Mystery

Art:

I STARTED THIS  ‘mixed medium’ piece of art this Summer as an Ink with Pen and Brush.  I wasn’t too happy with the outcome and decided to add Watercolor.  Still not too satisfied with the finished work, but I did learn some things.

I am using it for today’s Thought—‘mystery’—as a representation of means (Church and nature) through which we may discover answers.

Thought:

‘Mystery’

I ASKED MARJ another question over breakfast Sunday morning: “What makes a ‘mystery’ a ‘mystery’?”  Her answer: “Do you mean, like, in a movie?… I guess it’s not knowing the answer.” I can go with that for a definition: A ‘mystery’ is not knowing the answer. 

Generally, in a novel or movie, the answer to the ‘mystery’ is either quickly shown the viewer in the first minute or two but hidden from the character whose job it is to solve the mystery, until the end. You get to watch the process.  Or, we watched a TV ‘mystery’ last week that kept us, as well as the investigator, unaware of the answer util the last few minutes. I like to try and ‘solve’ the mystery as part of the challenge.  What about you?

Richard Rohr

Earlier this year I read a blog written by Richard Rohr that caught my attention.  It has caused me to think about two words and how they are (or are not) related: ‘mystery’ and ‘mystic’. Our Thought word ‘mystery’ for this blog comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message.

—Colossians 1:26-27, The Message

Mystery of Christ in You

“The Christ Mystery that Paul speaks of in Colossians is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything. Paul was a mystic of the first magnitude, which explains why he was able to see Christ everywhere. When I use the word “mystic” I am referring to experiential knowing instead of just textbook or dogmatic knowing. The difference tends to be that the mystic sees things in their wholeness, their connection, their universal and divine frame, instead of just their particularity. Mystics get the whole gestalt in one picture, as it were, and thus they go beyond our more sequential and separated way of seeing the moment. In this they tend to be closer to poets and artists than to linear thinkers.

“Obviously, there is a place for both perspectives, but since the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there has been less and less appreciation of such seeing in wholes. We limited ourselves to rational knowing and the scientific method. So in our time, this deep mode of seeing must be approached as something of a reclamation project. After the Western Church separated from the East in the Great Schism of 1054, we gradually lost the profound understanding of how God has been liberating and loving all that is.”[1]

Am I a ‘Mystic’?

Am I a ‘mystic’?  I think Yes in one sense and No in another. I am a ‘mystic’ in that I have a spiritual union with God through the indwelling Spirit of Jesus.  I am not a ‘mystic’ in the sense that everything is God and God is everything. I consider a better spelling for followers of Jesus could be myster[ic]As a ‘mysteric’ I am one who believes in the ‘mystery’ as I see Paul uses it in Colossians, but not what might be understood as worshipping the creation rather than the creator.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.   Genesis 2:15

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Deuteronomy 5:8

He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  Colossians 1:17


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr Blog Meditation,  Summer 2021

Grace

Art:

I PAINTED THIS sunrise Acrylic of the pond in front of our home in Rosemount, MN in June.

I chose it for today’s Thought—‘Grace’—because I see here the difficulty of separating the ‘fountain’ from the ‘pond’ in the full ‘water feature’.  

Thought:

The Question

I POSED THIS thought to Marj over breakfast the other day: If someone asked you; how would you define the difference between ‘love’ and ‘grace’?   After a few seconds she responded: “I would have to think about that.” Excellent answer! Where does one even start to answer such a question?  Both words are familiar to us. ‘Grace’ may more often be associated with church or legal documents. But ‘love’, in some context, is with us every day. Question: So, why bother asking in the first place? Answer: Because, …

That week, I had picked up Philip Yancey’s 1997 book What’s so Amazing About GRACE?  I first read, in 1998 then again in 2008 and 2014.  I wanted to review his thoughts on ‘grace’.  I hope I ‘ve grown in my understanding during each gap between my reading of books. All this to say that I was uncomfortable with one thought Yancey expressed… ‘the most important word in the Bible is ‘grace’’.  At least on the surface, that did not fit with my vote for first choice—‘love’.  Which is it? Is there a difference?

