A return to the Garden of Eden: nine things Jesus believed about marriage

We are stardust, we are golden

Caught in the devil’s bargain

And we’ve got to get ourselves, back to the Garden

– Joni Mitchell

Since my high school days, Joni was my go-to when it came to understanding women.  But when it comes to understanding God, I rely mostly on Jesus. Whenever Jesus talks about God and His intents and purposes, it is a good idea to listen, ponder, and expect at least a bit of it to make one uneasy. God is incomprehensible, the wise say. But Jesus has an inside track on His ways.

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Coach Patton addresses his troops

The difference between “fun” and joy

Saturday begins a new baseball season for me. For about the 15th season, I will lead a group of young boys, this season aged 7-8, into the glorious national pastime as a coach in the Northwest Christian Sports League.  Every season a group of parents put their young man in my charge for a few hours every week. It is a honor I do not take lightly, being a parent of six myself, I know how easy it is to have your child overlooked, and how an experience that was supposed to be fun for the child can instead become a real drag.

I always joke that I am best suited to coach young boys in baseball, because I have intimate knowledge of what it is like to be the worst player on the team.  Partly it was because I was low on the age and experience scale, as most players were into their second season in our division. And partly it is because I am, well, a pretty bad ballplayer. So I have special insight on what it is like to underachieve on the play fields of America. I was so bad in Little League(TM), I quit in mid-season. I didn’t mind so much being bad, I just didn’t understand the purpose of having me on the team. One day walking to school, a group of my former teammates came up to me, angry, and ready to rough me up.

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Stefan Molyneux and Cultural Self Hatred

Self hatred is not a useful response when attacked. Self examination is useful when reflection is called for, but dangerous when demanded by others in the political, cultural or military realm. Especially dangerous when demanded by opponents who are incapable of reciprocation. It won’t end well to capitulate under such circumstances.

I stumbled upon Stefan as a YouTube philosophy teacher while refreshing my own knowledge of our great pre-Christian tradition of philosophy. He didn’t appear to me to be very sympathetic or appreciative of the Christian use and (dare I say) “appropriation” of Aristotle. But he knew his stuff. This full throated defense of European culture in its proper perspective really surprised me. And he is right.

Our ability to self reflect in order to pursue peace and the higher good is good. But European civilization deserves a full throated defense against those in academia and politics who cannot seem to practice it, even as they insist others do so that their opponents disarm to appease them and their list of demands.

And, I am tired of ideological academics to the Marxist dialectics of power and oppression in matters of race and gender. It is ignorant and therefore foolish to do so. The Marxist dialectic was overly simplistic, dogmatic, and wrong in the discussion of economics in the days of the cold war. History is now repeating itself as farce in the use of it to fight the current wars over race, gender and culture.

 

Planes, Bikes, and Automobiles

Godspeed, then and now

All day Monday we watched the news of Superstorm Stella. My son has a three day training session scheduled for Chicago he needs to run and I am coming along to assist. The media attention was on the Northeast, mostly Boston and New York, but off to the side, there is talk that Chicago was scheduled to get a few inches as well. We checked the web, called the airlines, and wondered whether or not to get on standby that night for a red eye flight, or just take our chances with the morning flight reservations we had for today, Tuesday. We didn’t want to scramble to do the red eye standby thing, and pay the extra money for the hassle, but with some of our trainees coming in on international flights,  and already  quite likely en route, we definitely didn’t want to cancel the training.

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Jesus’s big homecoming

I thought I’d offer a chapter on a little book I’m working on about the life of Jesus. I’ve read a couple little books about Jesus, and both profoundly affected my life. It has been a dream of mine to write a similar book in hopes it would bless others like these two blessed me.

The Kingdom of God comes to Israel

Jesus’s public ministry really took hold in Galilee, a region of Israel 100 or so kilometers from Jerusalem. Following his first miraculous sign, the turning of water to wine, things really pick up, and the ministry of Jesus becomes the biggest thing going on in Israel since the days of Moses, David and the other heroes of the sacred writings of the Jews. The Jewish people were used to reading  and hearing about the great feats of Israel’s heroes: the collapse of the walls of Jericho, the feats of strength by Samson, the wonders and miracles of Elijah as he confronted the false prophets of Baal, calling down fire from heaven.

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Have you still not found what you’re looking for?

In my last post, I ruminated on the incredible power to die, not to kill, but to die for one’s beliefs. I imagine much of it comes from being a walking dead man. When I read the letter from Paul to the Romans (I am currently working on a book on the letter), it occurs to me that this is exactly what Paul encourages his flock of fellow believers to do: become walking dead men.

I am reminded of the soldier in the HBO series Band of Brothers, who is suffering from battle shock. Overcome by fear, he is shaking and useless on the battle field. At the end of a firefight in which he acquitted himself terribly, a brave fellow soldier comes up to him. He doesn’t slap him like a General Patton as he stands there shaking. Rather, he encourages him in the most strange and unreal way.

