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Friday, July 31, 2015

I'll Fly Away

What helps you to see light at the end of the tunnel? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1283).

In answer to this question the Wesleyan quadrilateral comes to mind – Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. I find light at the end of the tunnel because (1) Scripture encourages me to do so; because (2) it's an honored tradition in the family of man; because (3) experience has taught me that while not sufficient in itself, hope is a necessary condition for progress; because (4) reason councils that with creativity, flexibility, and hope problems can be surmounted or effectively skirted in the march forward. That is, a broader hope sometimes requires that finite tunnels be abandoned...the hard lesson is that not all tunnels merit our persistence and limited mortal resources. It can be plainly indicated that fully traversing each and every tunnel is not in the divine will of God so much as in the towering ego of man.  

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Practicality of Faith

What would you do if the phone rang, the doorbell chimed, your child called for help, and the oven alarm when off all at the same time? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1387).

Jesus Calms the Storm (Mark 4:35-41)

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

There are many practical reasons why a people that have faith are better off – they emphasize operative eternal verities rather than short-term effervescent expediency, they tame the forces of selfish pride that lead to hubris and detachment from reality, they emphasize the disciplines of love and reap the harvest thereof. One of the greatest of all the benefits of faith, however,  – even if faith should be based on a groundless fantasy – is the wherewithal to avoid panic.  We are entering the political season in which a president of United States will be chosen by the people of the United States. Certainly one of the basic things that must reside behind each voter's mind is which intellectually vital candidate fully capable of directed passion will be least subject to desperate panic in stormy rainy weather. The iconic image of panic is of the person flailing in water consumed with an overwhelming fear of drowning.. This person is not only dangerous to themselves, but to anyone who would attempt to help them. I often joke that the reason I'm not in the stock market is that I panic and buy high, then panic and sell low.  Panic is something that we should all seek to avoid. And one of the most powerful and sure antidotes to harum-scarum passion is a solid foundation of faith.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Holy Hallucinations

What is the best reason you have heard for not believing in Jesus as Savior? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1506).

The best reason given today is the one that is always given when someone says they are the Son of God or the Savior of the World--a dismissal of the claim based upon a belief that the person is going through a period of psychosis. Today Jesus would not be put on the cross; he would simply be institutionalized and heavily medicated--staying medicated until the delusions have passed.  I might add this would go not only for Jesus, but also for Ezekiel and the prophets.  We must boldly confront the fact that in modern times there is a fervent belief in disbelief.  A belief that is airtight because of the eagerly anticipated return of individuals to a more or less normal state of psychological materialism thereby faithfully meeting all modern requirements and expectations.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hypocrisy Versus Imperfection

How to you identify hypocrisy versus human imperfection? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1654).

Human imperfection is most indicated by over reliance on pigeonholes and labels. Hypocrisy is based on active ill will and resentment over the integrity of others whilst we feed at the trough of compromise. Human imperfection jumps to conclusions based upon the cover of the book rather than the contents. Human hypocrisy defaces the book out of self-loathing.  At the base of imperfection is oversimplification; at the base of hypocrisy is a complex and seething resentment.  This is why Jesus characterized hypocrisy as evil and human frailty as forgivable--one is based on hatred whilst the other is based on ignorance.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

No Time to Think

What justification is there for violence, assassination or civil war? Does justice sometimes require that some people die? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 501).

I have never seen a battle not defended in terms of self-defense no matter how egregious the aggression. The ready ability of humans to rationalize anything must always be kept in mind. That said, I always address the above question on a local rather than international level. For on the international level a distance separates us from our adversary and this distance facilitates the drift to aggression. The police power of the state exercised domestically brings the issue into sharper focus and closer to home, thus lending lethal force the intimacy that it deserves. I have never met a pacifist who would disband with police protection in his own neighborhood. Public and civil order, despite our fond wishes to the contrary, must address such matters as public "domestic violence" which sometimes under duress must be met with force and in extreme cases with lethal force.  In these extreme cases, there is no time to think...only respond.  In this sense, as troubling as it may sound, the necessary reflexive response has no immediate ethical implications absent a broader historical context.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Riding a Maelstrom

When have you felt caught in a "northeaster," driven along by the wind? What happened? What did you learn from the situation? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1564).

