. Now, unless God created some of us with a special gift to know His very truth, how could you possibly argue that you are right and others wrong?
Every now and then a situation comes up where Ellie will tell me that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. Why is that? Why are we not able, in a lot of cases, to synchronize our understanding, and actually agree perfectly? I’m sure it has to do in part with our perspective, our interests, our selfishness, what’s in it for us, how we might look to others, our pride, and the gift of free choice with which we were created. It happens all the time. You and I hear or read something and we come up with different impressions and even at times, absolutely opposite conclusions. Earlier this week I was reminded of another reason for this very human condition. (Please understand that none of this is in any way justification for murder, just observation.)
The other day I was flipping around and came across a televangelist. The little I was able to catch was an extremely interesting observation regarding the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden. We have heard the story and its lessons before, but this perspective was new to me. It focused on how we can innocently mislead one another, and how subtly satan uses deceit. Here again are the highlights that make the point:
God instructs Adam as follows in Genesis 2:15:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now it is presumed that once Eve comes on the scene, Adam tells her all about these instructions from God, making sure she knows about the do’s and don’ts of living in Paradise. And after a time the infamous meeting between she and the serpent takes place, and wouldn’t you know it right in front of that darn little ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’. And so it goes. (Note that when confronted, Eve is quick to recite the instructions she got from God via Adam):
…Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said (according to what Adam tells me), ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it or you will die.’”
Now where does that ‘or touch it’ come from? Certainly not what God told Adam. God didn’t say anything about ‘not touching it’. Maybe something got added on by Adam in his haste to give Eve the 4-1-1?…sort of like that game ‘Telephone’. Now the devil has its opening and takes advantage of Adam’s misinterpretation:
…The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took (touched) from its fruit…
(So encouraged by the serpent, she first touches the fruit and what happens? Nothing! Because God did not say she would die if she touched it, only if she ate it. But she did not hear God’s words direct from His mouth. So now she is confused and thinking, ‘Well maybe this serpent is right. I did touch the fruit and nothing happened, even after Adam told me I would die. So maybe nothing will happen if I eat it, also?’). The verse continues:
…and (after seeing that nothing happened when she touched it) ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. Genesis 3:1-7
So this perspective, including the misinterpretation of God’s word, and then satan using that to convince Eve to trust him and not God, is a little more easy to reconcile, at least to me. Adam and Eve weren’t so stupid after all; they were just not good listeners. It reminds me that God’s word can be twisted and used to just the opposite of His intent. And we know that happens all of the time. How else does, “Love your neighbor as yourself” morph into, “Kill people in cold blood if they do not believe what you believe”? God is supposed to (according to who you talk to) have said both as the same. There is obviously a very powerful force here on earth that benefits from us not getting together on the truth about God. Who do you think has the least to gain by having us all know the universal truth about God, our loving Father?
So based on this I think it might be wise for me to read a little of the Quran itself. Not for the purpose of becoming a Muslim, but just to understand what we all have in common. My little understanding is that there are many fundamental similarities between the three main ‘Western’ religions. (Did you know that the Virgin Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the New Testament? Neither did I.) I’ll keep you posted.Rendering unto Caesar
I found myself watching the latest Republican debate a couple of weeks ago. Once I got beyond the spectacle of it all, and all of the apparent agendas of both the moderators and the candidates, I was struck with one thing: these people are pretty smart! I mean to say that when actually given a minute or two to express themselves I thought for the most part that each (with the exception of Trump) had something thoughtful to say. Now considering the amount of effort spent by the moderators and at times the candidates themselves looking to illicit ‘gotcha’ moments, the meaningful exchanges left me with a feeling of wanting to hear more from each of them (including Trump). I was left with a feeling that, ‘Well maybe these men and Carly actually do have the best interests of our country at heart (Trump, not so much)’. It got me to think about the long list of very well intentioned men and women that subject themselves to a life of public service and all of what comes with that: the constant scrutiny, the time away from family, the criticisms they endure in the media and so on. But, there always seems to be someone willing to step into the fray.
Now, I know that some may have less than noble objectives when they decide to run for office, but I have to imagine for the most part that their goal is to serve the group they represent in a fiduciary fashion. And, that their hearts, at least at the beginning of their service, are in the right place, looking to achieve substantive improvements for our country, state, city or town. So what happens? How do all these apparently smart people, once in office, get bogged down or otherwise side-tracked, or even totally incapacitated and ineffective? I mean – it’s not like they all of a sudden get stupid or incompetent. It’s not like the great ideas from the campaign trail lose their validity. (Like what the heck is wrong with a flat tax anyway?) So, if it is not a sudden degradation of the talents of the people we elect to office, it must be the system that we put them into. Then I immediately remember one of the truly brilliant observations from C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity that puts it all into place:
“…That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended-civilizations are built up-excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans. The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing…” (Note: You really should try and read this book at least once in your lifetime. It really does help to understand the philosophical foundations on which our faith is based. It is also available on the internet for free.)
