Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Hurry up and slow down!

Slow Down

Be still, and know that I am God.  —Psalm 46:10a (ESV)

We live in a world of high-speed escape artists.  Everywhere one looks, people are rushing to and fro to get the next thing on their long list done. When they grow weary, many turn to adrenalin-pumping extremes to “relax.” There is extreme biking, extreme running (Parkour), building- and rock-climbing without safety equipment (free-climbing), half-pipe skiing and snowboarding, and base jumping, which is free fall parachuting from cliffs or high structures.

We watch extreme television entertainment, like American Ninja Warrior and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting.  If sports is not your thing, there are extreme game shows with names like Wipeout, where contestants crash and burn on crazy obstacle courses, and Fear Factor where contestants, among other feats, eat large volumes of worms and bugs.

Many escape reality through physical addictions, turning to drugs, alcohol or sex to remove them from reality. Others simply unplug from their daily grind, spending long periods of the day disconnected from the world. Video games are one way of escaping reality. The most extreme “unplugging” involves new virtual reality technology.  With this technology, one can don a pair of goggles and be instantly transported to a new 3-D “world.”  Anything goes on these virtual playgrounds, including extreme sports, extreme violence and extreme sexual fantasies.

For some, cell phone addiction provides a different kind of virtual reality.  Have you spoken with someone who constantly looks down at their phone? It’s like they don’t have time for you. It’s annoying, not to mention downright rude.  Or perhaps you’ve observed a family seated in a restaurant waiting for their orders to arrive—everyone is heads down playing with their phone instead of interacting with other family members.  In 2014, Charit Taneja wrote in “The Psychology of Excessive Cellular Phone Use” that:

Cell phones enable behavioral problems and disorders, particularly in adolescents. This fact has become more and more evident in communications media, inspiring new pathologies, such as “Nomophobia” (No-Mobile-Phobia), “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) – the fear of being without a cell phone, disconnected or off the Internet, “Textaphrenia” and “Ringxiety” – the false sensation of having received a text message or call that leads to constantly checking the device, and “Textiety” – the anxiety of receiving and responding immediately to text messages. 

Some people escape auditory reality. In the fitness center where I exercise, about half of the people wear headphones or ear buds while using an exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical machine, stair-stepper or other exercise device. I assume most listen to music, hoping it will carry away them to another, less painful place as they push their bodies to the physical limit.  While such auditory isolation might reduce the agony of a heavy workout, it hinders socializing with others and can even be dangerous. At certain times of the year here in South Dakota it’s a good idea to keep one’s ears peeled for the sound of a tornado warning siren.   

A frantic pace combined with isolation can lead to perilous situations. Anyone who lives in a big city has seen drivers who dangerously weave in and out of traffic, desperately trying to get ahead a couple of car lengths while putting their own and other people’s safety at risk. Many of these drivers have so much on their “to do” lists that feel a need to constantly rush. Others live in their own private worlds where it’s all about satisfying their own needs, with no regard for the needs and safety of those around them.

 Far too often, erratic driving results in road rage.  According to analysis by performed by Trace, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States, instances of road rage where someone in a car brandished a gun or fired a gun at another driver or passenger more than doubled over the a three-year period, increasing from 247 in 2014 to a high of 620 in 2016.

The high-speed, escape mentality is tearing away the very fabric of our society. We’re becoming a bunch of one-armed jugglers with our eyes and ears covered. It’s easy to get caught up in the race and lose sight of what really matters in life.  Christians aren’t immune to this.  It’s easy to become distracted and let the day slip by without a thought of God.  I think Islam gets it right on one point—stopping to pray five times per day.  Christians would do well to adopt a similar practice. 1 Thessalonians: 5 encourages us to “pray without ceasing.” (ESV)

Psalm 46:10a (ESV) says, “Be still and know that I am God.” God wants us to slow down and focus on him in the midst of our daily hustle.  It’s during times of stillness that we can, if just for a moment, look God in the face and begin to gain a deeper understanding of Him. In Mark 4:39, Jesus is with his disciples in a small boat when a great storm occurs.  The terrified disciples appeal to Jesus to do something to save them.  He utters the simple command, “Peace! Be still.” Immediately the weather becomes calm.