The Debate

“DURING A BRITISH conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, was unique to the Christian faith.  They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation?  Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form.  Resurrection?  Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.  The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.  “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.  Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

“After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.  The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.  The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.  Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.” [1]

The Presence

I FOUND IT INTERESTING that to make the case as to why ‘grace’ was touted as “Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions” (or, the most important word in the bible) it was necessary to connect ‘grace’ with “God’s unconditional love”.  Which comes first: ‘love’ or ‘grace’?  Is this something like the chicken or egg question?  Defining these two biblical words may help. My current definitions are:

The Definitions?

LOVE’ IS TO WILL or promote the good of others. We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake. ‘Love’ seeks the good of what is loved. ‘Love’ is born of an earnest contemplation of the object (person) loved. And ‘love’ follows knowledge. “…God is ‘love’” 1 John 4:8

GRACE’ IS GOD ACTING in our life to do what we cannot do on our own.  ‘Grace’ is not opposed to effort, but to earning.  Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. ‘Grace’ is not just about forgiveness.  His ‘Grace’ is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.  Followers of Jesus use grace like a 747 jet burns fuel on takeoff![2]

The Summary

SO, HOW WOULD I answer my question to Marj concerning defining the difference between ‘love’ and ‘grace’?  My answer is a work in progress.  I would not presume to seriously question Godly scholars like Philip Yancey or C. S. Lewis on any topic.  I respect both men and the work of the Spirit through their lives.  I do find it difficult to separate the two ideas.  To me it will always be: ‘Love’/’Grace’ or ‘Grace’/’Love’. I find it difficult to imagine one without the other.   

To me it is divine ‘grace’ when God in ‘love’ acts in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.  As we follow the ‘greatest commandment’ of Jesus (Matthew 22), the Trinity radiates ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5) to and through us into God’s creation.  God’s ‘Divine ‘Love’/’Grace’ supplies His intended results via our faithfulness, even though we may not follow perfectly.

This is the first and greatest commandment  Matthew 22:38

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9


[1] What’s So Amazing About GRACE by Philip D. Yancey, 1997  p. 45

[2] These ‘definitions’ are drawn together from various sources in my reading including Thomas Aquinas and  the late Dallas Willard being primary

Artists

Art:

WITH THE HELP of Bob Ross, this is my first Oil painting completed after Christmas in December 1997. It hardly seems like a quarter century since Marj gave me that Bob Ross Oil Painting set with book, video, paint, and brushes.

Since retirement fifteen years ago I have had more time to spend with Art in Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor and Ink with Pen and Brush.

Thought:

Art As Service

MY ATTENTION WAS captured last week by one of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations: ‘Art as Service’. He said,“Few of us feel called to be formal or fine artists, but all of us are called to be creators. Each of us is called to bring creativity, purpose, and passion to our vocation, no matter what it is. Artist and author Julia Cameron reminds us that we will know what ours is ‘to do’ when we are open to the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit in service to others. She writes:

‘In centuries past, art was made for the honor and glory of God. Viewed in this light, a career in the arts was a career of service, not egotism. There is a cue there for us. The dedication of our work to a higher cause than our own self-promotion frees the work from preciousness. It becomes not about how good we are but about how good we can be in selfless service to something larger than ourselves…

‘When we make our art in a spirit of service, it lightens the burden of our ego. It makes for clarity of focus, purity of intent, and follows a spiritual law that might be simply stated as “Form follows function.” When the “form” of our work is open to higher consciousness, its function is raised as well.’”

I might ask where is the creative, artistic spark God has placed in you shining into your world? I thought sharing answers to questions, sometimes ask of me, might be helpful for you and for your influence on someone else. Here they are:

Q:  When did you, or someone else, first realize you had art talent?

SOMETIME IN THE second grade the picture of a white bird on the wall at my aunt’s house caught my attention.  I ‘drew’ it and the adults said it looked like the one on the wall.

Q: How did you train to develop your art ability?

  • In high school I purchased a copy of How To Be A Chalk Artist, by George Sweeting.   I built an easel, used black light, ordered supplies, and created a few public chalk presentations for Church Youth events.
  • Not long after Marj and I were married I responded to an ad from the Famous Artists Schools in Westport, Connecticut, and enrolled in a three-year correspondence art course.  Despite a very busy life, I finished and received my “Certificate of Recognition” August 14, 1964. 
  • Fourteen years after we began ministry in Minnesota, Marj gave me a Bob Ross Oil Painting Master Paint Set  for Christmas, with an instruction book and video.  I completed my first Oil painting (the one shown above) that December 1997.
  • For my birthday in 2007, one of our sons and his wife gave me a copy of the classic book, Rendering in Pen and Ink, by Arthur L. Guptill.  From time to time over the years I have subscribed to Art magazines.

