Apr. 27, 2016

Not very long ago a fellow employee came into my office to talk about an issue that was causing him a lot of grief. As a matter of fact once he sat down it became very apparent just how upset and angry he was. I have a hammer sitting on one of my bookshelves that I found one day laying out in the street and as he was sitting down he reached for that hammer. As I observed him patting his palm with the hammer it occurred to me that whatever or whoever was causing him such discomfort didn't need to be in his vicinity. As he began to cool down we chatted about the issues that were causing him such frustration. You know how it is when you try to do stuff to help others and your efforts are not appreciated. In my estimation my visitor had just about reached his limit.

In the various readings I have been involved with recently one of them is related to an anthropological theory set forth by Rene' Girard called the mimetic theory. This theory sets forth a number of things but one of the ideas of this theory says that we are beings of reflection. In other words our design is to reflect the glory of God. When John the Baptist identified Jesus just before his baptism he announced, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." The mimetic theory might possibly say that we reflect that which we behold. If this is true then anytime we are reflecting the glory of God then it is possible to reflect His glory to those around us. By the same token should we reflect, say negative attitudes or behaviors coming from those around us this theory would offer that we might just as well reflect the very same negative attitudes and behaviors. 

This is the approach I decided to take with my fellow employee as he sat fuming in my office. Once we had a chance to lift up his value and importance establishing the fact that he is a person of worth with the sole design of reflecting the image and glory of God, it became increasingly gratifying to realize the opportunities that awaited him to focus on that kind of reflecting potential. Soon he exited my office and I didn't see him again for a couple of weeks.

Just the other day that same fellow employee came waltzing into my office with a gift bag of candy with a balloon attached. I thought he was bringing it to me but what I discovered was much more important. It seemed that my fellow employee had taken his role of reflecting the image of God to heart and as a result the very ones that had given him such grief reflected back to him the love he decided to reflect in their direction. He shared with me how absolutely overwhelmed and surprised he was to receive such a gift. 

We are beings of reflection. We do indeed reflect that which we behold. We are made in the image of God to reflect His glory. When people reflect negative thoughts and behaviors toward us we can decide to reflect those same things back to them or we can focus our attention on the glorious reality that our God given design is to reflect the love of our heavenly father. It is our choice. I hope you choose to celebrate!

Apr. 15, 2016

Now here's a subject that often causes fear and trepidation in the minds of church goers. I know it did in mine for many years. Growing up in the "Bible Belt" in the southeastern part of the United States my first recognition of guilt and a feeling of sheer panic occurred one Sunday morning at the tender age of seven while attending my mother's church. I do not recall the sermon delivered by the preacher but what I do recall is the manner in which he delivered it. His face indicated that he was angry. I remember he shouted through most of his message. He painted a picture of hell fire that was so desperately hot that once you found yourself in such a place there would be no escape. 

The custom of this particular congregation was to sing a hymn following the preacher's sermon called an "invitational hymn." Like many churches this was the time to consider what the preacher had said in his sermon and if a congregant felt convicted in his or her heart and needed to make a decision of any sort while the music played one could slip out into the aisle and walk toward the front of the church. There was a kneeling alter where congregants could kneel in prayer and one by one the preacher would come to each person and counsel with them concerning their particular need.

While the music played I found myself replaying the picture of this terrible place. In my mind's eye I saw my seven year old body falling into this flame and I kept hearing the idea that you will be there forever and ever and ever! As tears ran down my face I looked at my mother and she asked me if I wanted to walk down to the front of the church. I told her that I would go. By the time I stepped out into the aisle there was absolutely no room for me to kneel at the alter. The preacher was busy counseling most of the congregation who had responded to his sermon. Since there was no place to kneel I simply sat down on the first pew and waited for the preacher to come counsel me. It took quite a long time for him to get to everyone. By the time he finished with the ones kneeling he offered a prayer of benediction and dismissed the congregation. You know how it is, people need to get home for Sunday lunch. 

So there I sat on the first pew, the church congregation getting up an leaving to go home and no one came to inquire about my need. With no resolution to my panic I carried this burden for years. As time went by I bet I walked down several church aisle trying to find some sense of resolution.

I have observed numerous tactics for getting congregants to walk the aisle to make some decision for Jesus. I recall one revival preacher during an invitation begin to ask the congregation on what he called "family night" if you are a father come down to the front of the church. He kept asking people various questions like if you are a mother or a daughter or a son etc. to come to the front until he had just about every person in the congregation standing in front of the platform. Then he made this statement, "I bet you never thought you would walk down the aisle of a church. Now that you are here let's do business with God." 

Now you may disagree with me and that is certainly your prerogative but to me that is not how to convey the love of God in Christ Jesus to anyone. In my opinion what I experienced that evening was manipulation and it reminded me of the first time I heard it as a seven year old. 

So where does the notion of doubting one's salvation come from? As I have pondered this question it is becoming clear to me that there is a glitch in the message of salvation that I internalized growing up. I was told that in order to be 'saved" I had to invite Jesus into my heart. I bet I asked Jesus into my heart hundreds if not thousands of times but I continued to suffer with bouts of doubting my salvation. Not too long ago I made an earth shattering discovery that has not only rocked my world but has completely put to rest the notion to ever doubt my salvation again. 

Allow me to direct your attention to Galatians 1:15-16. For those of you that hold the King James Version of the Bible in high esteem I'm choosing that version. The Apostle Paul speaking, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

In the sixteenth verse it says "To reveal his Son in me ..." When I discovered that God had revealed his Son in me meant that God wouldn't reveal something that wasn't already there. That's what revelation is, a removing of the veil. Salvation is in Christ and this Christ was revealed in me. It says in John's gospel, Jesus speaking, "In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you." No more doubts! Thanks be to God!


Apr. 5, 2016

The first time I recall seeing the image of the face of Jesus from the standpoint of a black man was when I was invited to visit an African-American pastor friend in his home. When I entered his home I was warmly welcomed. As I began to notice pictures he and his wife had displayed on the walls of their living-room I noticed a familiar painting. It was the famous Last Supper with Jesus Christ and his disciples. As I observed closer it became apparent that all the figures in the painting were black.

This encounter took place several years ago but the impression it has made on me began to help my understanding regarding the way different cultures view familiar images. So I looked on the internet to discover African-American religious art. Sure enough there was the black artist's rendition of a biblical scene with Jesus and his disciples and they were all black. As I began to search various cultures it became apparent that each culture viewed the same scene through the eyes of their own culture. 

If black people recognize Jesus as being black and white people recognize Jesus as being white then its no surprise that Asian people recognize Jesus as being Asian and the Indian recognize their Jesus as being Indian. That goes for every kind of people anywhere on planet earth. The apostle Paul is recorded to say that he became all things for all people. If that is the case then I suspect that is exactly what Jesus is to each and everyone of us whether we are aware of it or not.

Perhaps the image of Jesus observed by His disciples Peter, James and John recorded in Matthew's gospel chapter 17 may give some insight about our image. Matthew tells us that Jesus transfigured into a being of light. I believe we are offsprings of that Light and that makes us all one In Him! When we behold His face we see our own image!