So, in essence, we are doomed to failure as long as we insist on putting anything other than the Lord, our God, at the center of any of our systems of authority. And when you think of it there really is no example in history of a permanent success of any man-centric government. In fact, it is actually the separation of church (i.e. the one, true God) and state that is our ruin. Now, I am not saying that we should place a particular religion, or church in charge. Get that straight. God needs to be in charge, not men. It is the Kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of so often in His teachings that must reign, and why He tells us to seek it and its righteousness and that all our other needs will be fulfilled. So although this bit of reality may be disappointing at first, knowing that we are entrenched in a system of worldly dysfunction, the Kingdom still remains our greatest hope for ultimate peace and harmony amongst God’s children.
There is a lot of information out there, starting with scripture and from Christ Himself about the Kingdom. It is not something that can be summed up in a sentence or two, because it is meant to be taken literally (Christ will return as our earthly King.) and spiritually (“For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” – Luke 17:20-21). It is in fact the vehicle of our ultimate relationship with God and one another. Suffice to say, at least for me, is that our baptism provides access to the Kingdom, our allegiance is to our Lord and His Son Jesus Christ, and our constitution is Holy Scripture.
So, are we to disengage with the going-ons of this world? Do we stop voting? Do we just stand by as spectators? I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when He told us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” – Mark 12:17. I believe as a society we are to live and work the best we can within the constraints of our own brokenness, always harkening back to the foundations of our God-centered destiny: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40). And, lastly pray that the men and women elected to office do the same.Generation Termination
We recently moved outside of our parish. We love that parish – St Pat’s in Scottsdale. We moved knowing that we would remain connected to it one way or another for the rest of our lives. But God has plans for each of us that go beyond what we think may be best. We moved into another parish – Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) in Tempe – also a good parish. I say ‘good’ because after attending a couple of services I can see already that the pastor and church members are engaged in the community – local and global – and that is what I believe church is for.
Now as most know, Planned Parenthood (PP) has been in the news lately (Google it if necessary). And as most also know, the Catholic Church and most other Christian churches are no friends of Planned Parenthood. In essence, the parties stand on the opposite sides of the abortion issue. I won’t get into the details here, and like anything else, you should educate yourself fully before you take sides. I wrote a post a couple of years ago where I explained that I had found myself on the wrong side of the issue when I was younger and that my position has changed dramatically. Click here if you want to read it: https://holyfolk.com/thou-shalt-not-kill/
Back to church: So, I recently left a service at OLMC with a bulletin in my hand and in it was a very impassioned letter on the subject by the pastor including statements like, “Don’t buy the lie that PP is in business for anything other than abortion.” There was also a call to join a protest at the local PP offices in Tempe this Saturday (today). Protest? Really? You mean we are going to actually publicly express our outrage? Wow! I think I might like it here! Now, this protest was part of a nationwide effort to urge the defunding of PP and the turnout was pretty good for a Saturday morning in Tempe with the temps in the high ‘90s, maybe 500-700 people. I went mostly out of curiosity to see who would show. Shame on me! I should have gone out with the same kind of outrage that most of the protesters went. Like the 22 year old young man that spoke eloquently in the heat about how some 20% of his generation were missing due to abortion. Whether the number is accurate or not, (And what number would you think is acceptable?) it underscored the fact that the numbers are huge. Conservatively, estimates of 55,000,000 lives have been ended since Roe v. Wade, and that is in the US alone. This student also conjectured that maybe one of those lives would have been instrumental in discovering the cure for cancer. Ironically, the PP also uses the ‘cure for cancer’ card to support some of the group’s activities that have come to light this month.
Either way you stand on this matter you cannot deny where God stands. Ancient history clearly indicates that for centuries, there were Middle Eastern followers of the god Baal that routinely sacrificed their infants to this god. One of these civilizations lived in Canaan – the land that God promised to the early Israelite nation. God uses the Israelites as his tool to destroy these people who had sunken so low they were beyond reconciliation:
“But when you have driven them out and settled in their land,30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods…” (Duet 12:29-31)
So if the only thing that separates our civilization from that of the worshipers of Baal is whether the infant sacrificed is in the womb or outside, or how long the infant has germinated, how far have we really developed in 4,000 years? How is it possible that with all of the presumed development in healthcare, technology, social justice and ‘morality’ that this is even an issue anymore? How have we not been able to take all of the very same resources used in ending these lives, and redirect them into a more reasonable and sensible way to address unwanted pregnancies, including those that are the result of rape or incest? Why isn’t the full focus of our nation turned to finding a cure for a ‘disease’ that has conservatively killed over 55 million of its citizens since 1979 alone? Think about that for a while and it starts to spark some outrage and maybe some action and maybe some change. With the countless millions of childless couples praying for a baby how is it that we can’t figure this out? Why isn’t PP the world’s largest adoption agency?