Q:  Who are your favorite Artists:

FOUR OF MY MORE contemporary favorites are: Terry Redlin, Thomas Kinkade, G. Harvey, and Andrew Tischler.  Dozens of other have been a great inspiration.

JULIA CAMERON CONTINUED… “We disenfranchised ourselves from our birthright as creators and we lost the understanding that art was an act of the soul and not of the ego. Whenever we take art back to the realm of the sacred, whenever we make it an act of service in any form . . . we again experience the ease of creative flow and the lessening of our creative doubts.”

Q:  How can you encourage yourself  and others in the development of art skills?

IF YOU EVER feel the urge to draw, don’t hesitate!  Don’t talk yourself out of it because you think it won’t be any good.  You will be exercising a part of yourself created in the image of God (the creator of all creation) to create! Just take pencil to paper and do it! Encourage children and other adults to do the same!


For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

Police

Art:

I chose his Acrylic to demonstrate beauty when White and Black are blended.

Thought:

OUR OLDELLST SON, Jim and wife Suzi have five children, all adopted.  The three oldest self-identify as “Group A” Guatemalan. ‘Group B’ came along ten years later as ‘twins’ of African-American descent. The kids are all grown now, but whenever they would go anywhere as a family they got interesting looks. Two white people with three Hispanic kids and two Black kids brought a mixed bag of reactions. Jim publishes a weekly blog, ‘Engager Dynamics’.  In our present culture, I thought you would be interested in Jim’s August 23, post,  “A White Cop and a Black Kid’..

The Car

THE TWO YOUNGER ones got jobs and so they needed transportation. They borrowed some money from their big brother and bought a modest sedan from a small dealer. That was just as the pandemic was shutting everything down back in March of 2020. The DMV was one of those entities that shut down. The dealer turned in the paperwork for the sale of the car by mail and paid the fees. For months no tags or registration came so the kids drove on the temporary dealer plate.

As I write this in August of 2021, they still have not received the registration and plates for that car. The DMV is conducting an investigation into what happened. The dealer paid the fees as his receipts show but somehow the system shows them still outstanding on the car so it won’t issue tags. It’s quite a mystery and it puts the kids in a quandary. The car is not technically legal, but they still need to get to work. So, they’ve been driving it.

The Black Kid

OUR YOUNGEST SON, Jordan, is a winsome and gregarious young man who seems like a natural at whatever he decides to try. He is an athlete musician. In High School, he ran track, swam, played water polo, and was in the band. In band he easily picked up and switched back and forth between multiple instruments, woodwinds, and brass. He also loves helping children and was involved in a high school program that mentored children with disabilities.

When our family moved to China for two years, Jordan and his sister were nine years old. I guess that was just the right age for him to catch a bug for living overseas. He’s dreamed of moving overseas since then. A Multi-Country European excursion with two friends right after High School graduation only added fuel to that fire. He also has a knack for languages. I remember how funny it was to see this young black boy successfully hail a cab and tell the driver where we wanted to go … in Mandarin! In High School he studied German.

He recently completed a course in teaching English as a second language and has accepted a job offer to teach next year at a small school in Spain. Seems like a fitting combination for him. He’s very excited and is working and saving money to make the move. He even opened a Go-Fund-Me page to help raise moving money.

The White Cop

AS A RESULT of the car tag fiasco, Jordan has been pulled over no less than five times for the expired dealer tag. Each time has resulted in a warning to get the situation corrected. He has a court date later next month but still needs to get to work so he continues to drive, often late at night when he closes at the fast-food restaurant where he works.

On a recent stop, after the usual explaining why he’s driving the car like that, the running of the driver’s license, and the officer telling him to get it taken care of, the cop didn’t ask him to step out of the car or begin to search him or draw his weapon, instead, he started making conversation. During the conversation, he heard about Jordan’s plans to teach English in Spain.  Then he asked an unexpected question, “Do you have a Go-Fund-Me?” Jordan was a bit startled by the question but told him he did, and the conversation ended shortly after that when the officer had to get on with his work.

