A good gift

My readings today were from the book of James, which I have a particular fondness for. One part of it struck me again and would not leave the forefront of my mind. It is a familiar passage, but one that bears mentioning.  James 1:13-17. I want to begin with what “John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes” has to say on these verses.

“James 1:13
But let no man who is tempted – To sin. Say, I am tempted of God – God thus tempteth no man.

James 1:14
Every man is tempted, when – In the beginning of the temptation. He is drawn away – Drawn out of God, his strong refuge. By his own desire – We are therefore to look for the cause of every sin, in, not out of ourselves. Even the injections of the devil cannot hurt before we make them our own. And every one has desires arising from his own constitution, tempers, habits, and way of life. And enticed – In the progress of the temptation, catching at the bait: so the original word signifies.

James 1:15
Then desire having conceived – By our own will joining therewith. Bringeth forth actual sin – It doth not follow that the desire itself is not sin. He that begets a man is himself a man. And sin being perfected – Grown up to maturity, which it quickly does. Bringeth forth death – Sin is born big with death.

James 1:16
Do not err – It is a grievous error to ascribe the evil and not the good which we receive to God.

James 1:17
No evil, but every good gift – Whatever tends to holiness. And every perfect gift – Whatever tends to glory. Descendeth from the Father of lights – The appellation of Father is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows, “he begat us.” He is the Father of all light, material or spiritual, in the kingdom of grace and of glory. With whom is no variableness – No change in his understanding. Or shadow of turning – in his will. He infallibly discerns all good and evil; and invariably loves one, and hates the other. There is, in both the Greek words, a metaphor taken from the stars, particularly proper where the Father of lights is mentioned. Both are applicable to any celestial body, which has a daily vicissitude of day and night, and sometimes longer days, sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind. He is mere light. If there Is any such vicissitude, it is in ourselves, not in him.”

Wesley’s explanation is good I believe even if the language is a bit dated. I was to talk about the application of this however. The whole of scripture must be taken together. In that spirit, I want to talk about how this practically fits in with our lives and how we choose to live them. We are, upon salvation, called to be Christ like. That means that we are called to live a life as He did…we are called to be a good and perfect gift. We are called not to evil, but to holiness. Called to be a gift that tends to glory. In our bickering, how are we a good and perfect gift? In our insulting of each other, how are we being a good and perfect gift? How often is it that we are confusing our lusts- the lust to be right, to be liked, to be heard, to be famous or rich or etc etc etc…and then claim it as from God? To often I suspect.

We are to be Christ like. Christ came into the world not to condemn it, but to save it. That should be our mission as well. That does not mean that we ignore or condone sin, but rather we seek to show people a better way. Saying something is a sin is not condemnation. Jesus stood not only as a voice for those that did not have one, but took action as well. He didn’t just talk about feeding the hungry, He did it as well. We, like Jesus need to be sure that our words are balanced by our deeds. Talking about it is not enough, we must take action as well. We can not just hear the word, we must live the word. Jesus prayer was “Thy will be done”. Ours needs to be as well. Christ stands alone as the only pure example of a good and perfect gift from above and He is the example we are to follow. My hope and prayer for all of us will now include that we become closer each day to being a good and perfect gift in a badly flawed world. I hope yours will as well.

It’s all in the space

God Father

(Photo credit: NeilsPhotography)

There are a numerous amount of prosperity, believe it and achieve it type pastors out there, and I want to begin by laughing at them and their flawed concept of scripture. They would have you believe that if you are “good” you will somehow be rewarded and if you have not been rewarded you are not good enough, have not given enough etc. I am going to be talking about positive attitude, but not in that framework.

I do believe that a positive attitude is valuable for the Christian faith. God is love, light, truth. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, so maintaining a positive attitude makes those things easier to find in the world. I don’t mean to minimize the sinful nature of the world, but rather to glorify God as He has revealed Himself to us through Christ and the scriptures, so that in the n=midst of the sinful nature of the world, we find the things that are of God. A positive attitude makes this easier as we view the world through our eyes. Our attitude will affect what we see. There are those who will say that God is no where to be found, but we, with a healthy and positive attitude can see Him much easier and refute the claim.