During my high school and undergraduate years, I was often "going through the motions." Trite as it may sound, I had to "find myself." I had no set identity to assert or to incite inner passion. Self-identity formation is far from merely a mental exercise. As in understanding IQ, we dare not preemptively delimit the multifarious nature of it.  Unfortunately for adherents of robotic efficiency, the development of human identity can be messy and replete with false starts and failures.  Yet, even these frustrating imperfections can lead to our eventual self-confidence, stamina, adaptability, and survival.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Alignment with Truth

Are you "teachable"?  When are you most able to receive instruction? When are you most resistant? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 824).

Is a "teachable"  student meek and mild? Some professors I've had would have it that way, but the best would not. When "teachable" means obsequiousness, the pursuit of integrity tempered experiential knowledge is undercut. Some of my favorite Bible characters are Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused compliance to King Nebuchadnezzar and his stooges even if that meant death. (Daniel 3).  Let us sincerely rejoice when we find that "teachable"incorporates no shameful expectations of fabricated treachery to personal integrity.   

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Helping Hand

What is the most beautiful, touching thing you have ever seen one person do for another? What is the most beautiful, touching thing another person has ever done for you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1408).

When we think of beautiful, touching things that one person can do in for another we can ask what typically characterizes those things? Usually it is something which in eloquent simplicity meets the special, in many ways crucial, need of another. I have been on the receiving end of bountiful and priceless blessings beginning with the family in which I was born  and extending into the church communities of which I was a part. Yet, and you will have to forgive me, the moment that flashes before me when I ask the question above occurred in a passing moment on a school bus when I was in high school. It is important to mention that during those years I had few, if any, close friends. The moral support I saw readily shared among close friends was not an option for me. To be quite frank and specific, I had no peer to affirm or even recognize the fact that I was becoming a man and taking on a sexual identity.  This day I was seated on the school bus and Fred Cotney (who got off the bus before my stop) passed by me on his way out of the bus.  He stopped, paused a moment when by me and said "Wayne, what is this?" and he held out his open hand.  There was nothing in his hand and I looked up in puzzlement.  He just smiled and said "It beats me!" That was the one and only time during my years of puberty that a peer in any direct fashion gave acknowledgment of my sexual knowledge. Think about it what you will,  it was a moment I will always cherish.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

When Goodwill is Paramount

Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
(Proverbs 10:12 NIV)

How can "love cover-up all wrongs": is love blind, innocent, forgiving, or what? How has this happened to you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 886).

In my Bible study class there is a wonderful and loving lady named Nadine. She has voiced the opinion that she fully accepts that the account in Genesis is literally true and that the earth was created in seven calendar days.  I believe that mankind appeared on the earth some 300,000 years ago. Now does this difference divide us? Such a question shows no understanding of our Christian fellowship in which goodwill is an irresistible and driving force. In this context the question is absurd.  Clearview Methodist is a church founded and anchored in Christ's love. Such an infinitesimally small matter as differences of opinion comparatively speaking has no force whatever compared to the love of God present in a body of believers. Love is not blind for it serves set priorities; it is not innocent for it shares in the suffering of Christ; in this case it is not forgiving for there is nothing to forgive. Love doesn't cover up all sources of conflict, but it outflanks and neutralizes them.  When we argue over Scripture, it too often is neither more nor less than an attempt to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus sadly acknowledged this all too human desire sometimes expressed even among his disciples, but he in no way endorsed it.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

A Methodist's View of Prosperity Religion

Does obedience to the Lord insure prosperity for an individual?   A church? A nation? Explain. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 640).

The first thing we must do to answer this question is to differentiate between the long-term and the short-term. In the short term one can readily appear to profit by disobeying God while worshiping at the idol of selfish pride surrounded by all that idol's attributes. Even in the short term, however, we must still evaluate the adverse impact of sin on the perceptual acuity of individuals and on nations. This impact absent reception of divine grace has inevitable long-term destructive implications due to the rapid receding of reality into remoteness.  Approaching this question in a different light, we can readily affirm that rebellion against God will turn downwards the historical trend line of spiritual and material prosperity despite any short-term illusionary blips and bubbles to the contrary.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Deep Cleaning

Deep Cleaning

Today my house is getting ready for sale
--a deep cleaning they call it
Spray washing the outside
Fresh caulking in the bathroom
Filling up the nail holes throughout where pictures once hung--
Getting ready to leave without a trace,
Or so is the immediate objective.
Yet even now the future pulls
When the final deep cleaning begins.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

The Expendability of Symbols

If you had to flee on foot from your home tonight because of the sudden invasion of an alien force, what three things would you grab to take with you? Why these three? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 968).