Later that day, Jordan got a notification that someone had contributed to his Go-Fund-Me account. He looked to see who it was and was surprised to find that the officer who pulled him over had donated to his fund.

That’s not what you might expect to read these days when you see a title like “A White Cop and a Black Kid” so thought this might be a good story to share in the current climate. Thank you for reading.’


…if it is to encourage, then give encouragement  Romans 12:8

Family

Art:

I drew this Ink with Pen & Brush of our home on Derby Circle in Rosemount, Minnesota two Summers ago. We moved from Andover, MN almost three years ago to be nearer our two sons and to have a home without stairs.  We love it!

I use it this week in keeping with our Thought— ‘Family’.  We moved from 2,200 to 1,500.  Sq. feet. You’ll see the significance below.  

Thought:

The Invitation

THE ‘GENESIS’ for today’s Thought began two years ago with an invitation.  Marj and I invited her younger sisters (Sharon, 75 and Lana, 69 ) to be our guests and join us for a couple days in Mackinaw, Michigan, in early September. We drove across Wisconsin on US 8 and connected with US 2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  They drove from Royal Oak and Eaton Rapids, Michigan, to meet us in Mackinaw. We had a great time and ended with a plan to meet at our home in Minnesota next year–2020. COVID-19 changed everything.

The Question

LAST MONTH MARJ received a message from sister Sharon with a question: “Will we ever be able to visit you in Minnesota again?”  It had been ten years since they drove here for a visit when we lived in Andover. We had been back to the Detroit area only one time. Marj’s response was essentially: “Is that a possibility!?”  Sharon: “I haven’t even talked to Lana about the idea yet… Let me check!” Lana was 100% in agreement and the wheels were in motion.  No pun intended. Sharon uses a walker and wheelchair and has no driver’s license.  She is not fond of flying and doesn’t have proper ID to purchase a ticket.  They would need to drive.  Not a favorite thing for Lana.  Now what?  Walking was out of the question!

The Rescue

THE “KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR”, from two years ago, surfaced again!  Hannah (Lana’s youngest of four daughters) loaned them her car in 2019 to drive to Mackinaw.  Now, hearing of the plan and transportation need, rearranged her ‘work from home’ schedule and rented a larger vehicle to drive them to Minnesota. Their schedule was to depart for Minnesota August 5th, overnight in Janesville, WI, and arrive at our home Friday afternoon.  They would be here the full week and depart the following Saturday.  Hannah’s husband, Ben, would fly from Detroit to Minneapolis on Thursday evening and help drive back—a loving investment for ‘Family’ time from Hannah and Ben to make all this happen!  

The Serendipity

ONE OF MY PRAYER concerns has been how God’s love may flow through my life to our family in word and deed.  This is an extra challenge when family lives in so many different places.  A serendipitous event was about to unfold.  When family began to hear of the plan to visit with Marj and Jim in Minnesota…suddenly nearly everyone was looking for a way to be involved.  Lana’s daughter, Jodi, flew in from California for the first weekend. Daughter, Lori, and husband Phil drove in for the weekend from Kansas. Daughter, Sara, was not able to make the schedule. Our sons and family from Apple Valley and Hastings joined for the first Saturday.  Our son Jim and Suzi, (in the midst of planning their move from California to Nebraska) could not make it work with such short notice.  Total number involved at some point in the week was nearly twenty. 

The Accommodations

DID I MENTION we scaled back to 1,500 sq. ft. of living space?  Where will they sleep?  Marj and I are part of a Small Group Bible Study that meets every other week.  We begin each week with sharing our “Highs and Lows” since we last met.  Our “High” was the family that was coming! Our “Low (challenge)” where will they sleep? Two couples offered their guest room for the whole week if we needed it.  As it turned out, we only needed to use one guest offer for Hannah and Ben.  Thank you, Shari and John!

The Purpose

MY PRAYER FOR MORE opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to family was answered in a big way.  Thank you, Lord! Marj’s sisters, Sharon and Lana, spent the full week with us.  Friday night everyone arriving from out of town gathered in our home for dinner. Saturday – Friday we all met at Steve and Lona’s for evening meals with various ‘Family’ members providing food and cooking meals. We went from a simple question: “Will we ever be able to visit you in Minnesota again?” to a great celebration of love with “Family”. I trust you have had similar experiences with “Family” this Summer.


No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  1 John 4:12

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.                          