Some will tell you that a positive attitude will change things. They are wrong. No matter how positive your attitude, you will not make more money (although you may become a better employee and advance further), you will not stop hunger (although you may see the beauty of the hungry and become possessed of a desire to ease their suffering), it will not stop disasters (but it may allow you to see the opportunity to show God’s love by aiding in the recovery). The trend here is pretty simple to follow really, a positive attitude will not change anything…except you. I won’t say that a positive attitude is necessary in order to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, but it is a big help and makes the process of transformation much easier.

Finally, our attitude, whether positive or negative will slant how we view the world around us. Some of the cliches are true. Do we see problems or do we see opportunity? Are we overcome and paralyzed by suffering or do we see the chance to show love? Do we pray hoping for answers or do we pray that God will send us as the answer? These things and so many more are the results of something so basic as our attitude.

So to the overall topic really…the space. How do we fill the space in our lives? When we allow God to fill those spaces with His word and His mercy (both are necessary) then that space is filled with truth and love and our attitude naturally reflects that. When we do not allow God to do this, then our attitude sours as does our view of the world. People will notice. We claim to be Christians, then we need to represent that all the time. In the grocery store checkout that is to long, at the red light behind the car that won’t go on green, on the highway when we are cut off, etc. Those around us are going to notice and by our actions each and every moment, they are going to consciously or unconsciously make one of two observations. They are going to look and think “God is nowhere” or they will look and think “God is now here”. The witness that we show the world will be one of those two things…and if you look closely, it is all about the space.

 

 

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Michael Jackson on schism

Schism is the topic of the day of course, so far be it from me to try and deviate. I have come to a few more conclusions about it however…oddly enough from Michael Jackson. (I am also beginning to think that the only spiritual gift I may have is the ability to find God in the strangest of places. I also think that is the greatest gift God could have given me.) There is so much talk about the UMC breaking up and the reasons why, I would like to submit what I think is the real reason that the church is on the verge of schism…it is us. Yes, it is true, we have met the enemy of the UMC, and it is us.

Make no mistake, things in the UMC need to change. I think that the bureaucracy is to clunky to be effective, I think that there is room to discuss and possibly change how things are governed and the like, etc. but none of those things are actually going to change anything. If there is to be change in the church, then it needs to start with Michael Jackson…it needs to start with the man in the mirror.
“I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change”

With all this talk of schism, of withholding money, of all the donations to the fringe groups. How many plates of food do not go to the hungry? How many blankets do not go to the cold? How many people do not hear of God’s love, let alone experience it through the generosity of Christians? What would Michael say?
“As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favorite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin’ My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That’s Why I Want You To
Know…”

All of us are talking about love of God and love for people, but I can not help but believe that we are possessed of a humanly selfish love and not the Love that God calls us to show. How is it that we can talk about the unconditional love of God and then promptly try to leave our brothers and sisters? This is not about positions, it is about the relationship we have with one another and the responsibility we have to one another. That love, relationship and responsibility of course stems from God, but must be carried out by us. What would Michael say?
“I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It’s Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They’re Not
Alone?

A Widow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody’s Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya’ See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That’s Why I’m Starting With
Me”
The issue of schism is not really a problem of the church of God it is a problem with the people of God. It is our problem when we seek ways to separate instead of finding ways to stay together. It is our problem when we love being right more than we love God. It is our problem when we see the man in the mirror instead of seeing the reflection of God in the mirror. That is why I am listening to the theology of Michael…that’s why I am starting with the man in the mirror.

Brazil: A Country of Contradictions.

Now purported to be the 5th or 6th economy of the world… or somewhere in-between.

I may be biased here, I warn you. I am a Brazilian by birth who never felt comfortable with the “nanny” state that it represented. Since my youth, even without any formal training on economics, I somehow sensed that one day that the bubble of “assistentialism” would either burst or turn into full blown “hybrid socialism” where cake and circus would be given to the people to maintain them voting for the people who were offering them those two meager essentials in life.

I may also be biased due to the fact that I served Brazil in the Armed Forces right at the height  of its Military Regime in the 70′s and I just loved that Regime and was loyal to it and still fell lonesome for it. I have been living in America, as an American Citizen for a long time now and have known the two realities, of a group of Generals who were counted as middle to upper class, who died poor, and a bunch of bandits who didn’t have so much as a place to fall dead now become millionaires with a corrupt extreme left leaning country, building airports in Cuba, bringing Cuban doctors (actually agents) to Brazil and offering the Mozambican Communist Army a place to offer security during the World Cup, I mean, armed security.

