Did Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu deliver an off the record secret message to President Obama when they met, and why was the message so secret? Read the rest of this entry
“I don’t love tennis today but I’m here,” she said after beating Chanelle Scheepers, 6-2, 6-3, in the first round of the Brisbane International. “I can’t live without it — there’s a difference between not loving something and not being able to live without it. I have never liked sports and could never understand how I became an athlete.” Read the rest of this entry
He could feel the color in his cheeks as he stood there with absolutely no idea of what to say next. Seemed to him he ought to know the answer and the people standing round him were amused to see he didn’t. They were quietly laughing at him. He doubted they knew the answer either but despite all his learning and experience, he was forced to admit he had absolutely no idea what the answer was. He’d already asked for clarification but that only increased his confusion. Read the rest of this entry
Now here’s a real test of faith. Having reminded his readers that they had escaped death because they had been given faith – they had not been rescued because of anything they had done, only by a lucky break – he goes on to tell them that God is an artisan with intent. Read the rest of this entry
The Art of Escapism is living in one place and wishing we were someplace else.
Keri’s life had been miserable. She’d lived in the same city all her life until she was twenty years old. Things weren’t all bad but she hated living there and she thought her parents were the most boring and annoying people she could have been saddled with. Maybe they were. They didn’t have time for her and so to avoid the pain of being ignored, Keri made friends with some extreme people. Life with her friends involved Read the rest of this entry
The problem with a contest is that it producers losers! Ten people race but only one can win; one person gloats about his supremacy while nine people glower in shame and clutch for excuses. There are more losers than winners. This is okay if you are a winner since it proves what you already knew about yourself (and about the others) and you can bask in the glory of being awesome. It’s not so great for the losers. Read the rest of this entry
Somewhere along her trail she began to see that people struggle with enormous hurts and those hurts aren’t just from the past – they’re from the present and they continue into the future. Nothing gets better if nothing changes. She became aware of the huge sex industry in Thailand and had the courage to do something about it. She knows she can’t solve the problems on her own but she also knows that nothing will ever improve if everyone sits back and feels helpless. Changing the world is a big task – too big to contemplate. So why bother trying? The reality is too daunting.
She’d had an uneasy feeling about this guy from the moment he set his leery eyes on her. He didn’t look straight at her but she felt sure he was watching her the whole time. He was up to something – who could guess what. She didn’t have time to mess with ‘sick’ guys so she tried to shut him out of her mind. Read the rest of this entry
Religious ritual and faith are locked in a deathly struggle. Are they mutually exclusive? Can strong faith exist in rigid ritualism? This was the battle for the early believers. They discovered it is one thing to have a resolution that sounds good but what you do with it determines what it is worth.
In Acts 15 we read of the resolution about ritualism and faith that the group reached. It allowed for recognition of relationship with God to be enough on its own. There was no requirement on anyone to follow certain rituals in order to be acceptable.
They went the next step and sent a letter which read something like this:
From: The apostles and elders, your brothers
To: the believers who don’t have the right heritage in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia
We have heard that some people who didn’t have our authorization came to you and said things that disturbed you. So we are sending some guys we do authorize to tell you this is what we say. God agrees with us that we shouldn’t place a lot of burdens on you so we are only insisting on three things: that you make a total break with idolatry, you don’t eat blood, and you don’t get involved in sexual immorality. You’d be really smart to not do these things.
All well and done? Sort of. It gave freedom and encouragement to those who didn’t follow the rituals and they were excited to get the news. They overlooked the short-falls of the letter from their religious “friends” and got on with the fun of learning and spreading the knowledge of God. Without a lot of petty rules and score-keeping they were able to focus their energy on what really mattered.
Meantime in Jerusalem nothing changed. The ritual practices continued and folks who joined them were expected to follow those rituals. Some newcomers resisted and wouldn’t do everything and so a two class system was developed – the true believers and the “other believers.” Ritualism adds power to the grip of religion. Some of this sounds a bit familiar? It is. The struggle between religious ritual and relationship with God has continued to rage. At issue is the understanding of what God requires of us and what other people expect. The ability to distinguish between these two things gets blurred and with it our understanding of what really matters. Then it becomes easy to begin pushing the wrong bandwagon. The tangible familiar thing becomes most important while the relationship gets quietly forgotten. We focus our judgment on the visible.
Btw, the recipients of that letter showed amazing grace. They had been disturbed and harassed in a serious way. The guys in Jerusalem had been sending people to “police the state of affairs” in Antioch – that’s why Barnabas (who changed sides) was sent there, you can be sure there were others. The letter was short on apology and minimalist on confession. They didn’t take responsibility for their actions, nor for their excessive delay in curbing these messengers. They shifted the blame for their actions – “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you . . .” – as if God had been somehow involved in burdening these people and then changed his mind. If they had listened to God in the first place none of this needed to happen. If they truly believed in what they were writing, how come there’s no recognition that their own practices have been “over the top” and no indication of the changes they were going to put in place to put their own house in order? This letter wasn’t good and the action of these leaders was less than convincing. They had failed to work through what their decision meant for themselves and what changes they needed to make to what they did. Realistically, the church in Jerusalem had been sucked into the religious ethos of that place and their focus on ritual cemented that fact. They failed to understand that this resolution was a two-way deal. It was not enough to back off requirements for others; they also needed to re-think their own actions. There’s no doubt that there were many sincere believers in Jerusalem but it is also obvious that they were seriously confused about how to express that belief. Once the slippery stone of setting rules and practices for each other to follow is in place it is only a small fall into the stream of legalistically requiring those practices to prove you have faith. The means quickly becomes the end and sadly the end is a prison cell. We lose the trail of life and end up locked in empty rituals.
There’s a better path. The recipients showed grace and forgiveness. They took encouragement from the implication that they were not wrong, they were excited to be free from the burden of exacting ritual and of the mean, critical spirit that comes with that package. They acted with total grace towards the messengers from Jerusalem and sent them back in peace. Then they got on with the exciting job of helping others find a meaningful relationship with God.
- Rituals and Faith in Religion (citesimon.com)