Romans 12:10

Counterculture

Gandhi

Art:

I COMPLETED this Ink with Pen & Brush two weeks ago.  As with the Art piece last week, I liked the simple style that allows a specific focus in the composition.

I chose it for our Thought—‘Gandhi’—because I see the small fluffy bird as a non-violent contribution to God’s natural environment for everyone.  

Thought:

Gandhi

I ENJOY READING about the lives of many who lived, and continue to live, in our history and biographical books. One of those is Mohandas Gandhi born October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India. Christian missionary E. Stanley Jones (1884-1937) was a professor at Asbury Seminary before becoming a Methodist missionary to India. He became friends with Gandhi and wrote a biography of Gandhi.

The Key Question

“GANDHI’S RELATIONSHIP with Christian faith was long and complex.  Although he never joined the Christian religion, he loved Christ and wanted Indian culture to welcome what Christ had to offer, his famous interchange with E. Stanley Jones, made this clear. Jones asked, “I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in India, so that it shall no longer be a foreign thing identified with a foreign people and a foreign government but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift and redemption.  What would you suggest we do to make that possible?”

First of all…

“GANDHI REPLIED, “I would suggest, first of all, that all of your Christian missionaries and all, begin to live more like Jesus Christ”.  Reflecting on Gandhi’s statement, Jones commented, “He needn’t have said anything more—that was quite enough.  I knew that looking through, his eyes were the three hundred million of India, and speaking through his voice were the …millions of the East saying to me, …  ‘If you will come to us in the spirit of your Master, we cannot resist you.”’

Second, I would…

“GANDHI CONTINUED, “Second, I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down,” And again, Jones commented. “The greatest living non-Christian asked us not to adulterate or tone it down, not to meet them with an emasculated gospel, but to take it in its rugged simplicity and high demand.  But what are we doing? As someone has suggested we are inoculating the world with a mild form of Christianity, so that it is now practically immune against the real thing.”

Third, I would…

“GANDHI THEN SAID, “Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity.”.  Once more, Jones observed, “He did not mean love as a sentiment, but love as a working force, the one real power in a moral universe, and he wanted it applied between individuals and groups and races and nations, the one cement and salvation of the world.”

Fourth, I would…

“GANDHI CONCLUDED: “Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.” On these four points, the Hindu leader and Christian missionary were in full agreement.  We might call them four cornerstones of four foundations for Christian identity in a multi-faith world.  But I think it would be better to imagine movement rather than motionlessness, so we can think of them as four pistons in an engine or four wheels on a car.”[1]

Practical Application

I SUSPECT OTHER, more contemporarily ‘heroes of the faith’, now only accessible in history and biography books, would agree with this summary if asked the same question as E. Stanley Jones asked Gandhi: “I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in America, …contributing its power to America’s uplift and redemption… What would you suggest we do to make that possible?”

  • Begin to live more like Jesus Christ.
  • Practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down.
  • Put your emphasis upon love.
  • Study [listen to] …culture…so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.

This is a challenge I desire to join with the Holy Spirit of Jesus, to bring light into darkness!

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12


…when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  1 Peter 4:2


[1] Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, Cross the Road? Jericho Books 2012, Brian D. McLaren, p. 267-269

Hope

Art:

I completed this simple Ink with Pen & Brush this July.  I was inspired by the way this setting graphically expressed the meaning behind a powerful definition by Tertullian (155 AD – 220 AD) a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.

Our Thought for today is “Hope”.  Tertullian wrote, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.”  When I first read his words, I was struck by the power of the word picture.  So, this is my graphic attempt to express Tertullian’s thought.

Thought:

A True Art Form

IT SEEMS TO ME it’s an art form when someone can capture the essence of an idea with the fewest of words in one concise expression. Tertullian grabbed my attention with his pithy definition — “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” My mind was drawn back to Tertullian’s African nights, less than 200 years after the ascension of Jesus.  The only means of light was the flame of a lamp.  Travel was difficult.  Nighttime travelers were especially faced with dangers.  When expecting a friend who would not arrive until well into the darkest of night, your choice was: Have hope for your friend’s safe arrival; light a lamp in your window and wait patiently. 