As I have mentioned, I'm in the process of preparing my house to go on market. Much downsizing and clearing out has had to be done. So in a sense I have had to grapple with this question, howsoever in a much less stark manner.  In downsizing one conclusion became very clear--symbols are expendable so long as their meaning is retained. For example, I had many letters written to me by my mother when I was at various stages in my life. These letters all served to show her clarity of mind, purity of effort, practical generosity, the breath of her love and kindnesses–in short--the wide array of her fruit-of-the-Spirit disciplines.  It was not easy to throw these letters in the trash. In a sense it was much like burying my mother all over again.  But I had to ask myself what is really important – that I keep these relics or that I keep her spirit? I know what my mother would say despite my human tears.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Crush on Donald Trump

As in Jeremiah's time, leaders today usually set a tone for others. What positive tone or atmosphere are you setting in your home, job, school or church? Where might you have a negative impact? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1080).

I love Donald Trump. He is the Zorba of today's political season. Zorba's–even though they scoff at subtle matters like setting tone–are masters at it. The heart of the matter is that the Zorba's of life bring a certain freedom to the debate especially when it has come to be hemmed in by practitioners of verbal manipulation masquerading as self-appointed pontificates of correctness (avoidance). The truth is their plodding cant is merely dull and lethally fatal to honesty and the creative process.  I celebrate Donald's fictional excesses even if The Trump should skewer the likes of me as an Abject Loser.  Trump said that tone doesn't matter, only results matter. If this is so, why is his number one effectuated goal the changing of tone–or, as is often said, Trump takes up all the oxygen in the room.  

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Debt Owed Obama

How good are you at asking for help? On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your "rugged individualism": "I'm a self-made man/woman" (1) to "I can't do anything by myself" (10)? What motto best describes your outlook? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 840).

It is a matter of trust. I trust least those who consider themselves self-made rugged individuals.  The reason is simple. In reality no such animal exists. It takes a myopic self-centeredness to think even for a moment that you or your accomplishments are self-made. Let us take the hardest case – that of an individual who is countercultural. In what sense does the countercultural person depend upon the culture he finds repugnant? There are inevitably a thousand practical ways he is dependent, but let us look at the heart of rebellious identity. The contrarian comes to know himself by knowing who he is not. In other words, the culture provides the essential contrast to define and make evident the countercultural. We have seen this in politics in recent years as the political right in its anti-Obama obsession comes to owe its very soul to Obama and is defined in no other way.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Rising-Fall Redemption

In the cycle of good and bad kings and their effect on people, two major compulsions are evident in 2 Chronicles:  (a) the compulsion of tyrannized people to assert their freedom;; and (b) the compulsion of free people to self-destruct. How is this cycle and these two compulsions evident in your world?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 647).

The fundamental issue is evidenced in this question: why do people primarily want to be free – to be Big Ikes (self-important persons ("takers") or to be humble servants of the good seeking to make positive contributions ("givers")? Self-important people are servants only to themselves and thus circle their wagons and become defensive and hypocritical and filled with lust, greed, and envy. They are not true lovers of liberty, but are libertines howsoever cloaked in self-righteous rectitude.  Here the inevitable drive is towards the Balkanization of society into fragments readily willing to rape the truth for their own selfish ends. A society based on falsehoods and greed can appear successful for an ephemeral moment, but soon disintegrates. This can be contrasted with a society that is based on brotherhood and equality in alliance with empathy, compassion, and the Golden rule.   Humble abeyance to God Almighty and the correlative frank recognition of human potential with its obdurate confounding proximity to human limitations gives rise to and undergirds the essential family realism of democracy made possible at the outset by universal guaranteed rights.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lesson of Charleston

If you wanted to get back at an enemy, what would be your style?