It is also a country where politicians vow to remove any mention of the nuclear family, words such as “mother, father, sister, brother, from any official document, especially into its failed school system, from one where in the elementary school I could mention every part of the human body by its scientific name, which even today causes American doctors look upon me with admiration, as for example when I say “renal functions” rather than “kidneys” or when I tell my optometrist words such as “hyperopia” to explain my right eye condition, to a school system where students rank close to the last in the world and purely indoctrinating public schools are in shambles and ran by gangs (I think that is happening somewhere else in the world…).

Once a Roman Catholic country, and still identified as so, Brazil’s Roman Catholicism, due the Vatican’s obsession to keep numbers and make false claims of membership numbers, is amalgamated with African cults and sects, names of Christian saints and even deities are identified by an African deity counterpart that have nothing to do with the work Christians believe the Christian deities have performed through the centuries; Brazil is also a “mystical Pentecostal” country where ministers have rallies in football (soccer) stadiums to “cast out demons” and use huge amount of donated money to perform these rites on television against the African cult believers, which has turned this staged fight into a marketing tool to increase the numbers of adherents on both parts. The contradiction lies on the fact that the Roman Catholic Church, both against the mystical Pentecostal (if there is any other kind…) and the African cults, and a third force, the atheist speech  of communists,  remains very influential and powerful among the powerful.

Oh, but Brazil can produce alternative fuels and dig for oil! That they can do like no one else. For many years the majority of the vehicles (and their drivers) are moved by alcohol, sugar cane alcohol, and Petrobras is increasingly producing and exporting oil to the whole world.

Another thing we can do: play football, (soccer I mean, not the localized provincial sport practiced with the hand played in America). The major clubs of the world have at least two or three Brazilian players in their rosters. The UEFA Champion League Finals will be played by two teams that have, about half of the Brazilian National team players. After Pelé, we had Ronaldo, still have Ronaldinho Gaucho (to distinguish him from Ronaldo),  Davi Luis, William, Neymar, Kaká (a preacher and future pastor as per his own words) and many others that are too numerous to mention, including a few that the countries where they played naturalized them so they can play for them in the World Cup, such as Diego Costa and Tiago Mota.

Man and the country is corrupt! After the Generals whom I protected as a special elite guard in the 70′s, the country chose to go for direct elections (from indirect elections during the generals’ days), where voting is mandatory whether you know what you’re doing or not, even for foreigners like me with dual citizenship living abroad. Corruption is a good leading word for the subject of the World Cup!

Due to the insatiable hunger for public money Brazil is now the host of the World Cup (World for Brazilians means WORLD not New Jersey playing against a team in Boston). Teams from the whole world dispute during three years for the right to be on the top teams who will play the World Cup which this year, in about 30 days starts in Brazil. Corruption has marred the World Cup. The people addicted to government supported hospitals, and benefits such as health and schooling (education means something else), lost the best of what they have because Brazil needed to build stadiums to fit the FIFA (international organization that rules football), and using moneys that will no longer go to the benefits, the entitlement addicted people. Communists now remove from the people what they promised because that is convenient for them since, after all, Cuba needed an airport. In this dire scenario this link shows what is happening, has happened recently and will still happened during the World Cup, that is, if the Mozambican Army (weaker than the Brazilian army) that, as I mentioned above will be part of the security forces during the World Cup, doesn’t kill every protester: (I will post the entire link rather than just a hyper-linked word.

http://www.aol.com/article/2014/05/15/brazil-police-clash-with-anti-world-cup-protesters/20886920/?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000058&

Yes, I am biased! But “against facts there is no argument” a known Brazilian (Portuguese, Brazil’s language) saying. Corruption and communism are facts. I am glad I am out of there and as I said to a Brazilian Consulate official in Chicago, a rough man who was mistreating me when I visited there once: “I thank God that being Brazilian was not an incurable disease for me. I’ve been cured, and yes, I miss the Generals!”

I wish you enough.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.”