Parents Understand

MARJ AND I, along with parents around the world, identify with the ‘Hope’ expressed by Tertullian as we awaited the arrival of our child’s drive home for Christmas beak from college in the first real snowstorm of the season.  Our ‘Hope’ is for the safe arrival of our child.  We have the lamp (electric in our time) lit in our windows and (as in the Ink above) mugs are out for a cup of hot chocolate as soon as we have wrapped our arms around them in a huge from-the-heart “Welcome Home!”  The whole experience was a kind of prayer for our child.  Later, in the quietness of our time alone and just before sleep sets in, we have turned off the light and whisper, “Thank you, Lord!” 

Paraphrase of Romans 5:3-5

I ENJOY THE WAY Eugene Peterson paraphrases Romans 5:3-5 in The Message. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue,[hope] keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!   Romans 5:3-5 [MSG]

Other Definitions

“HOPE IS AN optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” –Wikipedia

“Hope” is commonly used to mean a wish: its strength is the strength of the person’s desire. But in the Bible hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness.

More About Hope

THE ANCHOR is a Christian symbol for ‘Hope’ and steadfastness. The source for this symbol is Hebrews 6:19, We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain   Anchors are found in many inscriptions in the catacombs of Rome.   The Christian church color for “Hope” is often green.

‘Hope’ is key to our existence, to our ability to persevere and to achieve goals. Indeed, research shows hope is key to our physical and mental well-being and that it can promote healthy lifestyle behaviors.

‘Hope’ has been among the top 1,000 names given to girls born in the United States since 1880 and has been among the top 500 since 1909. It was ranked as the 231st most popular name for girls born in 2011 in the United States, down from its peak ranking of No. 144 in 1999. Could this change be connected to world events?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5 6

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Doctrine?

Art:

THIS OIL WAS completed sometime before 2012.  As I recall, I was influenced by a Thomas Kincade painting.

I featured this piece with a prior blog, but use it today, because of its summer season and Church structure.  Most people connect our Thought—“Doctrine”—with religion and churches.   

Thought:

Definition

I LIKE WHAT author Diana Butler Bass said: “Indeed, the word doctrine, a word fallen on hard times in contemporary culture, actually means a “healing teaching” from the French word for doctor.  The creeds, as doctrinal statements, were intended as healing instruments, life-giving words that would draw God’s people into a deeper engagement with divine things.  When creeds become fences to mark the borders of heresy, they lose their spiritual energy. Doctrine is to be the balm of a healing experience of God not a theological scalpel to wound and exclude people.”[1]

Past Influence

“DOCTRINAL” FENCES or walls have been passed on through and influenced by historical events. Much of the strong/hostile/oppositional identity we find in the Christin faith today springs from the influential history of Western Roman-Imperial Christianity in the tradition of the Emperor Constantine. The word Christendom could be a rough synonym for Roman-Imperial Christianity in the Catholic and Protestant forms.  Eastern Orthodoxy certainly has areas of overlap with Western Christendom, along with many differences” [2]  Such walls divide “them” and “us” leaving little ground for the love of Jesus’, through his followers, to take root and bear fruit.

Brian’s True Story

“I HAD LUNCH a few years ago in an Afghan restaurant with my Muslim friend Ahmad, who is an imam.  I asked him to tell me how he came to be an imam.  And what he loves most about Islam.  He shared from his heart, and I was deeply moved.  Then he asked, “How would you respond to that same question? How did you become a pastor and what do you love about Christianity?”  I followed from his example and shared from my heart too, starting like this: “Well, could I begin by telling you what I love about Jesus?”

            “When I paused a few minutes later, our eyes met, and I could see my friend was uncomfortable “What’s wrong?”  I asked.  “Did I say something that offended you?”

            “Oh no, no, no, no.” he said. “I suddenly realized that everything I have heard about Christianity until now I learned from my fellow Muslims, and they passed on to me the misunderstandings they learned from other Muslims.  Until now I have never listened to a sincere Christian explain his faith as a love for Jesus, peace and blessing be upon him.  I have been so terribly misinformed, and I have likewise misinformed others. I feel so sorry, so sorry. From now on I will more adequately share with my congregation what Christianity truly is, because now I have learned it from a Christian who knows firsthand, not a Muslim who only passed on what he has heard.”