  • a punch in the nose
  • a tongue-lashing
  • the silent treatment
  • a big dinner
  • other ____________

(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 531).

When will we ever learn the lessons presented to us by Charleston and earlier by Martin Luther King? Lasting change is not brought about by a punch in the nose, or a tongue lashing, or the silent treatment. Rather real change in human affairs is brought about by generosity and graciousness of spirit and by forgiveness. Enemies become friends through respect, consideration and kindness.  This is the fundamental law of love that undergirds American life and is endorsed, when we are honest, by our own inner nature.  

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Strange Identities

How deeply do you hurt for unbelievers?  As much as Paul? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1577).

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans  9:18 NIV).

It can be weird the way the brain works. When I look upon those who disagree with me in matters of politics or religion, I more often than not identify with them and love them essentially because neither of us can fully control our perceptions. Not infrequently, at one time or another in one context or another, I have held the identical type of position they are currently holding– that is, the character of human rationality is universal.  Take for example the display of the Confederate flag. I can remember in high school days at football games when rousing renditions of Dixie were played.  I remember how strong and assertive I felt. It never occurred to me that some would find the music extremely hurtful and painful.  In other words, my thoughts and feelings were circumscribed by my own experiential context – as indeed is always the case.  This is simply another reason why our perception of justice need always be affirmed with integrity yet flecked with mercy.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Modest Modernity

[Moses said] If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: (Deuteronomy 28:1-2  (NIV)).


David’s Last Words

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue. (2 Samuel 23:2 (NIV)).


Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  (Jeremiah 1:9 (NIV)).


And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)).


Not heard today from the mentally stable:

I speak for God.

Today my point is a simple one – in modern times unlike in the Bible, no mentally stable person claims to speak for God.  They may witness to the Word, but with a signal caveat – "May you remember the words I speak today that further the kingdom of God, and may you set aside and forget forever those words I speak today that do not further His kingdom."  [Words very similar to this were always offered in prayer by David Miller just before his sermons  at First United Methodist, St. Petersburg, Fl].

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Never Intended to Reach the North Star

Does God seem to keep promises with you or have you felt misled or confused? What situation of life has called God's promises into question? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 822).

I look upon the North Star as a navigational aid – one in which it was never intended to be reached as a goal. Often I think human dreams are the same. Humans without dreams are a sad site, for indeed in the human race all dreamers are welcome.  We are not to plant a flag on the North Star, but rather to be guided by it  – just as with our dreams. I pray that mankind follow their dreams, be friends with change, be open to serendipitous events and understandings, and ever keep the faith.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

The Hand of Providence and the Toil of Man

Do you see coincidence or providence at work behind the scenes? How so? [in reference to the book of Esther] (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 687).

I was always taught that God has a special purpose for each and every person. In this sense each has a destiny to fulfill. I was born in America and was taught that the hand of Providence macromanages events over the long procession of generations.  Yet, as Abraham could dicker with God [Genesis 18], humanity can directly influence the redemptive outcome of events.  These beliefs lend to the psyche a tough optimism leading to petition, action, and creative freedom. The burden of responsibility thus entails a signal challenge to invent.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

What is Appropriate Interrogation in the Public Square?

In America we have come to understand that there are legitimate and illegitimate interrogations in the public square. If we are doing business together, both parties have the right and even duty to make plain aspects of the deal– this includes all areas including business, education, medicine, law, real estate. In all these matters we expect and accept as quite legitimate pointed questions.

In other areas, however, pointed questions are typically considered illegitimate interrogation. For example, in a business work environment questions as to private family matters, sexual practices, and religion are considered illegitimate. It is occasionally acceptable for us to volunteer personal information on any of these matters, but to interrogate others about them (even if implied) is considered out of bounds. In religion I think the Jehovah's Witnesses illustrate this. They go door to door explaining their religion.  Essentially this is legitimate even though sometimes annoyingly disruptive. However, it would be considered out of bounds for them to go door-to-door with drilling inquisitions into your beliefs.

Nearing Independence Day I'm thankful to live in a country where this sense of appropriateness largely abides – for indeed, in the end, this sense of appropriateness is simply referencing in action the respect inherent within the Golden rule.

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