Paraphrasing from memory here: Your problem, he says, is that you are trying to save your life. What you need to realize is that you are dead. You are a walking dead man, and once you accept this, you will be able to fight. Then he walks away, ephemerally, the soldier looks at him like he just witnessed a ghost.

Easy to say, I suppose. Easy to understand intellectually. Harder, and maybe even impossible for most of us, to incorporate it as a truth in our lives.

But incorporate it the young man does. In the next episode or two, he takes the message to heart, and becomes the most valuable soldier in the unit. He fearlessly takes on every task.

Now, Paul is not telling his fellow believers to go out there and die, the deadly persecution has not taken place yet. Nero hasn’t yet blamed the Christians for the great fire. But what he explains is the key to overcoming the sin that entangles each reader is to recognize that, as a believer, you are dead to it. When a Christian is baptized, he is baptized into Jesus’s death.

A Christian is dead to sin. That is what Paul says. He was once a slave to sin. Now he is dead to sin. We can understand that intellectually, receive it by faith. But incorporating it into our lives? That is a totally different story. How do we actually live this truth?

Jesus put it this way:

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

The book I am working on is an attempt to help the Christian who has been baptized, follows Jesus, yet continues to fall again and again into temptation, and unable to be released from that damned thing. We are all walking around with a dead carcass, and like a zombie, the sin nature refuses to die, no matter how many bullets and incantations we throw at it.

Anyway, if that is something you are dealing with, allow me to suggest a key I learned. This is, as Jesus said, a daily thing – to pick up your cross.  The soldier probably faced his fears daily, and overcame them daily. Perhaps even in the moment of truth, when it was time to charge that bunker, his life he was saving was staring right back at him again. He had to remind himself he was a dead man walking.

Here’s my suggestion when you face that temptation directly, be it a whiskey bottle, a lovely garment at the mall, a web site, or an illicit lover. When that temptation comes, vocalize the truth hidden in your heart and in your bible. Say it out loud:

“I am crucified with Christ. I am dead to sin. Sin has no hold over me.”

Say it every morning if you wish. But the key, I think, is to say it when that temptation is hitting you square in the face. And don’t just think it in your heart. Say it. I think it is important to vocalize those things you believe, as a witness to distinguish between a good thought and a truth.

Tell me what happens.

 

How to win friends and influence capitols

 

I am personally a fan of the primitive Judeo-christian church. The men and women who spread out from ancient Jerusalem and Galilee throughout the Roman world after the crucifixion of Jesus are among the most remarkable people in history. Those who followed in their footsteps and example did something absolutely extraordinary.

We are all pretty familiar with the story of Jesus. He came to ancient Israel as the promised Messiah. He was not received by the religious and political authorities of Israel and, it can be said with a great deal of truth, that the reason for this is because they were looking for a political messiah, a great king who would save the Jewish nation from the boot of Rome. The message and life of Jesus didn’t quite fit what folks had in mind. Rather, this Jesus’s primary purpose on earth was to save the Jewish people, and all mankind, from their sins.

But, I think there is an interesting aspect to this story that gets overlooked. I offer a little thought experiment. Consider it a Lenten exercise:

Imagine if Jesus had told the Jews of his day that he was,without question the Jewish Messiah, and was indeed the political messiah who would achieve the following, if all those who followed him would do as he commanded of them:

“I, Jesus, do not want you to fight great battles for me.  As great soldiers, you are willing to die for me. And indeed, we will win a great victory for our nation by your willingness to die for me. And this is how:

“I call on all of you to live good holy lives. Love your neighbors, give and care for them. Worship me but be good Roman citizens. Honor Caesar. Give Caesar what is his, and God what is God’s. Do this and Caesar will come to destroy you.

“You are willing to die for me and for the Kingdom of God, so do so. Allow yourselves, as my followers, to be arrested for worshiping me, and allow yourselves to be thrown to the lions. The Romans will make sport of you in their great arenas. Bless them who do this and do not curse them.  Do that for about 300 or so years, while caring for the poor and sick and I, Jesus the Messiah, will guarantee you of this: Rome the capital of a world, will fall down and worship their Jewish Messiah, and offer allegiance to me.”

Of course, Jesus pretty much said this, in his own way. One will notice that if one reads his Sermon on the Mount and others of his sayings and commands.

Detractors of Christianity like to point to the terrible job the Christian church did once it gained political and religious power and authority. They point to the crusades, the inquisitions, the bloody and terrible religious wars of the 1550-1700, etc. And much of that is fair game. Christianity was not ready to run things when Constantine turned the keys of his kingdom to those who worshiped the Jewish Messiah. But the Church Constantine turned the keys over to – that church was pretty remarkable.

That is the church to be.