            “He paused, and then added, “When you say that you love Jesus, it fills my heart with joy.  We Muslims love Jesus, too.  We believe Jesus is a great prophet and we love him dearly.  So, you and I—we have this in common.  We both love Jesus”

            “At that moment, I could have said; “But Ahmad, you don’t think of Jesus in the same way we do.  So, your love for Jesus doesn’t count.” Then I could have entered into an argument to set him right. Instead, I asked him what it meant for him as a Muslim to call Jesus a great prophet.  His response surprised me. Believing that Jesus was a great prophet meant that God was speaking to all humanity through Jesus.  It meant that Jesus’ word and example must be followed, and that God would evaluate us against the measure of Jesus’ life and teaching.” [3]

            TO ME THE SIMPLEST definition of “Doctrine”, in its purest meaning, is JESUS. He is not a ‘wall’ or ‘fence’ between but rather, a ‘bridge’ for a relationship between all who seek to follow him.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  John 14:23

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  John 10:27


[1] Diana Butler Bass, Christianity after Religion (New York; Harper One, 2012), pp 134,135.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Jericho Books, p 99

[3] Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, Jericho Books, p 134-135

Metanoia

Art:

Last week I completed this mixed medium (Ink with Pen & Brush plus Watercolor) based on a photograph forwarded to me by a friend.  I like the composition, contrast of light and dark, early morning sunrise, and wilderness setting.  

I chose it for our ‘Thought’—“Metanoia”—as a physical example of change from seeing something one way to another.  In this case, from darkness of night to dawn, with promise of full light in a new day. 

Thought:

What is “Metanoia”

WHAT IS “METANOIA”? In Greek it means “turn around,” or“change your mind.” In English its often translated “repent”.  We experience ‘Metanoia’ on a regular basis. We thought one way and now we think differently. We change our mind…our thinking. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

Childhood Example

BIRTH THROUGH second grade I lived with paternal grandparents and believed Santa Clause brought presents at Christmas. It was exciting.  Then it happened. When in first grade someone said: “There is no Santa Clause.” I thought the kid had lost his mind.  I couldn’t wait to prove him wrong. I ask Grandma and Grandpa.  To my shock they explained Santa Clause was just a make-believe story for fun. “What about the Easter Bunny?” … “Tooth Fairy”?   Same answer!  “Metanoia”!  

Kingdom of God “Metanoia”

I BECAME A FOLLOWER of Jesus as a Sophomore in High School. I was taught that my sins had been taken away by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, followed by his resurrection and ascension.  He placed the Holy Spirit in my life and would one day return and take me into the Kingdom of God for eternity. That was called the ‘Gospel’ or ‘good news’. I don’t doubt that truth, but the more I studied the Bible, the more I experienced “Metanoia”. The ‘good news’ includes more than that. I enter the Kingdom of God with eternal kind of life the moment I become a follower of Jesus. I am still in this physical body and after my physical death, will continue that eternal kind of life without end.   

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ Philippians 3:20

MATTHEW WANTS to show that Jesus has come to proclaim and to establish “the kingdom of God.” Jesus says, “Turn around! [metanoia, repent] The kingdom of heaven is near [now]” (Matthew 4:17). The realm of God is right here, right now, in the present tense. The relationship with God’s love that sets us free is in our midst. We must have the humility and trust to turn around and see it.

Experience the Kingdom

“JESUS FORMS A movement of people who trust him and believe his message. They believe that they don’t have to wait for this or that to happen, but, rather, that they can begin living in a new and better way now. A way of life Jesus conveys by the pregnant phrase kingdom of God. Life for them now is about an interactive relationship—reconciled to God, reconciled to one another—and so they see their entire lives as an opportunity to make the beautiful music of God’s kingdom so that more and more people will be drawn into it, and so that the world will be changed by their growing influence. [1]

Transformation!

JESUS PREACHES to “turn around,” or in Greek metanoia, which literally means to“change your mind.”It does not mean self-flagellation or being down about ourselves, which is what the word “repent” has implied for most of us. It always involves an attitude of trust, letting go, and surrender. Originating with the Hebrew prophets, the biblical idea of metanoia is that of a change of mind and heart, a full turning around, a whole new transformation of one’s mentality and level of consciousness, more than “going to church” or following a new moral code. [2]


[Jesus said] As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Matthew 10:7

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him Luke 8:1

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. John 3:3


[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything (Thomas Nelson: 2006), 83.

[2] My “Metanoia” concerning the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ came to me some 25 years ago. Some of this wording I Adapted from a recent Richard Rohr Daily Blog.