There was a time not too long ago where we burned people alive because we thought they were witches. I am afraid that our future generations will look back on this one and shake their heads in disbelief when they recount the loss of a generation of unborn children because of our choice to worship at the altar of convenience. God help us all.
Replace the ‘I’ with a ‘J’
Anyone that knows me pretty well knows that I am a “What Would Jesus Do?” kind of guy. I have always looked for rules of thumb, short-cuts and those little ‘cheats’ to help me whether I was in school or in the office. I was always pretty good in math because I would be able to see how one calculation or formula worked and repeat the process. I may not have thoroughly got the total underlying concept, but I had a good memory at the time and that helped immensely. I am also a bit of a parrot when it comes to songs, so some stuff sticks in my head – again mostly numbers or events. Like most, these particular skills tend to fade with time. And here I remain searching even harder for that trick that will trigger the thought or memory that I know I will need sometime down the line.
So, once I started to understand who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, and what He has asked me to do, it became clear what the journey to our salvation really was: To become more like Christ every day. For me, it has become the reconciliation between what I would do and what Jesus would do, in every case, situation or circumstance. To conform my way of thinking to what Jesus would be considering any time I had a decision to make of any consequence. Changing, What I Would Do to What Jesus Would Do. (WWID to WWJD.) Forsaking the ‘I’ for the ‘J’ is what I have determined as my test to see if I am on track. St. Paul talks about it (of course) in his letters (Ephesians 4:20-24)
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Again, not easy to do, but it is easy to remember and that may be half the battle, remembering what I should be doing instead of what I want to do. And, if I forget everything I was ever taught about the history of Christian salvation, but can still ‘put on the garment of Jesus Christ’, I’ll be OK. That’s my little cheat, the answer written on my palm, but in this case it is the $1.49 purple cotton band I wear around my wrist: WWJD?JEE-zuss Kryst
Urban Dictionary is a website where you can see or create new words, phrases and definitions mostly pop culture type of stuff. For instance, today’s top phrase is ‘body by Mattel’ defined as a ‘female that is more plastic than human’. So, it is a place where people can express their creativity as word-smiths. The site also allows visitors to provide their own definitions for commonly used words, usually with some sort of twist, be it witty, clever, sometimes dark or sometimes opinionated. One example is a definition for the word ‘gravity’ which I submitted when it came to me one day a few years back: ‘an omnipresent force with extraordinary power that no one can see, but exists without doubt to those who place their faith in it every day – just like God.’ Of course, like everything else on-line you get to vote thumbs up or thumbs down on the definition, and from what I can tell the definitions are ranked based upon the highest ratio of approvals to rejections.
This led me one day to provide a definition for ‘Jesus Christ’. It was right after a bible study class about the time when Jesus asks His disciples ‘Who do people say that I am?’ (Matt 16:13…) Here Jesus, Himself, is asking for a definition of who He is. Well, besides the brilliance of the question, I thought that it was a good opening for me to basically plagiarize Peter’s response when Christ puts the question to him to this exchange:
“But what about you?” (Jesus) asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “Good for you, Simon, son of John! For this truth did not come to you from any human being (or Urban Dictionary), but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven.”
I thought that it was the definitive answer and expected a 100% approval rating! Maybe not as funny as the top definition** at the time (and still), but nonetheless it was irrefutable considering that God Himself had inspired Peter’s answer. Since then, though, I have also learned that Jesus Christ has different meanings to different people at different times in their lives. Sure He is the Son of God, but what does that really mean to our limited minds? And, is this really how we experience Christ once we have accepted Him as the Son of God? Is this really the relationship that God meant for us to have with His Son – Jesus up there in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father? Seems a bit intimidating. Rather, I am now seeing that in the context of what we can understand, Jesus Christ is: unconditional love, or peace, or comfort, or rabbi, teacher, friend, brother, confidant, strength, savior, soul mate, hero, sacrifice, eternity…So I guess the point here is, what does Jesus Christ mean to you? And watch how the definition changes based on your needs.
**Jesus Christ: The name Bill Cosby thought was his when growing up. He thought his brother’s name was “God Dammit”. According to Cosby’s classic stand-up routine, his father would always yell at him and his brother. Something like: “Jesus Christ, it’s raining, get in here. God Dammit, you get in here too.”
But then one day he was playing in the yard alone and his father called him: “God Dammit, quit making such a racket!” Bill just stood there looking around for his brother. “God Dammit didn’t you hear me?” yelled his father to which Bill replied, “But dad, I’m Jesus Christ!”