This beautiful story is about much more than Jesus calming the weather.  It is about Jesus giving up a sense of Peace in Him that helps us through the storms that occur in our daily lives. In 1 Kings: 19 (ESV), God speaks to Elijah in “a low whisper.” My advice to you—slow down, be still, unplug, hear God’s whisper, and discover His peace. 

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

 

 

 

What do you believe?

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Tomorrow much of the world will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, when a brave Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed a revolutionary document to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany (see http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html).   The document, consisting of 95 parts, denounced his church’s practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin, which ran contrary to Luther’s Bible-based belief that that salvation could be attained through faith and by God’s grace alone.  I call him brave, because Luther’s act put him at risk of excommunication and possibly even death.

When called before the Catholic Council (Reichstag) in the city of Worms and ordered to renounce the document, Luther refused, saying  the famous words, “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann kein anders.” (Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise).   Rather than renouncing his 95 Theses,  Luther eventually renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun. His act of faith rocked the Catholic church and ultimately spawned what today is known as the Protestant Reformation.

What would you do if your Christian faith were challenged?  What if someone asked you about your Christian beliefs?  How would you reply? I’d like to think I’d be as brave as Luther, but in reality I probably wouldn’t. How many people are willing to risk everything for Christ? Recently, we’ve heard stories of Christians in Iraq and Syria identifying themselves to ISIS terrorists and being executed, rather than hide their Christian faith. How would you respond?

Have you ever really thought about what your Christian faith means to you?  Sure, you might recite the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed at church every week, but did you ever really stop to think what those words mean?   I’m an Anglican.  My denomination, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), subscribes to three creeds:  the Nicene, Apostle’s, and Athanasian.  Unless you’re a relatively new Christian, you’re probably familiar with the first two, which are worded very similarly.  The Athanasian Creed is a bit harder to digest, as it  clearly discuss the three persons comprising the Holy Trinity, one of the most controversial tenets of the Christian faith.  It is accepted by many Western churches and often read at Trinity Sunday worship services in lieu of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.

I challenge you to set aside some quiet time and seriously consider the question, “What do I believe?” I can assure you that of the three great world religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the average Christians is the least well-equipped to answer this question.  Islam and Judaism emphasize reading and memorizing scriptures much more than does Christianity.

Here are a few things to consider if you accept the challenge.

  • The Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19) – Do the words of the Bible or the Athanasian Creed’s take on the Trinity cause you to question your own beliefs?
  • Your Body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – Do you treat your body as if it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit? (Think about what you put into it).
  • Divorce (Matthew 19) – Do you accept Jesus teaching on divorce? He opposes it.
  • Abortion (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5) – What are your beliefs about the early stages of life?
  • Gay Marriage (Romans 1) – What are your beliefs on gay marriage?
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Mark 12:28-34) – Do you love God above everything else, or is something (addiction, idolatry) getting in the way?
  • Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34) – Are you at peace with your neighbor?
  • Sin (Romans 7:14-25) – What is sin? Are you a sinner?                   

This is a tough challenge—not something you can think through in a few minutes. Matthew 9 tells the story of a man who is imploring Jesus to heal his young son, who has an unclean spirit (demon) plaguing him.  Jesus says to the man (ESV), “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I submit that most Christians who take the challenge will find themselves crying, “Help my unbelief!”

 “Today, many churches are taking God’s laws and saying, ‘These no longer are in effect.’ In Luther’s time the Church said, ‘You need to buy indulgences to be forgiven of your sin.’ Today, more than one church says, ‘Sin? What is sin?’” 

                                                                  Ken Klaus, Pastor Emeritus, The Lutheran Hour 

Back to Scripture: The Protestant Reformation and the Five Solas   https://www.christianheadlines.com/slideshows/back-to-scripture-the-protestant-reformation-and-the-five-solas.html